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Ann Dooling created a great work at home business "Montana Knits, Inc." and she has agreed to be interviewed and to share some of her business experiences. She took her love of knitting and a passion for cashmere and created a successful business. As with any business it started small, had many changes, twist and turns. Some planned and some surprises that turned out to fill a need in her product line.
Ann explains how knitting cashmere sweaters for men, women, and children came about and has shared many pictures she has taken over the years.
An example is the picture above, Ann is sitting with some of her beautiful cashmere creations on the table.
Notice the dress she is wearing, it is a black cashmere evening dress that she designed.
As we communicated, I began to think how this would be of interest to the many of you who email me and ask, "Is it really possible to earn money work at home?" There are many home-based business opportunities for crafters, this is just one example of the success we can achieve when we pursue our dreams.
Ann took this serious and did her research and created a business that affected many. As Anns business grew during the 20 plus years she was open, she not only made a business for her family she also created employment for some local women.
Ann has created everything from small hats in cashmere to beautiful gowns, such as the one pictured above. The gown pictured is a lovely single shoulder dress that is being worn by a professional model, and was included in a fashion show in OK City.
(NOTE) The dress is now owned by a lady in Boca Rattan, Florida who wanted to wear it to a special event to upstage Christy Brinkley. .
Lets move onto Anns informative interview and exciting business experiences. You will find the pictures throughout this interview are some of the creations she designed and knitted "Montana Knits, Inc."
Linda: Ann, welcome to my website. I am so happy you are willing to be interviewed for my visitors.
Ann: So happy to find your website. I am glad to share my business experiences with your visitors.
Linda: If I understand you correctly, you took you love of knitting and after a lot of research created this great work at home business?Ann:
Yes, I did just that - I made a successful business from my knitting hobby. I started a cashmere knitting company in 1992, which is trademarked, and which I have run for 20 years now. I have sold thousands of garments throughout the years..
Linda: Some find having a home business too hard and not nearly what they dreamed it would be. Did you enjoy having this home business?
Ann: Yes. My career in the knitting business has been fascinating. We had this large herd of cashmere goats, and after shearing our first clip, we sold it to the only buyer at that time, in the US. We were quite unhappy with the price we were paid for the cashmere, and decided that value needed to be added. That was the only way to go. So I did a lot of research into where to have our cashmere dehaired, (we always had the largest production in the country). I had to find where to have it spun and what weight/ply of yarn to spin.
After deciding what kind of machines to use for this project, I decided that a certain spin/weight/ply would work the best, and had our yarn produced to meet those criteria.
We then began to purchase raw cashmere fleeces from other growers in the country. We were the major buyers of US cashmere, for the 8 years we were in full time production.
At that same time, I learned how to design garments, how to write patterns and to dye the garments. Than I learned to market my own line.
Linda: Ok you came up with this great work at home business plan than what?
Ann: For 8 of the 20 years, I had 4 to 6 knitters, knitting full time doing wholesale production, and they have since then done custom knitting.
I don't believe one can get a custom-knitted cashmere sweater anywhere else in the world! I never had "contract knitters". I wanted to have employees, have them come to my farm. We had a separate building for the knitting company and that is where we knitted.
I did not want to let cashmere yarn out of my control. I wanted the knitters in a setting that allowed for supervision, the ability to answer any questions they might have, and have better control over production.
Linda: Did anyone else help you design the garments for your business?
Ann: No, I designed all the garments in my line myself. There is about 200 or so right now, and dye in about 60 colors.
I have sold to many catalogs and to upscale stores, also to individuals. I think my top-selling item is socks, both plain and patterned, all made on flat double bed machines.
I even figured out how to make gloves on a flat machine. My product line spans a wide range of garments from hats, socks and mittens to dresses, bathrobes and undergarments. Sweaters of all styles make up most of the adult line.
Linda: What was your main product line? Adults or children's items?
Ann: My main line was cashmere for babies and children, and I did the International Children's Fashion Show at the Javits Center in NYC twice a year, and sold to quite a number of stores.
I also did a few other shows around the country. There are only one or two other cashmere companies in the world that make garments for children, and then they look quite plain like grown-up garments only smaller.
My children's garments are whimsical and fun for kids.
Linda: Ann how many hours per week did you work at your great work at home business?
Ann: When I first started it, I hired 4 ladies. I taught them how to read my patterns and use the machines, and we knitted 40 hours a week for 8 years straight. We were doing mostly wholesale production than.
Linda: My business was mainly acrylic, why did you only create items in cashmere?
Ann: The first reason for using only cashmere, of course, is that I had access to cashmere, from producing and buying it, to having it processed.
The second main reason why I did cashmere knitting is that it takes the same amount of energy, thought, and process to knit an acrylic sweater as it does a cashmere one (providing one is knitting full fashioned), so one might as well knit cashmere. Better returns for the same time and effort.
Great work at home business success changes over time
Linda: So that leads me to the next question. Did you sell mainly wholesale?
Ann: Some retail, but mostly wholesale. After I closed down wholesale production, I went to custom knitting only, producing whatever anyone ordered from my website.
For three years, I also had a shop downtown in the fourth quarter of the year. I called it "Cashmere, Etc.", and set up a knitting machine, I brought my inventory down there, and knitted every day.
People would come in all the time to watch me, and they would order garments of one sort or another. It was fascinating for them to stand there and watch, and ask questions.
I enjoyed those times very much. In my shop, I also carried many things handmade by other artists in town. I had beautiful watercolors and oils, jewelry, pottery and even furniture. Everything in my shop was made in my town.
Linda: Has anything surprised you along the way?
Ann: It surprised me to learn that my company was the only one in the entire world (that I knew of) where a person can order any cashmere garment, made to fit perfectly for them.
I had quite a number of clients who ordered from me every year, mostly at Christmastime. Christmas was a very busy time as lots of people order cashmere for gifts. I have the entire history of every customer Montana Knits ever had, retail, personal, and wholesale.
I enjoyed my knitting business immensely. It was very satisfying, it gave me room to be creative, inventive and imaginative. I met a lot of wonderful people and learned a lot of amazing things that I would not have otherwise learned.
I have closed down production, so currently, I am not working it at all. As it is now time to slow down and pass the business onto someone else. That is why I am selling the Montana Knits.
As I am almost 70 years old I have begun thinking about retiring from business and am ready to sell “Montana Knits Inc”.
I will teach anyone who buys my business how to do all that if he/she/they are interested. I enjoyed this knitting business immensely.
It was very satisfying, giving me room to be creative, inventive and imaginative. I met a lot of wonderful people and learned a lot of amazing things that I would not have otherwise learned.
Linda: Thank you Ann for this interview about another great work at home business success, it has been quite informative. If anyone is interested in more information about Montana Knits, you can contact Ann at:
Montana Knits, Inc.
Helena MT 59601
You may send me your email address and I will forward it to Ann and she will respond. Please put a note that this is about Montana Knits Contact Linda