1 Year Into Pandemic, Cloth Masks Provided Unexpected Boon To Utah Company
Mar 12, 2021, 9:14 AM | Updated: 9:16 am
LINDON, Utah — Almost all businesses have struggled to navigate through the pandemic and many have had to respond to the adverse economics creatively.
A year ago, Love Woolies wasn’t sure how it was going to move forward.
Owner Marcella Hill said the already small, family-founded operation primarily drew sales through appearances at farmers’ markets and similar local events.
“It was very uncertain,” Hill said of conditions at the time. “I thought there’s no way we were going to be able to continue without the markets.”
The company used a network of stay-at-home moms to repurpose wool sweaters into products like mittens, socks, beanies and scrunchies.
With a dire need for cloth masks across the country last spring, Hill began fulfilling requests through the Sewing For Lives organization to provide supplies to healthcare facilities and medical professionals.
“We started making masks, which I was kind of against, because it didn’t fit into our brand, they’re not wool and they’re not repurposed,” Hill said. “I asked the girls if they would be willing to give up two weeks of their pay to donate masks and they jumped in and we did 1,500 masks in 2 weeks all because of their talent and willingness to be kind.”
Hill said Love Woolies then began proactively contacting schools about their mask needs and also created a buy-one, donate-one mask offer through its website.
The pivot soon began to pay dividends.
The business that had marketed itself to local venues that featured handmade craft products quickly became a name in eastern U.S. cities where the masks had been donated.
“We went from $10,000 one month in February to $134,000 the next month doing masks,” Hill said. “We’ve donated over 80,000 masks and that has helped get our brand name out there all across the nation.”
It showed in the bottom line.
Hill said Love Woolies did $35,000 in online business in 2019. In 2020, it did close to $750,000. Most of the company’s customers are now out-of-state.
“When masks dropped off, we had increased our business so much that we needed to expand just for our wool products,” Hill said.
She moved the business from the front porch and basement of her home to a 2,000 square-foot warehouse in Pleasant Grove.
In January, the viral craze surrounding the sweater mittens made by a Vermont teacher and worn by Bernie Sanders on Inauguration Day proved to be another financial boon.
Hill said the company sold more sweater mittens in 10 days than it had the entire year prior.
Recently, the company moved again to a 7,000 square-foot space in Lindon to accommodate even more growth.
“Miracles happen,” Hill smiled. “We were able to step in and be really helpful and that paid off.”
In the pandemic, paying it forward seemed to be a good pivot, so Hill now has plans to help other fledgling startups around her.
“We’re going to be opening a store to feature Utah handmade companies, and it’s our way of being able to give back to the community that helped build us,” Hill said. “I’m really excited to be able to feature the people we have grown to love and respect and that they’ve taught us how to do that.”
The store, called Syfte, currently has plans to open its doors May 1st, according to Hill.
Hill said she is hoping customers will reach out to her business about other products they love and she will work to include them in her store.
The owner said her business has always sought to “find joy in the flaws” and that attitude has helped sustain the company through an incredibly trying year for everyone.
“In the middle of a pandemic and the middle of a bad day and the middle of hardship—you do not have to wait for the pandemic to end to have joy,” Hill said. “There is joy to be created.”