July 31, 2014
Phew! Time to sit down and take a break. It’s been one jam packed week! And I mean that in a good way. Maggie rolled into town on Friday and we have been going at full blast ever since with meetings, planning, photos, and more meetings. It’s been a week for making connections. I’ve learned that it pays to reach out to those around you, even if you’re not sure if anything will come of it, even if you think that person is “bigger” than you, and especially if you think it’s out of your comfort zone. Reaching out to those that can help you and those that you can help is an essential part of making your dreams happen.
That’s what happened with Mikey of the The Crochet Crowd and me. Mikey and I have been internet friends since 2008 when we were both just beginning to make steps towards our dreams. A few weeks ago, Mikey told me he wanted to stop by our new space because he was going to be close by in Manchester, NY for a show. After six years of being friends online, we were finally going to meet. And on Monday, it happened! Mikey and Diva Dan stopped by and we had a fantastic, whirlwind, fun and laugh filled time together. We only left the shop to go get dinner (everyone else got Shepherd’s Pie and I had a salad – I’ve got an image to uphold, you know!), and the rest of the time we sat surrounded by all of the fabulous yarns and shared potato chips and wine. You know how you meet some people and you just click? That’s how it was. Mikey even contemplated crocheting something out of my hair…perhaps a new trend? Well, probably not, but it was fun! We tried to make our time together last as long as possible by staying up late and I sighed as they left, but Mikey and Dan left with armfuls of yarn and I can’t wait to see what they make with it!
Another big announcement I’m so excited to make is that we are going to be at Stitches East! Of course I said, “YES!” when we got invited to come by CEO Benjamin Levisay. I loved our time together when he interviewed me for the Fiber Hooligan podcast and one of the things we talked about was how we had never met each other before. Now, I am sure we will get to meet and I’m ecstatic that Darn Good Yarn is going to be part of this event. If you’re in the area, or if you can travel to make it, Stitches East will be held in Hartford, Connecticut from October 9-12. I would love, love, love to meet as many of you as possible there!
And one more story, just to keep it real here. I always love when Maggie comes to town and we work around the clock when she is here, making the most of every moment we have together and taking advantage of that synergy. So, on Tuesday, after a long weekend and our late night with Mikey and Diva Dan, I packed my bag for a day in the office. Maggie took one look at it and said, “So, I see it’s going to be a real day.” Yep, she was referring to the box of wine I had packed, my adult Juicy Juice, if you will, slipped right in there next to my notebook. I know me and I know a glass of wine is just what I’m going to want at the end of the day, so I prepare! Embracing your own quirkiness and those things that make you unique is essential to success. So many things want to change us, mold us and conform us, but Ralph Waldo Emerson spoke truth when he said, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
July 29, 2014
Darn Good Yarn and Nicole have been up to some big things this summer…here’s a re-cap in case you missed anything!
*As a 2013 FedEx Small Business Grant Contest Winner, Nicole attended the US Chamber of Commerce’s America’s Small Business Summit. Not only did she hear an inspiring speech by Colin Powell, but she was part of the teaching as well and helped lead a breakout session on Small Business Insider Tips with the other winners from the FedEx Small Business Grant Contest, Danny Catullo of Catullo Prime Meats and Ari Hoffman of Gobie H2O.
*Nicole also attended the IRCE, the Internet Retailer Conference Exhibition, in Chicago and gave an insightful interview with Daniel Burstein of MarketingSherpa Media Center about starting a small e-commerce business. She gives her best advice and tells how she grew Darn Good Yarn by 2900% on a totally self-funded budget.
*Another great interview with Nicole happened on The Shut Up Show with Berni Xiong. Nicole chats with Berni and shares the story of Darn Good Yarn, how she finds courage in the face of fear, and how to build purpose and connection in your business. If you haven’t watched yet, you are missing out!
*And just a teaser here…Nicole took a trip to Toronto to get the ball rolling on something huge! I can’t wait to tell you what she is up to!
July 24, 2014
Hey there everyone! I’m back in New York this week and ready to rock this remodeling out with Joie – we are two chicas on a mission to use our girl power and spruce up this space! I am a firm believer that every girl needs to know how to use a rachet strap because when you are at Lowe’s gathering supplies and you’re not quite sure how they are all going to fit in your Honda Element, a rachet strap always saves the day! And that’s exactly where Joie and I found ourselves this week. The scruffy contractors rolled their eyes at us, but after shuffling a few boxes of yarn around, everything was in and we were on our way and ready to get to work.
