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  • Julie Moline

This company knits together its socially conscious objectives beautifully.

A 10-year-old company in Upstate New York is the perfect example of how even small businesses can find ways to bake in multiple aspects of social responsibility into their business plans.

Darn Good Yarn, Inc. is a yarn and fiber importer, wholesaler and online retailer. Its namesake item is spun from scraps and offcuts left from the manufacture of silk saris. Not only is the yarn gorgeous, thanks to the supersaturated colors and the sensuous feel of silk, but through upcycling the company keeps tons of detritus out of landfills and waterways. By the end of last year, the company singlehandedly kept more than one million pounds of waste out of landfills, says Nicole Snow, the company founder and CEO.

As the yarn business grew, so did the product line, along with the roster of Indian and Nepalese artisans, now totaling 604. These women make items out of yarn and fabric scraps, plus accoutrements that knitters, crocheters and quilters need (wooden and ceramic yarn bowls, needles and hooks and other tools, hand-painted buttons, etc.). The company now also sells clothing (flowy silk and cotton skirts, dresses, kimonos, tank tops and pants), accessories (handmade jewelry, purses and bags, scarves and socks) and home goods (pillows, coasters, ribbon, etc.).

The company pays contributors a living wage for their handiwork, which about six to eight times the average wage for factory work, Snow says. Stateside, the 10 people who pack and ship the 100,000+ orders each year are hired through Schenectady ARC, a not-for-profit organization that supports people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities.

Darn Good Yarn’s products are clearly resonating with customers. The company has grown by 753% since its founding, with 2017 revenues topping $3.7 million. The company has also expanded its yarn line, focusing on natural and sometimes unconventional fiber sources (nettle, banana, newspaper, cotton tee shirts) and other natural fibers (hemp, linen) in addition to silk. Dyes are often made from natural materials like indigo, rose petals and eucalyptus.

It’s not only crafters who’ve taken notice. Darn Good Yarn is a 2017 Inc. 5000 honoree (it’s #599 on the list of the fastest growing private companies in the U.S.) and its items are part of Inc.’s 2017 "26 Coolest Products" slideshow. Snow, too, was singled out by the magazine as one of five Rising Stars among the Inc. 5000's first-time members.

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