Fangirling – Jimmy Beans Wool

As part of the launch of my 10,000 Crocheted Hats, I have made contact with the US yarn company; Jimmy Beans Wool. It has been a wonderful experience. I have made one of the hats from the book in their Madelinetosh DK, which is a fabulous hand dyed yarn. Firstly I have really enjoyed learning about their history. Originally the founder Laura and her husband Doug set up their shop, which sold both coffee and yarn… and then the yarn took over. Their company has expanded and they are now based in Reno, Nevada – sort of near San Francisco. Whilst I have never been there, looking at their yarn shop online it seems incredible. Plus I am so impressed with how they have grown their business and invested in hand-spun yarn and graduate scholarships. They have a very inspiring story.

Last week we did an Instagram Live – which was lots of fun. I think we could have chatted for hours. But I also interviewed Laura separately and thought it would be fun to include it here for you to read.

Emma: For British readers – could you tell us a little about how Jimmy Beans started?

Laura: Absolutely! As many stories do, ours starts with a song. Back in 2002, my husband Doug and I were brainstorming names for our crazy new yarn shop adventure.

There’s a Todd Snider tune called “Doublewide Blues,” Doug started telling me I was “cool like Jimmy,” and the nickname stuck. So, of course, ‘Jimmy’ had to be included. Initially, we paired coffee with the yarn at our Truckee, California location, hence the “Beans” and the “Wool” in Jimmy Beans Wool.

Eventually, the wool took over, the coffee faded, and fast forward to today, and we’ve traded our cozy corner in Truckee for a sprawling space in Reno, Nevada.

Along the way, we welcomed new brands into our family, such as della Q, Madelinetosh, Simply Shetland, Dream in Color, Shibui Yarns, and Yarn Citizen! Our journey has been filled with peaks and valleys, but at its core, it’s a story of loving yarn, lots of creative thinking, and a little luck.

Still, our commitment to providing top-notch customer service and fostering a crafting community remains at the core of everything we do.

Emma: Laura… I’m totally fan-girling you. You have such a passion for the yarn business and have such energy. What does your average day look like?

Laura: Emma, thank you for your kind words! I’m equally thrilled about your book, and it’s an honor to have it in our store!

Unfortunately, my day-to-day routine is a bit irregular due to a fair amount of travel. I split my time between Reno, Nevada, where Jimmy Beans is located, and Fort Worth, Texas, home of Madelinetosh. Trade shows, customer visits to local yarn shops, and vendor meetings are scattered throughout my schedule. On top of being a mother to my son, Huck, a wife to my husband (and the JBW co-founder!), Doug, and juggling my roles as a tackle football player and a big-time runner, my day-to-day routine is quite hectic!

When I’m not on the road, I start the day by checking in with the team via email and Slack. Making sure everyone’s on the same page is crucial, even when I’m not physically in the office.

Throughout the day, I make time for conversations with other LYS owners. These exchanges are invaluable for gathering insights and learning how to improve.

And then there’s the business of keeping our inventory stocked. I work closely with the buying team at Jimmy Beans and our operations staff at the Maddy Tosh Group to handle everything from dyeing yarn to mill orders and managing sea freight logistics, as it’s a vital aspect of our operations! Ensuring our customers have access to quality products requires a lot of planning and coordination behind the scenes.

Last but not least, there’s budgeting and forecasting. I meticulously plan for the quarter and year ahead, even down to the office supplies—every little detail counts!

So, my days (and weeks!) are a mix of travel, communication with my team and other shops, and a lot of number-crunching to keep Jimmy Beans thriving and our customers happy. While also trying to sneak in time for family and me, too! 🙂

Q: In Britain, it appears that very few people can make a sustainable living from the yarn industry. What do you think has been the key to your success?

Laura: The yarn industry can be challenging to navigate, but our success stems from a few key principles.

We’ve always prioritized innovation and adaptability, constantly evolving to meet our customers’ changing needs. Our success was born out of creating essentially the local yarn store experience online when there weren’t many others like us in the early aughts of the 2000s.

We’ve carried that tenacity and ‘out of the box’ thinking as we continue growing and evolving the brands.

Additionally, our emphasis on building strong relationships within our team and with our mills, customers, and other local yarn shops has been instrumental in fostering trust and loyalty.

Emma: You have taken your yarn business to the next level – with supported scholarships, charitable foundations – expanding the exclusive products… what is the secret to your business success?

Laura: We owe our accomplishments to the tight-knit community that has supported us every step of the way! 

We don’t just sell yarn; we’re actively involved with the customers who have become friends because we know firsthand the positive impact knitting and crocheting can have.

Our commitment goes beyond just writing a check. Take our Beans for Brains scholarship, for example. It’s not just about generosity; it’s about recognizing the struggle many face to pursue their education. As someone who scraped through school on niche scholarships, I know the difference they make. So, when we can pay it forward, we do.

It’s also about pushing boundaries and staying ahead of the curve. We’ve always strived to be pioneers in our industry, aiming to be the first to market with innovative products and experiences. For example, we were among the very first companies to launch subscription services and advent calendars, and we quickly embraced Mystery Knit-Along events. Our goal is to be on the cutting edge, providing our customers with the best products and experiences possible!

So, is there a secret to our success? With all of that said about innovation, maybe the secret is simply abiding by the golden rule:  treating others as we’d like to be treated. Or maybe it’s the belief that a rising tide lifts all boats. By supporting each other through initiatives like royalty-based collaborations with people like Gaye Glasspie of GGMadeIt, scholarships, and the MT Community Love Fund, we’re not just building a business; we’re building a stronger community.

