Q&A with Jessie McShane, creator of Wool and Whiskey

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Melissa Seymour: Hi, Jessie! Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.

Jessie McShane: Hi! My name is Jessie McShane and I am originally from Spooner, Wisconsin. I relocated to Saint Paul for college and have been been living in Minnesota ever since! I work full time at the Women’s Center at the University of Saint Thomas and am currently in the Master’s program at UST getting my MA in International Leadership. In 2013 I started a business by the name of Wool and Whiskey, which combines my love and passion for design, marketing, and fashion all into one brand.

MS: What is Wool and Whiskey? How would you describe the style?

JM: Wool and Whiskey is more than the name of my Etsy shop where you can find my handmade knitted scarves, mitts, and headbands. It is a brand that tells the story about what it means to be warm – specifically what it means to be warm in the Midwest. All of the items in the shop are knitted or crocheted accessories to keep you warm in the cold temperatures Minnesota brings. The style can be described as authentic, cozy and chic.

MS: Why did you decide to create Wool and Whiskey? How did you come up with the idea?

JM: I decided to create Wool and Whiskey because both items seem to keep one warm on those cold winter nights. OK… that might not be why I decided to create it, but that is true! I originally learned to knit while I was teaching abroad in South Korea. When I got home I decided to keep up the hobby and knit myself a few cozy scarves for the fall season. When people started stopping me to ask where I got items I was wearing, I thought I would try an Etsy shop – the rest was history! Before I even put one single item up in my shop, I knew I had to come up with a name. Once that was established I thought about what I wanted the concept of “Wool and Whiskey” to look like from a branding perspective. By the time I put my first item up for sale, I already had photos and a posts on my blog that portrayed what the items looked like from a “Wool and Whiskey” lifestyle standpoint. By showing buyers what the items would look like in real life and giving them a portrayal of the lifestyle of the brand, they were then able to have an idea of what that item could look like in their life, and relate to that lifestyle with the piece of clothing being a part of it.

MS: What’s your favorite thing about running your own business? What’s the hardest part?

JM: My absolute favorite thing about running my own business is getting to design and create new items and then see those items being worn or posted on social media. I love getting feedback on my items and hearing about how much customers love their products. Another aspect of owning my own business I love so much is being able to make my own rules, and meet other amazing creative minds along the way. I can’t tell you how many talented, artistic individuals I’ve met through Wool and Whiskey and I cherish the new relationships I now have with them. Not to mention I love collaborating and bringing two brands together!

The hardest part is definitely balance…and time. This last year I think I slept 2 hours in 4 months. Not really, but it’s probably not far from the truth. Trying to balance my time while getting orders produced, packaged, and mailed out in a timely manner on top of a full time job and graduate school was definitely challenging. After Wool and Whiskey really took off last October it was a full speed race with no light at the end of the tunnel. It taught me some valuable lessons about time management and really helped me assess where I want Wool and Whiskey to go. I’ve cut back on my classes and work hours at my full time job and plan to spend 2015 focusing on Wool and Whiskey, putting more time into building the brand to help it succeed into the future. One day at a time! It’s extremely exciting and absolutely terrifying at the same time but I am really looking forward to what the future has in store.

MS: How has Wool and Whiskey been received? Are you selling a lot this holiday season?

JM: Wool and Whiskey has been received very well!! One of the great features of Etsy is the option to leave a review for the public to see once you receive your items you purchased. I have had nothing but positive responses on the warmth, color, quality, and overall authenticity of the items which makes the long nights and hard work all worth it!

Last holiday season I sold a little over 400 items in about three months. I’ve had requests for custom orders and wholesale accounts so my items are able to be put into boutiques and stores around the area, so this year I am focusing on hashing out the details to make that a reality!

MS: Why is it important to shop local?

JM: There are so many reasons to shop local! From community well-being to local decision making and keeping dollars in the local economy, there are many benefits to shopping local. One of my favorite things about shopping local is the distinctive character and authenticity of the items you are buying. Supporting a creative designer or artist that provides one of a kind quality goods that you know will last a long time is something you really cannot put a dollar amount on. When I shop local I love knowing I am helping someone pursue their passion to build their business so they can stick around for the long haul. It’s a beautiful thing.

MS: Who is your hero/heroine?

JM: I don’t want to sound cliche, but my mom deserves credit as someone I consider to be my heroine. She has continued to be a strong female role model in my life and without her Wool and Whiskey would not be as successful as it is today. She started her own photography business in 1992 before the digital age of photography. I was 2 at the time and as I grew I watched her business grow. So much so until she built her expertise and her brand into an extremely successful business. I watched her succeed, learned what worked and what didn’t (and what it meant to fail at times), helped her in the studio, learned from her business techniques – all of which has helped me tremendously as I continue to grow my very own business.

MS: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

JM: For anyone thinking about whether or not they should start their own business, my advice would be to go for it. Two years ago I never thought my business would be running at the capacity it has been, and I wouldn’t have learned the lessons I have or developed the connections I have if I didn’t go for it and decide to put my stuff out there. There are always excuses not to, there is never enough time, and there are always negative things you can tell yourself that impede you from taking that first initial step – but the experiences you are missing out on and the possibilities your ideas could lead to if you just try, will far outweigh any negatives.

www.etsy.com/shop/woolandwhiskey

www.thewoolandwhiskey.com

Instagram: Woolandwhiskey_

Facebook: www.facebook.com/woolandwhiskey

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/woolandwhiskey1/