Laura Zander and her husband Doug Zander were Silicon Valley software engineers who realized their jobs were in jeopardy. So they emptied their bank accounts, left San Francisco, and moved full time to their second home in Truckee, California, near Lake Tahoe. They both liked to ski, and Laura Zander had become obsessed with knitting. So a shop built around her hobby - Jimmy Beans Wool - seemed the logical second act, and they thought they'd sell online too.
Ten years later, what started as a small enterprise, is now expected to hit $6 million in revenues this year, with 97 percent of that figure stemming from online sales.
The key reason for the Jimmy Beans' ability to grow its revenues so quickly has been due to online sales. Two years after the little shop in Truckee opened, the company opened a second shop in Reno-now its only location-where the retail portion is an 850-square-foot showroom and the warehouse for the online business occupies 20,000 square feet of space.
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- Ernst & Young recently named Zander one of its 10 Entrepreneurial Winning Women for 2011, and the company has made Inc. magazine's fastest-growing private company's list for three years running.
- Jimmy Beans also started a Stitch Red campaign in which they asked wool vendors and the other 2,000 knitting shops across the country to join with them in creating and selling red products for which a portion of the sales go to The Heart Truth campaign, sponsored by the U.S. Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, which raises awareness about heart disease among women.
- The yarn company is the official sponsor of the U.S. Snowboarding Team, which means supporting the 63-member team financially and supplying them with yarn and knitting materials. They're working especially closely with one team member, Olympic silver medalist Lindsey Jacobellis, a knitting enthusiast.
- The company has also started a scholarship program for college students who knit or crochet, giving away $40,000 worth of scholarships last year to students who sent in photos of something they'd made.