We had the good fortune of connecting with Chereen Leong Schwarz and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Chereen, is your business focused on helping the community? If so, how?
When I first started my business, I knew I wanted to be a business that gave back to the environment. I started off giving back 5% of my profits to different environmental organizations every quarter and eventually changed to giving back to the National Park Foundation. I only used ethically and sustainably sourced materials in my products wherever possible and only use recycled and recyclable packaging. Now, I’m a 1% for the Planet business member and give back 1% of my annual revenue to the National Park Foundation. Additionally, my business is a monthly Patreon for the Intersectional Environmentalist. I realized that we couldn’t promote climate and environmental justice without racial justice and I’ve started to use my business platform to address these types of issues more and more.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Knitting for me began as a hobby. I’m a total beanie gal and live in a mountain town so we can wear them almost year round. I worked as a professional chef and knitting was a way for me to wind down after a long day at the restaurant. I taught myself on Youtube and became obsessed with the craft. Years later, I stumbled upon a podcast about turning your creative hobby into a business and my eyes were opened to the idea of a side hustle. I consider myself a process maker and really love the art of making with my hands. At first, the side hustle was a way for me to continue buying yarn and making items. As I started selling my items, I became fascinated with the business, branding, and marketing side of things. It made me question what I wanted my brand to look like and what type of business I wanted to have. My business and brand became very much a reflection of me. I love the outdoors and spend as much time outside as possible. I also strive to live a more impactful and sustainable life and wanted to incorporate that into my brand as well. Having a mission and purpose for my business helped drive a lot of my decisions. From the materials I used, to the companies I sourced from, and the topics I choose to discuss on social media. I realized that I could use my business for good and raise awareness on issues that were important to me. I also fell in love with the maker community that I built around my brand and use my platform to provide business tips and resources for other makers as well. Having a creative business is definitely challenging, but also incredibly rewarding. I now run my business full time and being a solopreneur has been the best teacher. I think starting small and thinking big has been the most helpful to my success so far. Having the mission be the driver and growing slowly has helped me learn as I go and take on each challenge one at a time. It’s allowed me to have a hand in every single part of the business and set up systems, streamline processes, and also live the life I want to live. It’s a constant work in progress and I’ve been loving the journey!

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I live in a ski town, so it would definitely depend on if you were here during the summer or winter! If they weren’t staying with me, I would made sure they booked a room at the Mariposa Bed and Breakfast. The lodge is super cute and the breakfasts are all made from scratch with local ingredients. I love to ski so if a friend were to visit in the winter, we would definitely do that most days! For a little midday lunch or apres ski, I love the Paramount and T-Bar. After a day on the mountain, I would probably cook for them with ingredients from the Community Ag Alliance which sells all local food or get take out from Marcia and Joe’s Kitchen or Sumatera. We might get drinks and snacks at Meatbar, the Barley, or Storm Peak Brewery, or get beer to go and do a night hike for some views of town! Before they left, I would make sure to take them to Ohana to see where I sell some of my hats and for other awesome locally made gifts.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Ohana is a local shop in my town where I first started selling my items. They were so encouraging and supportive and are such an amazing small business in my community. As makers and artists themselves, they focus on hand screen printed apparel and home goods, but also curate the shop with artisanal and handcrafted goods by other local makers and artists.

Website: www.smeenybeanieknits.com

Instagram: smeenybeanieknits

Image Credits
Chereen Leong Schwarz

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