Name: JT Craft (37 years old) and Elizabeth Craft (33 years old)
Where you work: Ebia Hearing Instruments, LLC
What you do: Co-owners of EHI and hearing aid specialists
Where did you grow up?
Elizabeth: My family moved from North Dakota (previously in California) to Sheridan when I was in kindergarten. I attended Holy Name School, Sheridan Junior High School and graduated from Sheridan High School in 2003.
JT: Sheridan, Wyoming. Have you ever heard of it?
If you attended college, where and what did you study?
JT: I attended the University of Wyoming and Sheridan College, studying primarily music.
Elizabeth: After high school, I attended Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where I received my undergraduate degree in English and women’s studies. After graduation in 2007, I moved to Nashville, Tennessee, and began a graduate program at Cumberland University. I spent a year in Nashville and really enjoyed working in a Montessori preschool, but then JT and I decided to move home to be closer to family right before our wedding and with a future family in mind. At that time, I transferred to MSU-Bozeman and completed my graduate program in education and obtained my Wyoming teaching license.
How did you end up working at Ebia Hearing?
Elizabeth: I found out I was pregnant with my eldest son during my first year of teaching at Sheridan Junior High School. During my second year, after maternity leave expired, it broke my heart to have to put him in day care. My dad, Walt Ebia, offered me a position at Ebia Hearing that would enable me to not only help him in his business, but allow me to bring my child to work. The flexible schedule has been such a blessing. I do miss teaching quite a bit and miss the fellowship at SJHS equally as much, but, working with my dad as a hearing aid specialist has been life changing and I feel very fortunate for the opportunity to change careers, yet still use my background in education every day while assisting people on their journeys to better hearing.
JT: The business was started by my father in law, Walt Ebia, in the early ‘90s. Walt has profound hearing loss and has spent his life helping others, as well as himself, reconnect to life through better hearing; he and my wife, Elizabeth, inspired me to go back to school to become a hearing aid specialist so that I could utilize my background in sound and music to improve the lives of those who struggle with hearing loss.
Are you involved in the community outside of the business?
Elizabeth: Yes, my husband and I are both involved in the music ministries at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church and Volunteers of America. We are also board members for the Witzel Family Foundation. I do enjoy other volunteering efforts as my schedule allows. Local groups that I support are Dementia Friendly Wyoming, Bought Beautifully and The Food Group; recently, Rooted in Wyoming peaked my interest and I hope to do more work with them in the future. Of course, I can’t forget Meadowlark Elementary School. Next year, I’ll have a second-grader and a kindergartener; volunteering in the classroom is a great way for me to spend time with my kids and in a classroom, which fills my heart.
Running a business — any business — is tough. Doing it in a small town seems even harder. What are the best and worst parts of running a small, family owned business?
JT: The main challenge is time…we don’t have enough of us to go around! However, we focus on service, caring and support through our business. This community always seems to get behind that model. Our business has grown significantly over the last several years because Sheridan has embraced us and our mission. Thank you, Sheridan!
Elizabeth: The best part about running a small, family owned business is that we love each other and work well together. We get to spend quality time together and celebrate personal and business successes together, which is very unique. In this setting, all of our strengths are allowed to shine…and our mistakes are covered by grace and forgiveness. For example, JT is a remarkable human and an even better hearing aid specialist. His knack for building relationships, his technological understanding and his ability to solve just about an issue make him a true asset to the company. Each of us plays a critical role in the function of our business. The only real downside to our situation is sometimes longing to disconnect…to truly relax and leave work at work at the end of the day; however, on the whole, our experience has joyful. The connections we’ve made to other business owners and professionals in our field are precious. We love this family-centered community and are grateful to our customers who are so gracious, understanding and even supportive or our family, even if we take time off to be with our children, which of course, is invaluable.
Small businesses really seem to be the backbone of our community, employing much of the population and really ensuring the area thrives. Is that a lot of pressure? How do you handle it?
Elizabeth: JT and I try really hard to come home and just be with our kids, but the responsibility and pressure we feel to provide for our whole family/employee unit is intense and regularly dictates that extra hours are put in and more care and concern is given to every detail. Obviously, the daily running of any business is inherently challenging and emotionally/physically taxing. Our relationships inside the walls of our offices are sometimes challenged due to differing opinions. Thankfully, our faith in God has been the glue that holds our family together. We try to find the humor in each situation, we pray a lot about each business decision and even though we may not always agree, we are bound by a Love that is greater than our business and a respect that weighs more than any disagreement.
JT: There is definitely pressure in small business to provide for our family and for everyone else that relies on us for their wages and for their hearing connections. I don’t always handle the pressure well, but when I fall back on my family, this community and my faith in God, the challenges are easily surmountable. I would be crazy not to mention my rockstar wife, who not only manages our family so well, but is the heart of our business. She is the reason we can handle anything, and I’m blessed to work with her each day.
What do you hope to see in Sheridan’s future? Flying cars? Doubleday Sports Complex? New schools? No crime?
JT: I hope to see Sheridan maintain its economic diversity and its small town feel; this type of community is what makes businesses like ours go. Growth, in a positive and healthy direction, can be a good thing; however, I feel very proud and fortunate to be a part of this community as it is right now… Sheridan is one of the greatest places on earth.
Elizabeth: Sheridan continues to surprise me! Ever since we returned in 2008, we have seen nothing but steady growth and beautification. I am really proud to live here and hope to see the trend of positive change continue; somehow, Sheridan has a knack of progressing without forfeiting the small town feel, which is truly remarkable (of course, no crime would be amazing too!).