But, when we got back to the store, we noticed the toilets were making a funny noise. I made the mistake of flushing when I went to check it but it only made things worse…the water started to rise and we didn’t have plunger on hand to help. Yikes! Time for an emergency trip back to Lowe’s for two plungers and snake! And then the real craziness ensued. After snaking and simple plunging didn’t solve the problem, Joie and I each armed ourselves with a plunger and made our way to the two different bathrooms. We thought that synchronized plunging might provide enough power to clear the backup. I yelled down the hall to Joie to start and then we counted and plunged together…one, two, three, four, five, nothing, six, seven, eight, still not working, nine, ten, and all the way to twenty-five. And in the end, all we got out of it was laughs and we had to call the plumber. One thousand dollars later, the tree branches that were blocking our pipes are now cleared. Situations like these confirm that the emergency fund is a necessity, not a luxury.
After a day spent on plumbing issues, we made our way to work with the intention of making good use of the remodeling supplies we’d picked up the day before. As I pedaled up to the parking lot, an incredibly large piece of our maple tree stopped me in the parking lot. The thunderstorm from the night before had broken it off, and I had to change my plans so we could lop this monster of a tree branch (it was as big as a small tree) and get the parking lot cleared. So, Joie, Terry (our landscaping fairy, remember him?) and I (good thing this Jersey girl spent some time in Maine so she would know how to properly lop a tree) made quick work of it and we were back to business.
Even with couple of unexpected setbacks this week, we are making progress. A few weeks ago when Joie was out walking Squeakers, she found a free pegboard on the street. She called me to come pick it up (and yes, if you’re wondering, I did have to use those ratchet straps again) and this week, Joie painted it and made it into a fabulous display our kits. The painting of the office continues and we are saying our goodbyes to the eighties wallpaper. And I’ve been doing lots of picture taking and description writing – there are oodles new products going up this week that I can’t wait for you to see.
And one more thing…I’m excited that something we’ve had in the works for a bit is ready to go. We have new custom and one-of-a-kind drawstring sari silk pouches made just for us that use to pack any order over $30! And orders over $87 get the larger size! These sacks are so fabulous and soft, I want them all for me! Really, I got them for all of you, so I will share and I can’t wait for you to get one!
Those unexpected things always come up, but I take them on with an open mind, flexibility, being able to draw on the emergency fund when needed, and good friends (and landscaping fairies) to help!
July 21, 2014
Have you been wanting to get a sari skirt, but thought you might end up in tangles trying to tie it? Well, worry no more! Nicole shows you how to tie your sari skirt in several ways (as a dress, as a shawl, as a skirt, and a few more…these are SO versatile) in this fantastic video.
These sari skirts are one of a kind so just make sure to tell us what colors you want and don’t want when you order and our shipping staff will fill your request!
July 17, 2014
Hey Everyone! It’s been one jam-packed summer so far! If you haven’t heard yet, we moved our operations to Schenectady, NY. I’m crazy excited about our new space! It’s in the the Stockade Historic District, a neighborhood that’s been around for over 300 years. It’s full of window boxes, quaint old buildings, so much character and I’m in love! Squeakers and I make the mile and half bike ride to work which is helping me recover from a long winter and I’m happy to report that I can fit into my jeggings again!
Darn Good Yarn’s shipping operations are up and running here now (thanks to our fabulous new team member, Joie) and by the end of the summer, we will open our first brick and mortar store! I’m so thankful to be a home grown in Maine business. I still have family and a home there and will run my consulting business from there, but I chose NY for Darn Good Yarn because I’ve wanted to find more balance in my work and family life since Mike changed jobs.
And I went right back to Maine last weekend to be a Breakout Leader for the Sustain Maine Entrepreneurial Conference. I got spiffed up with a new haircut and color and was on my way to the beautiful Chebeaugue Island. Did you catch the picture of my view? That’s what the amazing Ann Marie Almeida and I woke up to every morning in our shared house. She is a Senior Director at BRAC, an organization dedicated to building opportunities for the world’s poor and the #1 NGO in the world, and if that wasn’t enough, she also works to inspire women to make changes in their local community through Leadership for Local Change.
The organizers filled the conference with so many inspiring individuals. Eric Hopkins, is a super talented artist who got the wheels in my head churning with his speech and I hope to share more of ideas here. The energy when entrepreneurs get together, share ideas, and make things happen truly motivates! And that’s what we did in my Breakout session…motivate through strategizing about using out-of-the-box solutions for branding, content management, and building small e-commerce businesses on bootstrap budgets so you can make your business work for you. I was lucky to have Deb Buxton from North East Forest Products, Jim Van Fleet from Mainely Tubs, Emily Nelson from Nelson Treehouse and Supply, and Christine Williams from Crockett’s Cove along for the ride.