At the end of the day, it’s not just about profit margins or market share. It’s about doing what’s right for our business and the community that supports us. And that, to us, is the true secret to success. 🙂

Emma: What makes your yarn stores special?

Laura: Like most yarn shops, our yarn store is a hub where makers come together to share their passion for all things yarn!

While our Team Beans (what we call our team!) provide personalized recommendations and a seamless shopping experience, our commitment to fostering a community truly makes us special. From our regular knitting and crochet meet-ups to classes and workshops led by industry experts (we recently hosted ARNE & CARLOS!) and even our cozy knitting and crochet retreats, there’s always something happening to connect with fellow crafters and expand your skills.

Moreover, our store isn’t just a local stop; it’s a destination in its own right! We’ve grown over the years, thanks in no small part to our General Manager Shannon’s exceptional design eye, turning it into a place that draws makers from near and far. Whether you’re joining us in person or participating in our online events, like the Taylor Swift Make-Along, we aim to provide a space where knitters and crocheters can unite and share their love for the craft.

When it comes to shipping, we understand the excitement of receiving your yarn. That’s why we work diligently to ensure your order is carefully packaged and swiftly sent so you can start your project as soon as possible! (We shoot to have packages out the door within 24 hours.)

Ultimately, our yarn store is more than just a place to buy yarn—it’s a welcoming place to find inspiration, learn new techniques, and connect with like-minded makers.

Emma: Do you ever feel fear? Are there some business decisions that you wish you hadn’t made?

Laura: I do! I’ve found fear to be a natural part of being an entrepreneur, but I’ve learned to embrace it as an opportunity to grow and learn new and better ways to improve.

While there have certainly been decisions that didn’t pan out as expected, each challenge has ultimately led to some unexpected opportunities!

For instance, in 2017, we faced a monumental challenge when our store in Reno, Nevada, was hit by a devastating flood. The chaos and uncertainty of that time were overwhelming, to say the least. However, amidst the crisis, we saw an opportunity to turn adversity into a moment of solidarity with our community. We launched the #SaveTheYarn campaign, rallying support and turning a challenging situation into an opportunity. Additionally, the flood prompted us to reevaluate our space needs, ultimately leading us to find a larger location that was essential for our growth and expansion!

We’ve also weathered the economic ups and downs, which has been a daunting responsibility, especially for me as the founder. Knowing that people and their families rely on us to make a living has always weighed heavily on me. Despite the financial uncertainties, we’ve remained committed to our team, never resorting to layoffs and always finding ways to adjust budgets without compromising our values.

Another significant source of fear has been around launching our in-house brands. The uncertainty of how they’ll be received, the substantial investment required, and the complexities of onboarding a new company have all been daunting challenges.

So, while fear has been a consistent presence in my journey as an entrepreneur, it has also been a catalyst for some of our most significant successes. 🙂

Emma: What would be your top tip for a yarn designer/entrepreneur?

Laura: My top tip for aspiring yarn designers and entrepreneurs is never to stop learning.

The yarn and technological/marketing/finance industries are constantly evolving, so staying informed about emerging trends and technologies is essential while staying true to your unique style, brand, and voice.

And one more thing—don’t be afraid to take risks and adapt! Some of our greatest innovations and successes as a business have come from being creative and thinking outside the box.

Emma: Do you still knit every day – if so what is your go-to happy project? What’s on the needles right now?

Laura: Knitting is still a big part of my life, although these days, I don’t always have as much time for it as I’d like!

When I can pick up my needles, I love working on mindless, instant-gratification projects like sweaters, hats, and scarves.

One of my favorite projects, which I always return to, is Lena Skvagerson’s Mankind Beanie in Madelinetosh Tosh Vintage. I’ve knit that pattern over and over!

Emma: Is there a particular yarn you like to return to?

Laura: Ah, yarn favorites! While I’m always on the lookout to try new blends, there are some classics I keep coming back to—Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light and Madelinetosh A.S.A.P. are two bases I love to work with.

Lately, though, I’ve been really into Yarn Citizen’s Trinity Cashmere – it’s like knitting with clouds (I may be a bit biased, but it’s so unbelievably soft!). 

Emma: For your company you obviously have to travel quite a bit. Where have you found the most inspiration?

Laura: Traveling has always been a huge source of inspiration for me, whether exploring new yarn shops and trade shows or immersing myself in different cultures and traditions.

I’ve been fortunate to visit some incredible places over the years!

Still, inspiration can strike anywhere – from India’s bustling streets (that’s how Shannon and I came up with Jimmy’s SmartStix) to the Peruvian mountaintops (where I felt inspired to make our ever-so-popular Alpaca Tape Measures!).

Emma: What’s your next big dream?

Laura: As for our next big dream, we’re always dreaming big here at Jimmy Beans Wool!

We’re constantly looking for new ways to innovate and grow, whether expanding our product offerings, launching exciting new clubs, or reaching even more crafters worldwide.

But above all, our ultimate dream is to create an environment that supports creativity for our customers, teammates, and business partners.

I’m driven to promote and strengthen small businesses and independent artisans, both locally and globally.

Emma: Finally have you visited Britain, – and if you do… can I meet you – you are an inspiration!

Laura: I’ve visited Britain every couple of years and would love to meet you and the rest of the wonderful crafting community across the pond! Maybe you and I can connect next year before or after h+h Cologne?!

Thank you so much for your kind words and the opportunity to be featured on your blog! It’s truly an honor to inspire others through my passion for yarn and creativity.

If you would like to read my interview with Laura – you can pop over to their blog here: