When veteran Nicole Snow started Darn Good Yarn in 2008 she didn’t expect the growth it achieved. The company was founded on something simple: A love for crafts like knitting, and a desire to make a difference all over the world. Over the course of a decade, the budding e-commerce company grew into a flourishing craft powerhouse.
Today, Darn Good Yarn employs over 500 women in India and Nepal. The company focuses on supplying proper wages. It’s also a proud equal opportunity employer within the US. Snow wanted to build something that offered sustainable careers around the world. That’s what she’s achieved with Darn Good Yarn.
Customers can find anything from project kits and craft supplies to clothing and home goods. All of the products are sustainably supplied from artisans around the world. Darn Good Yarn even offers a $10/month subscription box. The box is aimed at challenging subscribers to sit back and create something once a month. Even if it’s something small.
The growth of Darn Good Yarn has given Snow the opportunity to combine her passions of creating and helping others. We were able to catch up with her prior to the holidays to discuss everything from starting a business during a recession to what domestic equal opportunity means to her.
What sorts of challenges do you feel you had to overcome in starting a business during a recession?
When I started Darn Good Yarn, I had no idea that it would eventually grow into a successful online retail company. Essentially, I didn’t even have the knowledge to know what I was getting into. In a way, that kept me from getting nervous or even thinking about the fact that it was a recession and starting a business might be a challenge. I took it day by day and really just enjoyed the journey, dealing with each issue as it came up as best as I could.
You’re setting quite an example for companies that outsource their production efforts overseas. How do you feel you’ve impacted the lives of your international workers by providing opportunities for sustainable wages?
The fact that Darn Good Yarn provides over 500 women in India and Nepal with sustainable wages is something that my team and I are incredibly proud of. In the early days of my company, I had a handful of artisans working for me overseas in those countries. When I went to India to meet with a couple of my suppliers, I realized that the work I was providing these women only employed them for about three months. This motivated me and put things in perspective. I knew that if I grew operations by a certain percentage, I could provide them with year-round employment. Having that employment provides them with enough money for ample amounts of food, clothing and a safe place to live not only for themselves but for their entire family. Knowing that my company is helping these women lead normal lives that aren’t guaranteed in these countries is the reason I work so hard each and every day.
Do you feel that most US or Western-based companies that outsource to foreign countries are unethical? Have you noticed any changes in the industry since you’ve started?
Like in every industry, there are always a few bad egg companies. However, I feel that for the most part, everyone who is outsourcing business to underdeveloped regions is doing their best to provide stable job opportunities. Since I started, the world has gotten MUCH smaller. I had to code my first e-commerce store myself, now virtually anyone can be selling products online within minutes. This is in addition to less-developed countries getting better internet access. Essentially, everyone is more connected and there’s more opportunity now than ever before for people across the globe to do business together. It’s a really exciting time!
Do you feel that adding subscription boxes to your product list has allowed you to expand?
Absolutely. The beauty of our subscription box is that it’s a low-cost option for people to get introduced to our brand. Knitting and crafting can be intimidating to some at first, so our subscription box has easy, entry-level crafting projects that those with no experience can just pick up and start to have fun with. Once they start to get the hang of it, they can upgrade to more sophisticated projects.
It seems as if there’s a subscription box for everything today. Do you feel that this is the future of e-commerce?
As subscription boxes become more common, I feel that only the ones that provide real value will be able to stick around. Our box offers a small project each month and is only $10. So it’s an easy, affordable sell and makes a great gift. Saying they are the future of e-commerce may be a stretch. It’s clear, though, that companies are trying to go with subscription models wherever they can.
I see that you hire people with mental disabilities in your US offices. What does equal opportunity mean to you?
Equal opportunity means a lot, especially because I am a female veteran. As I discussed earlier, I want to use my business as a means to help others improve their lives. Just like the women I employ in India and Nepal, I saw an opportunity here at home to help provide employment to those with disabilities who deserved a fair shot.
How would you like to see other companies improve their equal opportunity efforts in the future?
Since I am a veteran, I’d like to see more companies make more of an effort in hiring more of the men and women who have served our country. Also, spouses of veterans deserve a fair chance at opportunities as well. In reality, it’s all about giving back and helping others whenever you can as a business owner.