What are the core values for ‘Smeeny Beanie Knits’ in respect to being a responsible business?
My core values for Smeeny Beanie Knits are to create eco-friendly, ethically and sustainably made handmade items that are both functional and stylish. I love my life in the mountains and prioritize and outdoor lifestyle, so wanted to strongly connect my brand and business with my love of nature and the outdoors.
Tell me about one of the ways you remain ethical in the products you provide?
My products are made using ethically and sustainably sourced 100% wool yarns that I source through companies that are also dedicated to reducing their environmental impact. I have a small number of products made with an acrylic blend yarn but am trying to find a more sustainable for those with wool sensitivities. I mostly use high-quality Merino and Peruvian highland wools that are ethically and sustainably sourced and from companies who have pledged to ensure ethical and sustainable practices throughout their supply chain. The wools are sourced from sheep that are free-range and free from the practice of museling. The companies also provide a safe and ethical work environment, especially for women in South America. As a handmade business, every single product is handmade by me here in Colorado.
Every day businesses are finding new eco-friendly and cost-effective ways to be part of climate change, what does it mean for you as a unique small business to be both environmentally proactive and creative in the designs of your products?
A huge part of my brand and inspiration stems from the way the outdoors have impacted my life. As a brand and business, I strive to educate and inspire people to get outside and care about our environment. Sharing the love of nature and connecting people with the outdoors, is one way I can inspire awareness and action from people in their own life.
There are many many companies out there that make knit beanies, but by creating designs by hand and making them by hand with ethical materials, I hope people become more conscious consumers in other aspects of their life as well.
What was your very first design and what three things did you have in mind, when you were designing it?
My first design was a hat I call the Winterfell beanie. It is an easy colourwork design and was inspired by the ski town where I live. There are thousands of patterns out there, but I wanted to dream up something of my own. Though I do enjoy knitting other designers’ patterns as well, I love staying creative by making my own. When designing, I try to keep originality in mind as well as style and functionality. I want people to be drawn to the design and love wearing it. As I’ve gotten more involved in the Maker world, I also try to create designs that I can sell as digital patterns to other makers.
I love that 5% of your profits go towards the National Park Foundation, what does it mean to you to be able to give back as part of your business?
Having spent many months working in Yellowstone National Park, the parks have a special place in my heart. Being able to donate to the National Park Foundation is one way I can help to support them and preserve them for the generations to come. There is so much incredible wild space here and protecting them is very important to me.
I would love to talk a little about your farm, Wilderbean Provisions, talk us through the connection between your two businesses and sustainable living…
I often joke that my “real job” is as a chef when in reality, I probably spend equal amounts of time working on both businesses. I spent 10 years working in restaurants and my background is in food science to food and being a chef was a huge part of my identity. I reached a burnout point in my restaurant career and found a wonderful opportunity working on a small local farm. I had always been a strong proponent or local, seasonal eating and would always source as much as possible from local farms, but having the chance to actually work on the farm was eye-opening and incredible impactful. I now also have a farm-to-table focused private chef business and use it as a platform to educate my clients on the importance of local food and eating seasonally. There is so much connection between our food system and how it affects the environment. We can’t really care about one without caring about the other and it has definitely been important for me to be sustainable in both of my businesses.
You also run Maker Community, with helpful knitting tutorials, tips and future workshops, what is the importance of being ‘a maker’ today?
Being a maker has been truly inspirational. When I first started Smeeny Beanie Knits, I thought I was just selling some beanies as a side hustle, but it has since become so much bigger than that. Not only has the actual business grown, but my connection with other makers has grown immensely. The maker community is incredibly strong and the friendships I’ve made have been amazing. I learned so much as I started on my journey from other makers so I wanted to create a space to share those tips to those just starting out on their journeys. It is still in the early stages, but I have been working on my materials and have been hosting an IG Live series with hopes to be an open door to anyone needing advice or even just a friend in the maker sphere.