Nicole Snow’s journey to become CEO started with a simple desire to learn how to knit.

I started a business that is intertwined with a mission to give back, but I didn’t set out to do either. I fell into the yarn business very oddly. After separating from the U.S. Air Force, I had an imports business and decided that I wanted to learn how to knit. I ordered yarn from a co-op in Nepal and that’s when it all started.

If I could create a business that would provide a sustainable demand for the yarn, I could provide Indian and Nepalese women the chance to work safely by making yarn by hand. I realized the power and empowerment the yarn possessed as a conduit for good. 

This mission to help people, more than anything, motivated me to grow a successful business. Indian and Nepalese women don’t necessarily have a voice in the global market or in creating a sustainable economy. If making yarn could put food on their tables, that was motivation to work really hard to grow the company.

One of the first things I did when I started Darn Good Yarn in 2008 was build a basic e-commerce website, which made sense for two reasons. First, my husband’s job required a lot of travel, so a brick-and-mortar shop wasn’t going to work. The other reason was scale. I knew from the start that my priorities were people, profit, and planet. A triple bottom line. There was no room in there for high overhead. By utilizing e-commerce, we were able to meet our goals and double in growth the first few years we were in business.

At its core, Darn Good Yarn is about much more than yarn. Our success isn’t measured in sales; it’s measured based on keeping our triple bottom line in check. By thinking past profit, we can act charitably, by which I mean creating safe jobs and running a sustainable business.

Growing a brand that gives back

Growing like we have requires a lot of smart financial planning. Understanding the way money flows, how it’s supposed to work, and how much you should be investing is essential. My responsibility as a business owner is to make sure I keep enough cash on hand to take care of the people we support. I worked with an accountant and a certified financial planner. Part of the reason I brought in experts was to ensure money management didn’t overtake our mission in terms of my focus.

Pricing is also an aspect of financial planning that can be overlooked, but getting it wrong can cost you a lot. Avoid that mistake by preplanning, looking at the competition, and stress testing your budget.

Running a small company, I’m very proud to offer my employees a pension plan, profit shares, and a regular 401(k). One of the earliest challenges for Darn Good Yarn was finding employees who were as excited about the business as I was and keeping them motivated. As hard as that was, finding the right people and empowering them is how you create magic. 

Our current challenge is the global supply chain. If there’s a monsoon in India, and we have shipments coming in, they can get held up or drenched by rain. Now that we live in a world of two-day shipping, it’s really not acceptable to have something be a week late. But we use those delays as opportunities to connect with our customers, tell our story, and educate in the face of adversity.

I try to stay authentic through the process of growing Darn Good Yarn and infusing the values I was brought up on: treat people the way you want to be treated. It’s really as simple as that.