Oh, and I can’t forget the delicious food from Jen at Shady Grove Farm, Kitchen and Events. She does farm to table catering and it’s simply fabulous! And, of course, at the end of the day, I sat down with a glass of wine to chat up some great business ideas with Chris Rector, the Regional Representative for Senator Angus King. What a day! So many great people with great ideas and I’m looking forward to sharing more details here. I’m happy I could be there to support the growing businesses in Maine and make connections that will bring more purpose to our mission here at Darn Good Yarn.
Back in Schenectady, we’re working on projects to spruce up the outside and inside of our new space. Our building had been empty for five years, so we have a long to-do list and we are transforming this place! Joie, Mike, and I (ok, mostly Joie) have been cleaning up, planting, and pruning our grounds here. There’s magic in the air around here, or at least it seemed like it, after we found free flowers to plant in our beds and had a visit from our very own landscaping fairy! One day, Mike pruned our gorgeous shade cedars (can’t wait to yarn bomb them!) and left the pile of branches in parking lot. When we arrived at the shop the next day, the pile was gone. Come to find out, the landscaping fairy was our neighbor, Terry, and I love that he’s making us feel right at home! Indoors, we are hoping to fill the entire store with re-purposed furniture. Joie and I took a trip to the local thrift store and we found some pieces with great potential. Now onto sanding, painting, and putting that Darn Good Yarn touch on them. How many chairs do you think we will need for the knitting space we are carving out? Better too many than too few, right? So many plans and so much happening! We love being here in Schenectady and I can’t wait to get the store open and get feedback from the community so we can tailor our classes and offerings to their needs. If you are in the Schenectady area, be on the lookout for the plans for our grand opening and be thinking about the perfect local yarn store because we want to hear your ideas!
I’ve always been a big dreamer and I’ve loved seeing my dreams come to life this summer because it means that we are doing more good, empowering more women in India and Nepal, and bringing your creative ideas to life!
July 14, 2014
Hey! Did you catch Nicole on Fiber Hooligan? Listen as she tells the story how she went from a New Jersey girl playing craft corner with an old cash register, to an officer in the United States Air Force, to running the best recycled silk yarn company to the fabulous Benjamin Levisay. If you’ve ever wanted to know how Darn Good Yarn got its start, this is a great place to find out. Benjamin asked all the right questions and Nicole entertained with the fabulous story of Darn Good Yarn. Make sure to check it out here or go look for it on iTunes! Better yet, take the time to subscribe to Fiber Hooligan on iTunes.
Special thanks to Benjamin Levisay, CEO of XRX Books which publishes Knitter’s Magazine, XRX Books, and Stitches Events, for taking the time to chat with Nicole. Be sure to check out all of the other great Fiber Hooligan podcasts for interviews with with your favorite knit and crochet designers and other celebrities from the fiber arts world. Fiber Hooligan recently made it into the top 10 podcasts for Hobbies in iTunes. Way to go!
May 14, 2014
Have you ever wanted to know some of the secrets to Darn Good Yarn’s success? Don’t worry, we don’t have them locked away in a vault somewhere. The good folks at FedEx, who have helped support Darn Good Yarn through all kinds of growth and changes in shipping needs, have sponsored a great article about us on the website “Small Business Trends”. The site has all kinds of great business advice, check them out here.
The article describes how Nicole’s choices in technology, the folks she went to in order to gain support and advice, and her marketing strategy all helped to make Darn Good Yarn a successful, expanding business. There are also some great business tips for anyone looking to expand their own business! Well worth a read. Check out the full article here.
May 8, 2014
Along with over 300 families in India and Nepal that get a majority of their work for their co-operatives from Darn Good Yarn, Darn Good Yarn also employs some great folks in the rest of the world too. Of the Darn Good Yarn employees, both full and part time, 7 come from the US, 1 in Canada, 1 in the UK and 1 in Australia. You can read up about everyone in our “Meet the Team” page here.
These jobs would not be possible without the freedom to import such wonderful products from places like India, Nepal and Chile. In fact, over half of all of the businesses dependent on imports here in the US are small firms just like us! In celebration of small business and the benefit of imports, Stefanie Holland, Director of International Policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, used Darn Good Yarn as an example of a successful import business creating jobs overseas and here at home. Check out the article she wrote for “Imports Work for America” week here.
Thanks so much to Ms. Holland for mentioning us! We hope to be able to expand our imports, as well as more easily reach our international customers, even more in the future.
