Balancing DIY & SOS: A Modern Tale of an All-American Business

March 22, 2016
By

DIY entrepreneur Brooklyn Tweed

Brooklyn Tweed is on a mission to change the way you think about knitting. Yes, knitting. The Portland-based small business makes 100% breed-specific, all-American yarn on a large scale, along with fashionably hip patterns for women and men. Ten years ago, it was rare to find wool yarn sourced and produced within the U.S. Wishing to create classic, yet modern, designs knit with conscientiously produced yarns, founder and DIY entrepreneur Jared Flood persevered in his vision—and six successful years later, Brooklyn Tweed’s yarns and patterns are sold and downloaded around the world.

What’s part of their secret to success? Keep reading to find out how this DIY-driven team freed up their hands to make something meaningful.

Putting a Modern Spin on a Timeless Craft

It all began a decade ago when Jared says he “got bit by the knitting bug.” At the time, the demographics of knitting were different. As a male, Jared had few peers or role models in the industry. He started modernizing old patterns and writing about his knitting adventures, all the while sharing beautiful photos of what he was creating by hand. Over time, his blog grew and garnered a substantial following. For many, knitting was both a way to be creative and a way to relax, but Jared soon learned that what really also resonated with people was the idea that knitting didn’t have to be “my grandma’s hobby.” “It can be MY hobby. I can make something that looks good with my jeans,” Jared recalls. And with that insight, DIY small business Brooklyn Tweed was born.

A fan of history and tradition, Jared sought out American wool mills with which to do business. With more and more textile work being outsourced overseas, he saw the opportunity to turn a countrywide challenge into his company’s core value. He vowed to find his wools, his scouring facilities, his dye houses, and his mills all within the US—and sell his American-made yarns to American customers as well as customers around the world who equally appreciate and support Brooklyn Tweed’s mission.

Finding Balance Between DIY and SOS

Along the way to delivering on this 100% American-made mission, the young company hit operational bumps. “Small businesses get far fewer fiscal advantages than their larger competitors, and costs can run high. As a small business, we have the same amount of fiscal pressure, but we don’t have the same resources as a big corporation,” explains Brooklyn Tweed’s head of Business Development, Luigi Boccia. “It’s crucial to pay attention to every expense item and save valuable resources every time. Therefore, having a platform like Zenefits covering most of our HR needs is a boon for companies like ours.”

In business, you can learn how to do something either by making a costly mistake or by hiring a costly consultant. Luigi points out that Zenefits represents a third option: no-cost HR partnership.

“How do you put together a handbook for your staff? How do you draft a PTO policy? How do you comply with the state laws? How do you shop for the best health insurance policy? How do you keep track of this and that? No matter how small your team is, you’ll always have a need for HR knowledge you don’t necessarily have. Zenefits offers us a platform and covers all of our HR needs.”

Hand-Knit Clothing + Hands-Free HR = Business Success

HR assistance from Zenefits has allowed Brooklyn Tweed to be an even more DIY project. By taking repetitive administrative tasks off the table, the company is able to focus all of its energy on making and selling amazing products. And make they do. The company places a great deal of importance on “making things with your own hands” and prides itself on its fashion-forward, hand-knit clothing items that customers crave. “Looking out to the future as a society, we’re probably going to continue to move gradually and slowly towards appreciating the process of making things, whether it’s cooking or making your own clothes or growing your own vegetables,” says Luigi. “It’s only a matter of time until we all become a little more conscious.”

Brooklyn Tweed has a plan for growth, and in the years ahead, Jared and Luigi hope to increase the size of their team and their US and global stockists. In addition, they hope to keep raising the bar on aesthetic values while staying true to their mission and continuing to create collections and yarns that make themselves proud and their customers happy. Other companies have taken note and followed suit, but true to American ideals, instead of viewing them as competition, Brooklyn Tweed sees the industry as a larger community. “Competition is part of business. It’s what makes us wanting to keep improving. We like the fact that our business model has inspired other companies and are grateful whenever others inspire us. In our industry, in this day and age, when you lift one, you lift them all.”

About

Jeremy "Sprout" Brautman is a writer, problem solver, and big fan of growth. When he's not trying to solve problems to help small businesses grow, he can be found developing amenities to increase occupancy at his urban Ladybug Hotel.

Category: Small Business Success Stories


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