Judy Mazzuca launched Ink Forest, a Chicago-area, eco-friendly screen-printing venture, in 2014. Before starting up, she worked various jobs while raising two children with her husband. But when the kids went to college, she began contemplating her own next chapter. After looking through the many shirts the family had accumulated from school activities and considering their carbon footprint, she decided to pursue screen printing. Her venture took shape after she posed a simple question: “Could we print using water-based ink?”

Since starting Ink Forest, Mazzuca says she has worked with everyone from vegan surfers to the heads of large construction companies. Though Ink Forest has been a full-time business since it began, she just incorporated it this year. The 2016 election accelerated the firm’s growth, as people sought out her green, woman-owned venture, she says, and it seemed like the right time to formalize her efforts. Her top priority going forward is to secure certification as a woman-owned business. Down the road, she aims to make new hires, find a larger printing facility to accommodate the influx of orders, and launch official marketing campaigns.

Mazzuca’s kids are now adults, but throughout their childhoods she dedicated the bulk of her time and energy to her family. Being a business owner has allowed her to step out into the world more, to forge new relationships and to have new experiences, such as going to trade shows to promote her work. Entrepreneurship “allowed me to connect with people,” she says, adding that she is now mentoring other women. And, it has made life more unpredictable — which she loves. “Every day, I wake up not knowing what will happen next. I like the variety in that.”