May 5, 2014
Here at Darn Good Yarn we always love to see the projects that everyone is working on! We recently got some fabulous photos from Darn Good Yarner Pat Staehler. Pat made a gorgeous shawl out of our 3 Ply Silk Cloud yarn. Check it out!
I really love how this crocheted shawl really shows off the great colors in the variegated yarn! Take a closer look:
It looks lovely! Thanks so much for sharing, Pat! What have you been making with Darn Good Yarn? Share with us any time on our Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest pages, or just send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
May 1, 2014
Denae Merrill is a serious knitter. I might even go so far as to say, a hardcore knitter. On a recent post from her blog, DenKnits, she mentions a Knit-A-Long she is planning of a pattern that she designed, a charity knit-along that she is taking part in for a lap blanket, some blanket squares that she is working on to make a couch blanket for her own family, and a color-work project that started as a hat but then became a scarf. In the same post (which was only written 2 weeks after the previous post) she also catalogs a shawl that she completed, 2 spinning samples she created, and 2 skeins, one of them 2-ply, one single-ply, that she spun. When I asked, “How do you finish so many projects?” She seemed to be under the impression that her knitting output was not unusual. Considering I have a blanket that I started at age 12 which I still haven’t finished and is currently gathering dust in the corner of my room, I felt a bit differently.
Denae got a “learn to knit” kit for Christmas in 2007, but it wasn’t until later in 2008 when she got some hands-on lessons from her Mother-in-law that she really got hooked. She did have some trouble learning because there aren’t enough good “learn to knit” books written for lefties! Her MIL is left-handed as well, but she knit right-handed, and that’s what Denae ended up doing as well. At the time she was traveling constantly due to her job, and a co-worker of hers helped her expand her knitting skills. I asked Denae if she ever tried out any other crafts. “I used to do lots of scrap-booking, but knitting has taken over!” she tells me. While she has tried out crocheting and weaving, knitting remains her strong favorite.
Denae has many great ways to fit more knitting into her day. “I knit every day,” she explains while answering my question about her nearly super-human productivity. “I find some down-time in the evening, I knit when I’m waiting in line – I always have a project with me.” She has some specific projects that she likes to have going simultaneously. She usually has a sock project going, just because they travel so well, one simpler project and then one more complicated project. I may have to try this method myself. It seems like a great way to prevent being bored with one particular project. When I asked how she managed to have so many FOs (finished objects) as opposed to the many UFOs (un-finished objects) that I have hovering around my room, her answer was simple. “I just really want to have the finished product,” she remarks. Maybe I need to get re-invigorated about some of my old pieces.
Denae started making her own designs at almost the same time that she started knitting. She would find a stitch pattern she really liked, and then modify it so it would work with whatever piece she wanted to make. As her knitting skills improved and expanded, she got more ambitious. She would find inspiration in lovely knitted garments in movies or television, and then create her own personalized version. While she does plan things out prior to starting a new design, Denae tends to be very flexible once she’s in the middle of one. “I don’t like ripping out work and starting over, I’d rather make it work from where I am,” she says.
In addition to her blog, Denae is on Ravelry under the username “denmoma” – click here to see all of her original patterns – and under the same name on Instagram. Social networking – especially the fellow hardcore knitters she has met on Ravelry – have really helped expand the reach of her blog and her designs. She also has a great “podcast”-style show on YouTube where she does product reviews, talks about her own personal twist when designing, and demonstrates some unique and fun ways to wear finished knitted pieces. You can find all her videos here. Most recently, Denae has opened up her own small online shop where you can get great kits including her patterns and all of the yarn needed to make them. Check out her store here.
When I asked about her most memorable project, Denae said, “The cowl-neck poncho I designed that started the great relationship I now have with Darn Good Yarn!” Denae had found Darn Good Yarn through Facebook, and had just finished creating the cowl, made of Recycled Photon Rainbow sport weight silk yarn, just in time to enter it in a designing contest that we were holding at the time. When she won the contest, she used the gift certificate she received to get some great Banana Fiber yarn and came up with another great pattern, “That Sunset was Bananas!” – and we here at Darn Good Yarn loved that one too! She since has provided us with some lovely hat patterns with our llama wool yarn (find a kit for those here), and a couple more of her patterns will be showing up on the site soon. Her patterns are some of my favorites that we have on the site! (Shhh, don’t tell any of the other pattern designers.)
So many thanks to Denae, for bringing us such lovely patterns on our website, and for taking the time to chat with me. Keep on madly knitting, designing, and inspiring!