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Nicole Snow…Helping Artists Build Businesses

By Leigh Hornbeck Times Union, Albany, N.Y.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Entrepreneur Nicole Snow's "Darn Good Yarn" will do $9 million in sales this year. She founded the company 10 years ago with the mission to help impoverished artists have better lives. 

Albany

The founder of Darn Good Yarn wants other artist-entrepreneurs to learn from her mistakes and experience.

Nicole Snow founded Darn Good Yarn 10 years ago to sell reclaimed textiles from Southeast Asia. Her mission was to help impoverished artists have better lives. The company has since grown to include other projects beyond yarn -- craft supplies, clothing, home and office decor, jewelry, purses and accessories -- and also in sales volume. Snow says Darn Good Yarn will do $9 million in sales this year.

Snow teamed up with Steve Gonick, the Capital Region-based serial entrepreneur behind such ventures as Passport for Good, a web and mobile platform that chronicles community service and career development for students; and IPayment Tri-State LLC, which helps businesses save money on credit/debit card processing and run more efficiently. Prior to starting his own businesses, Gonick was principal and chief marketing officer at Adirondack Research and Management. Gonick's wife, Denise Gonick, recently stepped down as CEO of MVP Health Care.

Snow and Gonick's new, jointly owned venture, Steve & Nicole, acts as a go-between to help artist-run companies. They're looking for companies with what Snow calls "Instagrammability." An attention-grabbing product and story with a passionate person behind it is what she's after. Reselling Chinese imports is not.

Enter TL Duryea. The Connecticut-based painter already has a strong social media presence and has been making sales online for seven years. She already has, Snow says, engaged, repeat customers. In addition to landscapes, Duryea paints portraits of women who inspire her -- Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anita Hill and Megan Rapinoe, to name a few. In addition to traditional paintings, she sells clothing, tote bags and other accessories bearing the images. Duryea met Gonick through friends and Gonick introduced her to Snow.

Steve & Nicole invited Duryea to come onto all the systems Gonick and Snow already have in place to run their businesses, including a network of merchants and vendors already vetted as credible who care about their employees.

Darn Good Yarn connected Duryea with sources and staffing to fulfill orders at her Clifton Park warehouse. Because of Darn Good Yarn's existing shipping volume, Duryea's shipping prices were cut by 80 percent. The money Duryea saves, Gonick says, she can put back into her business.

"Our emphasis is to keep the artist as the artistic director, the most important seat they can to be in," Snow says.

Third-party sellers like Etsy and Redbubble often give artists the ability to connect with customers online and accept credit card payments, which is helpful when they're first starting out. However, when a customer buys a product, the artist does not have access to customer information, not even their name.

In return for seed money to further build her business, Steve & Nicole signed a long-term agreement to handle her e-commerce business, but this is no Shark Tank. Duryea still owns 100 percent of her business, just as Snow owns 100 percent of Darn Good Yarn.

Snow and Gonick said their partnership began as a friendship, and their varied strengths combine well.

"We are mentoring each other. We are both open to learning from each other. Steve went from corporate to entrepreneurial. I am an accidental entrepreneur. I was never sure my business would succeed," Snow says.

Now that it has, she wants to see others follow in her footsteps. ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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