SEBEC, Maine — After moving 10 times in five years, mostly due to her husband Mike’s frequent business trips, Nicole Snow is comfortably settled in Sebec for the time being.
But Snow’s company, Darn Good Yarn, has more than doubled in volume in the past four years and she’s literally running out of room. “Right now, I have 25,000 balls of yarn in my house,” she said with a laugh. “So we’re definitely looking for a new location.”
Darn Good Yarn is a unique success story because of its partnership between a Maine entrepreneur and workers in Nepal and India.
Snow was employed with a women’s clothing importer in California, and noticed that some of the apparel was made from recycled yarn. So she took an interest in the product and developed connections with some firms in India that manufactured the material.
Today, she has 300 women in India and Nepal making high-quality yarn using reclaimed materials, some of which would normally be thrown away. The products are shipped to her home, and she then sends it to her retail and wholesale customers as far away as Australia.
Her yarn crafters make $10 and $16 per day in countries where most people live on less than $2 a day. “I place many small orders instead of a few large ones,” Snow explained. “I don’t want to have people working 16 hours a day. We’re not like a big-box store.”
Last year, Darn Good Yarn was the grand prize winner of the first nationwide FedEx Small Business Grant Competition and received a $25,000 grant to invest in and further grow its business.
On Feb. 4, Gov. Paul LePage praised Darn Good Yarn in his State of the State address. Citing Maine’s 130,000 micro-businesses, LePage said that “if they could each add one more job, that would transform our economy.
“Nicole Snow of Sebec is a very successful micro-entrepreneur. She created Darn Good Yarn, and she does all of her business online. Nicole is growing her company into a million-dollar business, thanks to the Internet.”
The Darn Good Yarn website attracts more than 40,000 customers each month, which account for 60 percent of sales.
Snow said that her company is branching out, with Darn Good World as the “umbrella” brand for Darn Good Yarn, Darn Good Style and Darn Good Home. “We want to make and carry products that have a good story at the end of the day,” she said. “Eventually, this will be a one-stop source.”
If Snow hadn’t taken an interest in women’s apparel several years ago, she may have embarked on a completely different career path. “I started taking flying lessons when I was 12,” she said. She earned an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy and the Air Force Academy, but accepted a scholarship through the Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. “I was on track to be an Air Force pilot,” she recalled. “But then I met my husband [Mike]. After that, I really didn’t want to go on lengthy deployments.”
And while Snow said that she’s proud of what’s she’s accomplished with Darn Good Yarn, it’s important for her to share her dreams with others.
“I want to help and inspire people who are right on the edge of being an entrepreneur,” she said. “Microenterprises are really cool, because you can ‘throttle’ them as much as you’d like do. I’m consulting some local small-business owners right now. These are the engines that drive Maine’s economy, especially in a rural area like Piscataquis County.”
For information, visit darngoodyarn.com or find them on Facebook.