We had the good fortune of connecting with Suzanne Akin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Suzanne, do you have a favorite quote or affirmation?
“The Best Way to Predict the Future is to Create It” – Abraham Lincoln I’ve never been one to take things at face value or to accept the path in front of me if I know it’s not the right path for me to take. I remind myself of this quote often. If I can’t find a solution to a product I want to offer or the right selling opportunity, then I try to create it. It’s how I got started making and selling my own beanies. I couldn’t find a manufacturer that offered the capabilities and minimums I needed for my business, so I made my own. Now it’s the best part of my brand in my opinion.
Please tell us more about your business. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today business-wise. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
We’re a small clothing line based out of Fort Collins, Colorado. We design and hand print all of our shirts in house, but the main thing that sets us apart is our handmade knits. We still make the majority of our beanies, scarves and other knit accessories in house on vintage hand-operated knitting machines. The path to where we are now was a slow one and definitely not easy. I never took out an initial loan to fund the start of my business, so it was a grassroots growth start. I designed and printed one shirt, sold those and then made 2 more. I didn’t take any money from my business for a very long time, but now I own it outright. I’ve learned so many lessons between the marketing, retail, manufacturing, wholesale, event space that it would be impossible to list. I would say that perhaps the most important lesson learned is how to be mindful of what you want your brand to represent, where and how you want to spend your money and resources and that if you find good people that want to walk alongside you in your business journey, how important it is to try to keep them by your side. I’ve been dedicated to the idea of us making our products in house and at an affordable price for a long time and I plan to stick to that value in my brand. I may have to raise prices and we might outsource for some help here or there, but I always plan to look for sustainable and handmade options and keep a personal touch with our gear.
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?
If you’re taking a trip to Fort Collins, I always recommend spending one day doing a bike brewery tour. Our city is still pretty small so it’s still possible to ride to any brewery in city limits. My favorites are Envy Brewing, Odell, New Belgium, and Jessup Farm. Other can’t miss spots are hiking or biking around at Horsetooth Mountain Park. You can hike to the top of Horsetooth and see the entire town. If it’s summertime, go for a paddleboard on Horsetooth Reservoir. And spend a day in Poudre Canyon either rockclimbing, rafting, hiking or biking. One day should be spent walking around Old Town to see all the independently owned shops (like mine! 😉 ) and restaurants. Start the day with donuts and coffee at Foco Doco at the Exchange container park or breakfast at Silver Grill. When you’re shopped out, you can walk down to the Poudre River Whitewater Park to splash around or watch kayakers and then head back into Old Town for drinks at the Social and dinner at Jax Fishhouse. (my two favorites).
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
It may sound a little cheesy but my parents and grandparents are a huge inspiration for me. My father is a small business owner and my grandmother on my mother’s side owned several of her own businesses outright in a time where not many women were business owners. My mother was an art teacher while I was growing up and my grandmother on my father’s side was a professional artist. All together, they showed me that not only was I strong enough to own my own business, but it was possible to make a living doing what you love.