Small Business Offers Crafty Solutions to the Cold

by | Jan 2023

Emily Sheehan uses ethically-sourced natural fibers for her knit wool beanies and accessories.

Emily Sheehan uses ethically-sourced natural fibers for her knit wool beanies and accessories. Photos: Twelve Ten Photography

Woolly Bear Knits crafts cozy knit pom pom beanies for winter adventures.

If the adage ‘busy hands are happy hands,’ is true, Emily Sheehan must be one of the most joyful people in White Bear Lake.

As the owner of Woolly Bear Knits, a thriving White Bear Lake-based Etsy shop, she knits about 400 wool beanies and accessories a year. During her busy season, September through November, she can handcraft up to five pieces
a day. That’s 5,670 stitches a day and 453,600 a year—not counting warm-weather months spent stocking up
for the winter rush.

Over lattes at Anchor Coffee House, Sheehan shared how she started and what it takes to run her successful online business, started in 2019.

Sheehan grew up in Elk River, Minnesota, went to Bethel University for undergraduate studies and the University of Minnesota for a graduate degree. She and husband John (who owns Roam Bike Shop) lived here after they were married, then Colorado and California before moving back in 2016. Corporate human resources jobs led to burnout, so she started knitting.

“My grandma was very crafty. I learned to crochet and knit from her as a kid,” Sheehan says. She turned to YouTube to refresh her skills. As the couple’s son napped and played, she would knit.

“At first, it was just for fun,” she says, but with a strong business background, knitting hats for everyday adventures soon turned into a livelihood.

The name for her business comes from Sheehan’s love for the woolly bear caterpillars that appear each autumn. She honed the brand with minimalist designs, simple textures and classic styles meant to last.

Mother and child wearing Woolly Bear Knits hats.

Sustainability is a key principle in her enterprise. Sheehan uses only the highest quality, ethically-sourced Peruvian and merino wool natural fibers. “The wool I use is very soft, not scratchy; it’s body odor-resistant, moisture-wicking and breathable. You’ll stay warm but not overheat,” she says. Another feature of natural fibers is minimal hat hair. Her hats should last a lifetime, though wool is biodegradable.

As an animal lover, she sources yarn from mulesing-free companies (mulesing is the painful removal of skin from the backside of the sheep to prevent fly infestation). She makes her pom poms from faux fur.

Sheehan has learned much in four years. She’s more efficient, batch-creating marketing, social media and administrative tasks one day a week. She has many more options to sell now, appearing at local Twin Cities area retailers, including Upsy-Daisy, Roam Bike Shop and seasonal craft fairs. Her Instagram has grown to almost 32,000 followers, many of whom come for her knitting patterns.

The family resides in downtown White Bear Lake and enjoys summer water activities including boating and biking. This time of year, they snowshoe at Tamarack Nature Center and walk as much as possible. Her hats and cowls keep them perfectly outfitted.

She loves the flexibility her business gives her lifestyle. “My parents taught me to work hard. I put a lot of effort into this. I don’t want to sell things I am not proud of,” Sheehan says.

Woolly Bear Knits hat

Woolly Bear Knits
Etsy: woollybearknit
Facebook: Woolly Bear Knits
Instagram: @woollybear_knits


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