Today’s American Success goes to Sheri Berger from Fort Collins, Co. – owner and president of the yarn company, Loopy Ewe. Berger went from knitting stockings around the house for fun, to stocking tens of thousands of yarn products and building a small business with more than a million dollars in profit.
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Berger caught the knitting bug when she was trying to help her 13-year-old daughter, Julia, find a hobby.
"I took her to Michaels and told her she could pick anything she wanted,” Berger said. “I really wanted to get her into a lifetime hobby, something she would love.”
After wandering through the aisles for a bit, Julia landed on the knitting section. Berger saw the moment as a perfect opportunity to bond with her daughter.
“Since I was there, I picked up some yarn too,” Berger said. “It was a great way to have something in common with my teenage daughter – they tend to sometimes want to talk and sometimes don’t want to talk, so having something in common helps.”
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Berger was working in direct sales for a scrapbooking company at the time and noticed business dropping as more and more customers chose digital options instead. To make up for lost income, she bought some yarn and stuck it on a shelf in her basement, hoping to sell a few homemade pieces online to make some extra money.
“It started as a side business, a way to have supplementary income, and then it just took over!” Berger said with a laugh.
Indeed, after a few months, the family's sales were so good, yarn had overtaken their entire basement, and they had to rent a 1500-square-feet storage space to store it, then a 4500-square-foot storage space, and finally they moved into a 7000-square-foot shop where they now sell both fabric and yarn.
“As our customers grew so did our products. There’s a lot of people who don’t live near any local yarn shops so they turn online,” Berger said. “So that’s why we took it in that direction, and started offering more for every day.”
She loves her clients, most of whom are incredibly passionate about what they do.
“They’re a rabid bunch,” Berger said with a laugh.
The Loopy Ewe has its brick-and-mortar location, but the majority of the company's sales remain online. She tries very hard to give personal customer service for each client.
“I love it when customers say, 'I consider you my local yarn shop even though we’re 1,000 miles apart,'” Berger said. “That tells us that we’re doing a great job of connecting with customers, which is always our goal.”
She also loves her co-workers like a family – it helps that they actually are. Her husband Paul is the products photographer, her daughter Julia does the marketing, and her son Michael runs the website.
“I think when you have something so big in common, it probably makes or breaks you as a family. It’s just been great for us, we really have a good time,” Berger said. “It’s made the business so much stronger than if I was by myself trying to figure this out.”
But as far as actual knitting is concerned, that love just extends to her and Julia.
“I actually made (my husband) and my son knit and they did about four rows and said, ‘this is enough!” Berger said laughing.
Making her favorite pastime her 9-to-5 hasn’t made her love knitting any less.
“It’s hard, imagine being surrounded by the thing you love all day, by the time you get home you just want to do that thing!” Berger said. “Some people say, ‘I would never want to do it, because it would ruin it for me. I get so much enjoyment from it, I’d start resenting it.’ For me it’s just been a great way to explore something I already love.”
Building a business from nothing has been tough – there hasn’t been a pattern to follow, she’s had to figure out a lot for herself.
“Every step was scary for me, especially expanding, which meant adding more and just hoping we’d keep selling,” Berger said. “At every point, I’ve a little freak-out, but it’s something I’m sure we’re supposed to be doing week after week.”
But all the risks have been worth it.
“We’re fortunate every day to do what we love, but I never take it for granted,” Berger said. “Mostly, I look back and see that’s it’s grown into what it’s grown and I just feel blessed by it.”