When Nicole Snow started Darn Good Yarn in 2008, she knew she wanted to combine her two biggest passions: art and helping others.
Although they’ve expanded into both wholesale + retail original recycled yarns, clothing and home goods, for Snow, a US Air Force Veteran turned entrepreneur, it all started with a single idea…
I saw a need with a single product for the under-served craft and hobby community.
I developed around a truth: which is that there are customers out there in this industry that want ethically sourced crafting products. What I wound up creating is a triple bottom line business that serves almost 600 women between India and Nepal with year-round work, savings of around 250,000 pounds of textile waste in these regions and a profitable and growing business.
Recycling a good idea (and goods)
For Darn Good Yarn, the mission is simple: great quality fiber for craft and yarn enthusiasts, that’s ethically sourced and supports the economic independence of women in India and Nepal.
The fibers they create come from manufactured waste that’s normally sent to landfills. They’re handmade in small batches, and once refashioned make for some amazing art.
The product itself isn’t new, says Snow, but she’s made a connection between creating something consumers want and helping women control their own economic future.
“The idea has been around for years. I’ve simply worked closely with suppliers and co-ops to improve quality and understand the customer’s end-use better. There are always challenges by means of standardization of product but we see that as an opportunity rather than a defect in a world of mass-made products. We believe in providing an opportunity for impoverished women to get to their next place in life and provide in ways they couldn’t before for themselves and their family.”
She sees her work as a way to create a company that makes profits ethically, and her customers agree. The business has grown radically since 2008 because of that mission.
At Darn Good Yarn, Not All Partnerships Are Created Equal
Snow believes that good businesses are built on good partnerships, and that includes her employees.
My partnerships are based on more than money. They are based on intentions and goals for a greater good as well. By example, if someone looking to work for me so they can just “get a paycheck”, they won’t be a good fit in our organization. They have to intrinsically understand that what they do everyday in their job is serving something greater.
The same goes with my business partners and contractors. If they’re not on board with what we are doing it’s a bad fit. This has helped us navigate good and bad partnerships.
Everyday, something builds on something else
When I asked Snow what the most powerful part of her journey is as an entrepreneur / business owner, she immediately pointed at the process of building, and making connections in her business (she didn’t say it explicitly, but learning and helping other people to learn is part of the equation as well)…
What I love about what I do is that everyday something builds on something else. You have to constantly look for connections so that building process happens. For me, I read many different genres of books, magazines and articles. I harness my creativity to spark those connections. I get energized when I see a member of my staff move to that next place in their life where they realize and can harness the same power that I’ve discovered of connection and building. It’s one thing if I’m successful but when I see people who work for the Darn Good Yarn brand energize their life I know that what I’m doing is duplicatable and to me that’s proof of concept and intention.
The Road Ahead
The Darn Good Yarn team has been growing, and her support staff have a lot to do with it. Her employees (Maggie, Amanda, and Kerry!) all fit the definition that Snow has of a good partnership, and the team is pivoting towards a lifestyle company that encourages people to express and explore their love of creative things.
So far they’ve had good success branching out into clothing and accessories that are sourced with the same intention & process as the core yarn and craft products, and with a successful business that works, there’s a positive track ahead for the whole team.
All images courtesy of Darn Good Yarn. Learn more about Nicole, her team, and the business at darngoodyarn.com