Jimmy Beans Getting Back to Knitting Basics

After expanding too quickly, Laura Zander is re-focusing on getting customers excited about her yarn shop.

Colleen DeBaise By Colleen DeBaise

Laura Zander, Jimmy Beans Wool

Laura Zander, Founder of Jimmy Beans Wool

Growth is difficult for any company to manage.

But it can be particularly hard for a unique small business that doesn’t fit the mold of most high-flying startups.

Laura Zander, a former software engineer, discovered that the hard way. A year ago, in this video, we profiled Zander and her online yarn shop, Jimmy Beans Wool of Reno, Nev., which seemingly overnight became a $7 million company.

After the company earned national recognition for its growth, Zander decided — like many ambitious entrepreneurs, especially those in Silicon Valley — to become a $100 million company. In this case study published last week by our friends at the New York Times, Zander admits to mistake made: Moving beyond the company’s core product (yarn) to sell fabric. Hiring too many marketing people. And spending too much time “spreading the gospel” rather than fostering her company’s creative spirit at home.

Instead of growing, Jimmy Beans’ sales sputtered. Morale suffered. Cash disappeared.

Today, Zander says she’s getting her company back on track by returning to the company’s knitting basics. She’s spending more time in the office, coming up with new product ideas like crafty gift packages that are true to the company’s spirit. She’ll focus less on fabric and more on improving Jimmy Beans’ website.

And most importantly, she is going to approach growth differently. After all, she’s not a hot tech startup with a predictable path but rather a speciality yarn shop —  growth requires a personal touch. Here is what she told the New York Times about her new strategy.

The advice is always to hire people smarter than you, take outside investment, scale fast and expand into similar industries. But that advice is meant for companies much bigger and much more scalable than ours. I thought we were ready, but we weren’t. Now, we want to grow naturally, organically and debt-free. It may take 10 to 20 years, not three to seven.

We wish Zander and Jimmy Beans the best, even if growth comes more slowly than once imagined.

Watch Zander’s inspiring startup story in the video below.

Posted: April 10, 2014

Colleen DeBaiseJimmy Beans Getting Back to Knitting Basics