This August Laura and Doug Zander, the founders of Jimmy Beans Wool, a small but rapidly growing online yarn retailer based near Reno, Nev., launched what they thought would be an easy experiment: selling their customers subscriptions. It’s worked almost too well.” These are phenomenal problems to have,” says Laura.
The Zanders, both former Silicon Valley software engineers, have always been aggressive about growth. Since starting the business as a brick-and-mortar shop for knitters in 2002, they’ve grown–sometimes faster than was good for them–by trying everything they could think of, including working social media, writing books, pushing CEO Laura, 41, as a brand spokesperson, creating knitting classes and offering how-to videos on YouTube. Last year the 45–employee company had $8 million in revenue. (Here’s a profile of a company that makes the software that drives subscription businesses.)
The subscription idea began two years ago when Jimmy Beans (a fanciful name) started selling yarn samples online. Enough people were trying the big 20-yard balls at $1.50 a pop and going on to buy other stuff that the Zanders and their team started to wonder how much product they could move if they sold samples by subscription, the way BirchBox and Sephora sell b eauty products. Thus was born the Beanie Bags.