Northern Nevada Business Weekly: Tell us about Jimmy Beans Wool and your job.
Laura Zander: Jimmy Beans Wool is a fabric and quilting shop and a knitting and crochet shop. We carry mid-to high-end fabrics and yarns. One of my challenges is trying to figure out what I am supposed to be doing as we grow and have more employees. Right now I meet a lot of new people and promote our brand and make our brand more visible. I also do a lot of the financial stuff, budgeting, reading the financial statements and making sure we have money in the bank and how we want to grow.
NNBW: How did you get into this business?
Zander: My husband and I were both software engineers in San Francisco, and I took a knitting class and was totally obsessed with it. When we moved to Truckee, I did the Web site for a yarn manufacturer, and she convinced me I should open a yarn shop because there weren’t any in the area, so I did in 2002.
NNBW: What are the main things that you have learned since then that have helped foster your growth?
Zander: One of the biggest things we learned, in about 2007, is that it is not enough to create excitement. It is not enough to have an event or create a campaign or do some kind of publicity stunt. What’s more important is everything you do afterwards. As an example, we had a Burning Man night where we had all kinds of people come in and learn how to sew or knit and make costumes for Burning Man. That was great, but the most important part is what we do with all the content we gathered that night, putting it out on social media or sending press releases out or thinking of ways of connecting it with other people in the community. That is where the real value is.
NNBW: What ad campaign or strategy that you put in play gave Jimmy Beans Wool the most traction, and why did it work so well?
Zander: In 2007 we went to the Emmys and did a “swag suite” where I taught Scott Baio, Ernie Hudson and other actors how to knit. That was great and really fun, but if we had just left it at that our lives would be a lot different right now. Instead what we did was put together all the pictures and ran ads that showed, “Hollywood Hunks Learn to Knit.” We did press releases and got tons of press and visibility and great creditability, and that is kind of what launched us.
NNBW: Your firm experienced quite a bit of growth through the recession — what factors contributed to your success during difficult economic times?
Zander: A lot of it was cash-flow management. We pay cash for all our inventory. Because we had evolved into that strategy in 2005 and 2006, we had a really good handle on our cash flow and were able to adapt to the ups and the downs. We were never cash-flow poor, and we were able to continue to buy new product and keep things fresh, where other people in our industry were cash-flow poor and couldn’t bring on as much inventory.
NNBW: What’s next for Jimmy Beans Wool?
Zander: We are getting more into the basket business. We have yarn bouquets that are flowers made of different yarns in a vase, but it is a project that you can give your wife for Mother’s Day. She can make something or just display it. We are expanding into fabric baskets where you can make a purse or a bag and it comes with all the stuff and is beautifully put together. That is an area that hasn’t really been explored in any detail by anyone else, and it is going to be a big one for us.
NNBW: What’s with the name, “Jimmy Beans?”
Zander: Jimmy is my nickname. Todd Snider, who plays around here a lot, has a song called “Doublewide Blues.” My husband and I, when we first met, were listing to this album and song, and it has a character in the song named Jimmy, who is the coolest guy in the whole trailer park because he has a blue plastic pool on his back deck. My husband, Doug, started calling me, “Jimmy,” and he’s never called me anything else. “Beans” is from when we opened the original shop in Truckee — it was yarn and coffee, we had an espresso cart.
NNBW: Is this the career you envisioned for yourself?
Zander: No. We joke that it was not even on the list of 100 careers we would imagine having. It was so far beyond that, even when we started.
NNBW: What piece of advice that someone gave you have you really been able to use to help run your business?
Zander: Make everyone’s life around you easier. It’s our job to make our customer’s lives easier, our vendor’s lives easier, our co-worker’s lives easier. Be the bright spot in someone’s day.
NNBW: What was your first job?
Zander: I was a lifeguard in Cary, N.C.
NNBW: What’s your dream job?
Zander: To be an actress.
NNBW: What did you dream about becoming when you were a little girl?
Zander: An FBI agent.
NNBW: What do you like most about your job?
Zander: Meeting new people.
NNBW: How do you spend your time away from work?
Zander: I like to go hiking, walking or trail running. My favorite run is probably the Emigrant Trail or Donner Lake Rim Trail at Glacier Way at the top of Tahoe Donner.
NNBW: If you had enough money to retire right now, would you? Why or why not?
Zander: Probably. I am exhausted, and I would love to work on other people’s businesses. I say that, but I know I would still want to do this forever.
NNBW: What’s the last concert or sporting event you attended?
Zander: An Aces game.
NNBW: Where’s your idea of the perfect vacation?
Zander: Going to Hawaii and going surfing every day.
NNBW: Why did you choose a career in northern Nevada? What do you like most about working/living here?
Zander: It is easy, and it is amenable to business. The taxes are really great, and the cost of doing business enables us to take the money we would have spent somewhere else and invest it into the business, which accelerates growth. Also, finding help. Living in the mountains was great, but it is almost impossible to find help.
Know someone whose perspective you would like to share with NNBW readers? Email reporter Rob Sabo at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 775-850-2146.