A Milestone spanning 30 years!
Celebrating a milestone of 30 years in business seems unfathomable! My story is one of developing a passion into a business with all of the unexpected twists and turns that have led to where we are today which, in my view, is just perfect for me. I have enjoyed being in the driver’s seat (along with the support and counsel of my husband and daughter, my brother (who has been my webmaster for over 20 years), amazing friends, and the grace of God. I can honestly say (and often do say) that I couldn’t have dreamed my life to be any better. Celebrating this milestone of 30 years is an utter joy!
The road began as a knitter.
My family had all of the knitted goods they needed from me but I wanted to keep on knitting. What does one do? Begin a business, of course! Doesn’t everybody do that? I was at home at that time with my husband being the breadwinner. My full-time job at that time was raising our three daughters and caring for my husband. The knitting I did occurred during nap times or after everyone went to bed. Annie’s Woolens began at a snail’s pace.
Developing a Style
While the burning desire to grow my fledgling business conflicted with my commitment to tend my family, I was able to begin my journey at local art shows. I developed my style, my colors, and my direction (hand-knit mittens, wool sweaters, and specialized wool hats) by showing and selling my wears at these venues.
A Way to “Leave” Home…
Selling my goods at art shows, however, was limited in terms of the number of people who were able to see my work. And I was looking for a way to grow my business as I raised our family. So, as news of something called the Internet became more talked about, I talked with my brother, Peter Oakley, a graphic designer and computer tech person, about designing a website for Annie’s Woolens. He was agreeable and I was ecstatic! This way I could “leave” Eagle River, WI without leaving home and have my “shop” open 24 hours a day.
Annie’s Woolens went online in 1996.
I relied strictly on sales from my online shop. It was truly a leap of faith and another milestone to celebrate! Our daughters, each one in their own turn, helped me with production once I switched from selling sweaters to creating our Christmas stocking line. They would work for Annie’s Woolens as their summer job. It was a win-win (they got paid handsomely!).
Another Major Leap of Faith
Almost 11 years ago, I made another leap of faith by hiring my first employee outside of family. Kathy will be celebrating her 11th anniversary at Annie’s Woolens next month! Kathy recommended Debbie who started over 8 years ago. Charlotte and Mayme are newer associates and they were led to me by Debbie (see a pattern here?). And, our oldest daughter, Emily, needed some work as she is raising a young family at home so she helps us out remotely with production knitting. It works for both of us! Annie’s Woolens grew with more working hands. And my life has been enriched on a personal level by their presence and our fellowship.
I am grateful…
Today, as we enjoy our 30th year in business, I marvel at all of the challenges and decisions undertaken to get to where we are today. I am grateful to celebrate this milestone with my co-workers, my husband and family, my brother/webmaster. I must also say that I am grateful for all of the customers we have, many of whom are repeat customers over many years. We could not have done any of it without YOU!
Thinking of starting a business?
Listen to your inner voice, take risks that make sense and based on sound information, ask for counsel from those you trust, and treasure all who support you in your efforts including your customers! Thank you to ALL of you reading because you have been part of Annie’s Woolens in some way or another. You are appreciated by ME!