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Tom Bihn, and aspirations

Posted by on March 29, 2013

(Knitty kind of beat me to the punch on this, as they linked to Tom’s message on Facebook late this afternoon, but I’d already written this, so I am going to post it anyway.)

When was the last time a marketing email brought tears to your eyes? I’m sure it’s happened to me before, because I am a huge sap, but yesterday, it was this sincere note in the Tom Bihn newsletter.

“Every person who has ever purchased a TOM BIHN bag is, in a way, an investor: I cannot put into words how grateful I am that you folks allow me and my company to do what we do. You’re helping us to create some good jobs, as well as allowing me to have the time of my life. Thank you.

In the early years of my company, in a time before Kickstarter, I relied from time to time on the generous support of my family and friends. I’ve been thinking a lot about that recently. Often that support took the form of help purchasing a new piece of equipment, or a small infusion of cash to meet a shortfall in income. Sometimes it was a piece of advice, an extension on my rent, or simply an encouraging word. Our business is more or less a success now, and it’s often too easy to forget the tough times we’ve weathered and the kindness that got us through those tough times.

Of far more significance than of the actual dollar value of these investments was the faith that was behind them. They reflect the belief that my family and friends had in me and my endeavor; the belief that I was on the right track and that things would work out – even when sometimes I had serious doubts myself.”

Knitters will know Tom Bihn as Knitty’s design partner in the creation of the Swift, which really is the ultimate knitting bag. My mom gave me mine as a birthday gift a couple of years ago, and I LOVE it.

When I started hatching this plan, one thing I knew was that I would be schlepping a lot of stuff back and forth between home and the shop on a daily basis. I thought really hard about it, but in the end, I talked myself into investing in a Tom Bihn messenger bag. They are not cheap…because they are not cheap. I’ve carried a Medium Café Bag for years, and its only signs of wear are a few interior stains which were entirely my fault. They are beautifully made in the US, of quality materials. When I placed my order, I included a note in the comments section—explaining why I was ordering the bag, and that my goal was to become the kind of company that Tom Bihn is—one that is constantly striving for quality and that clearly loves its customers. I can’t remember precisely what I wrote, but that was the jist of it.

When my bag arrived (two days later), this note was on a postcard inside the box:

tbpostcard

If I could sell the Swift in the store, I certainly would, but as it happens, Tom does just fine without selling through any third parties. As his words above describe, he’s built a joyful business. That’s what I am striving to create in Yarn Folk. My goal has never been just to have a store. I’ve wanted it to be a place to build community from the time the idea took root. My original knitting friends have been enthusiastic cheerleaders, and as I’ve spent more and more time in Ellensburg, I’ve met new people who I’m excited to know better. My days at the shop right now are punctuated by visits from people I’ve known for years, and others I’ve just met, and these breaks really are a pleasure. I’ll be glad when, in a short time, they are the driving force of my days.

So that’s what I’ve been thinking about today, while working on a variety of projects, and waiting on a few key things that are a little stalled. These will sort themselves out, with a little nudging. There’s one critical piece that I need to have in place before I can announce an opening date, but I will be doing that soon, and the date will be soon, too!

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