Lynn Eplawy grew up around aviation. Her father, Wil Davis, is a pilot and owns the Gary Jet Center at the Gary/Chicagoland International Airport. “While we were growing up, he was even a crop duster,” she says. But, Eplawy adds, she never really considered working in the family business. Her education and career path, in fact, took her in very different directions.
Eplawy graduated from the Miami University in Ohio in 1995 with a degree in finance and moved to Dallas to sell paper to commercial printing operations for a large paper manufacturer. A transfer to Chicago took her from selling paper to a job as an account manager for a large national graphics firm. Her clients included Coca Cola and Harley-Davidson.
“I was basically a liaison between the clients and the graphic designers,” she says.
However, after several years, Eplawy says she began to feel dissatisfaction with her career choices. “I began to question where my future would be,” Eplawy recalls. Then a vacation with her family to Las Vegas gave her the answer.
“We were at breakfast at Caesar’s Palace. I was talking with my family about feeling rudderless and wondering if I should go back to school to get my MBA,” she recalls. “My dad said ‘Come work for me. You can learn how to run a small business. If you don’t like it, you can quit’,” Eplawy says. “It was risk-free. It was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. Also my mom was looking to retire, so I took her position.”
Although she had grown up around pilots and planes, Eplawy says she really didn’t have a background in aviation. But what she did have was a love of business “for business sake,” she says. “This gave me the opportunity to be part of my family business. That was nine years go. Today I’m managing partner at the Gary Jet Center”
In those nine years, Eplawy’s life has changed immeasurably, she says. The 37-year old Chicago resident married Jason Eplawy and they are the parents of two children, a three-year old son, Cole, and an infant daughter, Jane, born in February of this year. “I have a great support network which allows me to work and spend time with my children,” Eplawy says.
In her position at the Gary Jet Center, Eplawy says she wears many hats, which she enjoys. “At the Gary Jet Center, we’ve taken the job descriptions and thrown them out,” she says. “I’m handling human resources such as insurance, benefits administration and hiring.”
Eplawy’s degree in finance also comes into play when she provides all the federal excise reports. “I get involved with contracts with larger clients such as Boeing,” she says. “I also do department development here.”
The Gary Jet Center, located at 5401 Industrial Hwy, is a full-service FBO or fixed based operator that provides a variety of services including selling three types of jet fuel, chartering flights, hangar space and fixed-wing and helicopter repair by Federal Aviation Administration-certified technicians. In addition, the center can accommodate jet crews and passengers with limousine and car-rental services and catering contacts. For crews, there’s a pilot lounge with Internet access, snooze room, conference room and a weather briefing room.
Eplawy says she gains the most satisfaction from two aspects of the business. “The ability to make decisions without going to committees and without the delays that entails,” she says, recalling her work with national and international clients in previous careers.
“The beauty of being able to make decisions quickly allows us to grow and prosper especially when the economy is down,” she says. “We can steer the ship where we want to steer it.” Another source of satisfaction is her 46 co-workers.
“It’s a pleasure working with people who have whatever it takes to do the job,” Eplawy says. “No one says ‘that’s not my job’. The guys who pump fuel are not afraid to wash dishes. The pilots are able to help make travel arrangements for groups.”
“Our employees give great customer service and make sure everything get done properly.” Eplawy says she foresees a lot of growth at the Gary Jet Center and plans to stay with the family business.
“We are continuing to grow at the Gary Airport and will continue to serve our customers,” she says. “I don’t have the feeling that I’m going to work. It’s our business. I love it like I love my family. This is a blessed opportunity.”