Karida Collins is a visionary and a doer. When this Baltimore based woman business owner and fiber art aficionado realized she wanted to work with more vibrant, hand-dyed yarns she started making them in her kitchen. A following for her gorgeous, beautiful hand dyed yarns led to the creation of a small, and growing manufacturing business. To read Karida’s tips for getting a small manufacturing business off the ground, click here.
The vivacious entrepreneur recently opened her welcoming and incredibly well-equipped space and studio store, The Neighborhood Fiber Co. Located in the up and coming Bromo Arts District of Baltimore to allow her to increase her manufacturing and allow other fiber fans the chance to shop and meet to learn and work. We recently caught up with the vivacious entrepreneur during the opening of her beautiful space, and got to know her. Here’s what we learned.
What is the problem you solve or solution you provide?
My business offers vibrant, hand dyed yarns to knitters and crocheters around the world. In addition, our new Studio Store in the Bromo Arts District provides a physical location for educational fiber arts classes and workshops as well as a place for customers to see and feel our complete line of offerings.
What gave you the idea to go into business for yourself?
While working for a yarn shop in Washington, DC, I knew that I wanted to own a fiber arts business. I chose a hand-dyed yarn company over a yarn shop, in part, because of the lower initial financial investment and greater opportunity for growth. However, my main motivation was my love of color and yarn.
When you started, what did you find your biggest challenge to be?
My biggest challenge when I started was the lack of clearly articulated goals and business plan. My business floundered around a lot for a few years because I didn’t have those things, despite an overwhelmingly positive response to my product.
What are some of the tools, resources that helped you or that you found the most useful in getting your business and location off the ground?
My most important resources are people around me. I have been aggressive in making mentors out of anyone with knowledge or skills that I need.
What is the best business advice you’ve ever been given and why?
Never let your pride get in the way of asking for help.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
I love being able to offer employment and mentorship to other artistic entrepreneurs.
You offer classes, what made you decide to go in that direction?
In manufacturing a product that is only useful to a group of people with specific skills (knitting/crochet), my biggest challenge is maintaining a customer base. I can make new customers by teaching people to knit using my own products. These customers tend to be incredibly loyal to and trusting of our brand. The same applies to customers who learn to hand-dye yarn from us. Rather than decreasing their interest in our product, the dye classes instill an appreciation of the individual artistry and specialized skills that go into every skein of yarn.
What are some of the classes you offer?
We offer introductory knitting classes for total beginners. For people who know the basics, we offer classes that teach specific skills, such as lace knitting, cables, sock knitting. In addition, we will begin offering dye workshops in January 2016.
What do you find hardest about managing your business day to day?
As my business has grown, I’ve hired more people to handle certain day to day tasks. My biggest challenge is managing these people effectively while still taking time to think about larger and longer term plans.
When you aren’t working how do you spend your time?
I still knit in my spare time. I love to curl up on the couch and watch Netflix with my fiancé, a cocktail and my knitting.
What is your favorite food/dish and why?
Since the weather is getting colder, I have casseroles on my mind. My favorite is macaroni and cheese because I feel like there are endless variations on cheeses and additional ingredients.
What are some causes important to you and why?
I believe in justice. For me that means that everyone is treated equally under the law and has the same access to education, resources and representation. I support causes that work towards addressing the inequality that is embedded in American education, criminal justice and economic policy.
How do you define success?
I believe that the meaning of success changes over time. I can remember when my definition of success was for my business to just not cost me money. When Neighborhood Fiber Co. became my full-time job, I accepted the idea that I would never be able to own a house or have real financial security without being married to someone in a traditional profession. When I achieved those things on my own, my definition of success changed too. Ultimately, I think that being able to set my own priorities defines success for me.
About Karida Collins, Owner of The Neighborhood Fiber Co.
Karida Collins is the artist and entrepreneur behind Neighborhood Fiber Co. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Affairs from The George Washington University. After college, she learned to knit from a friend and discovered an unexpected affinity for fiber arts. Collins’s love of knitting prompted her transition from future diplomat to artistic business owner. Motivated to have a fiber arts business, she started Neighborhood Fiber Co. in her basement apartment. Collins also co-authored a knitting pattern book entitled Pints and Purls: Portable Projects for the Social Knitter. Currently, she is working to establish Neighborhood Fiber Co. as a brick and mortar yarn store and fiber arts education resource in her hometown of Baltimore, MD.
About Neighborhood Fiber Co.
Neighborhood Fiber Co. provides uniquely hand-dyed yarns, inspired by urban landscapes to knitters, crocheters and fiber artists around the world. Founded in 2006 in Washington, DC, the fiber arts company now occupies a former firehouse in Baltimore’s burgeoning Bromo Arts District. To learn more about what they do and their classes click here.