With Henlia Handmade
Meet Mindy, The Founder of Henlia Handmade
Laura: First things first, tell me about your business? What do you create and who do you create it for?
Mindy: I naturally dye yarn for fiber artists so they can create mindfully. Primarily, I design for knitters, but my yarn works equally well for crocheters. In both cases, this yarn is designed for those looking to minimize their ecological creative footprint. Using yarn straight from US ranches, I dye with what nature has to offer. Whether from plants I grow in my own Central Oregon garden or extracts ethically sourced from reliable US small businesses, I only use natural means to dye my wool.
It’s worth pointing out that I do not sell “superwash” wool. The reason for this is primarily because the treatment used to make a wool machine washable is a form of plastic which is not environmentally-friendly. The other reason is that by subjecting wool to the superwash process, some of the beautiful characteristics that make wool, well, woolly are removed.
My goal is to create beautiful yarn that is healthier for the environment while supporting other small businesses. I love that when you knit or crochet with my yarn, you feel closer to the sheep and to the land. I like to say my yarn is farm-fresh and that by using it, it’s almost like you have a sheep of your own!
Laura: How did you first get started in your industry?
Mindy: Central Oregon seems to cast a spell on its residents and visitors. Maybe it’s the mountains or the rivers or the sunshine or just all the pure air…it’s difficult to leave once you get here. My husband and I dreamed of living in Central Oregon, as we’d both grown up vacationing in the area as kids. So in 2012, when my husband was offered a job in Bend, we jumped on the opportunity to move from Portland, Oregon to Bend, Oregon.
Living here, I almost immediately began dreaming up ways to use my gardening space, but never could quite put my finger on what or how it could make a difference in my little world.
Fast forward to the birth of my first baby in 2015 when I had so much time to think while sitting around breastfeeding that I began to assemble some of the pieces of the puzzle. I discovered knitting vlogs and thereby the incredible community of indie-dyed yarn. And I remembered something from long-ago in my past…
When I was in fifth grade, I did a science fair project dyeing yarn with food scraps. It was my mom’s idea so I claim no credit for the idea at all. I don’t remember all the particulars now, but I do remember I enjoyed it…which was not a given when it came to my annually required science fair project! I suppose that’s when the seed was originally planted. However, it’d be years before I tried my hand at dyeing yarn again.
We settled into a property with some acreage in 2017 while I was pregnant with my second. After his birth, my first dyeing experiment as an adult happened with my napping baby wrapped to my chest. (Don’t worry; I didn’t put my wee one at risk. I used the microwave steaming method so there wasn’t any splashing hot water involved.) It took a while to progress into opening my business, but that first dye session was when it really started.
Laura: What is one thing you want people to know about you, that they may not already know?
Mindy: I’m introverted, but REALLY dislike being called shy. To me, that word has negative connotations…lack of confidence or intimidation. Yes, I’m quiet when I’m in a large group setting, but it doesn’t have much to do with my confidence level…although, I’ll admit that some people do intimidate me when I first meet them. However, I enjoy observing. I mean, I try not to take it to a creepy level, but I really like watching people and how they interact. I like to try to “figure out” personalities and why each person behaves the way they behave and says the words they choose to say. People are very interesting creatures! Since we all bring to the table our unique experiences and perceptions, I find human beings endlessly fascinating. So, please don’t call me shy. Call me interested!
Laura: What do you struggle with most when it comes to running your own business?
Mindy: Work-life balance is my biggest struggle. I’ve read that this balance is impossible to obtain, but I think perhaps my definition is a little different. I think of it more as an ever-changing scale dipping one way and then back the other. My goal isn’t to have them perfectly aligned. It’s to have them swing back and forth as needed, but at the end of the day, week or month both sides have what they needed to not spill or tip over.
It took me many years to find my passion. Now that I’ve found it, I find it difficult to keep my business to a very part-time job. My oldest child is only four years old. My youngest is two. I love my family dearly so it’s a challenge figuring out how much time I need to continue to move my business forward but also give my family as much of me as I’d like. Some of my favorite activities I enjoy doing with my family take place outside where it’s difficult or impossible to keep my eye on my dye pots.
Becoming a mother did not come easy to me. I love my children to pieces and could not imagine my life without them now, but I am not a natural mom. Being an introvert, I need a lot of time to myself to recharge. Babies and young children really don’t care about that. Haha! This is one of the ways my business is helping me become a better person. It allows me some required alone time directed in a life-giving way. In that way, it also helps me to be a better mom and wife.
Laura: What is one thing that comes really easy for you?
Mindy: Working hard was modeled for me starting from a very early age. My dad owned his own business and worked very hard at it. Because hard work was valued by my family, I learned the skill well…being the people-pleaser I am. Whatever task is before me, I settle in and devote myself to it. In terms of my business, it probably helps that I really love to learn new things.
Laura: What aspect of your business is the most rewarding?
Mindy: While I really enjoy the creative process of my work, the thing that most feeds my soul is the validation I receive from others. Whether it’s a social media like, share or follow, a personal email, or a pleased review given after a yarn purchase, I get a thrill every time. I suppose I’m still a child seeking approval from those around me. Why does it feel so good to have people like and appreciate what we do?
Laura: How do you manage the stress and overwhelm of running your own business?
Mindy: When I feel myself going into overwhelm mode, two things are likely missing from my life. First, I probably haven’t been spending enough time outside. Even something as simple as stepping onto my porch and breathing deeply helps. If I can do that while being present with the beauty surrounding me, my stress level drops and I can return to my current task with renewed energy in a calm state of mind.
Second, when I find myself stressed, I know I haven’t been taking enough time to sit and knit. Fortunately, that’s pretty simple to resolve as well. Even when my kids need a lot of my attention, I can usually carve out a bit of time (usually, I’d like to emphasize). In fact, I’ve been trying to make afternoon tea and knitting a part of our daily routine. My children aren’t totally onboard with it yet, but they’re starting to figure out that it’s mommy’s time to relax.
Laura: Who influences or inspires you the most in regards to your industry?
Mindy: While there are quite a few knitters and natural dyers I admire, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge one person in particular. Of the knitting vloggers I found early on during those long breastfeeding sessions with my daughter, Isabelle of Fluffy Fibers had and continues to have the strongest influence on me.
She is a knitter, crocheter, sewist, vlogger, blogger, knitwear designer, wife, mother of two, and she holds a full time job outside of her home. Her commitment to minimizing the environmental footprint of her knitting, crocheting, sewing and household encourages me to do my part too.
Laura: You have “a worthy brand,” I can see that, but why do you feel your brand is worthy? How do you remind yourself of your worth to continue building your business each day, how do you remind yourself, you are worth it!
Mindy: These are interesting questions that could require another pot of tea! I’ll try to summarize my answer a bit for the sake of your readers =)
What it all comes down to for me is relationships. At the end of the day, at the end of my life, I’d like to be able to reflect back with positive feelings on my relationships with the people in my life and to my relationship with nature. If I can make a positive impact in those two ways, I feel like I can be considered worthy.
Every day is a new opportunity to either positively or negatively have an impact on people and on nature. Now, I can drive myself completely mad trying to do everything “right”. So I try to take each moment, each daily decision as it comes. I make a lot of poor decisions. But I try to make sure the trend is going in the right direction.
Doing good things, being a nice person feels good. It’s the inner desire to feel good about what I’m doing to help this world be a better place that keeps me going. One of my business goals is to support as many other small businesses as I can. That makes me feel good. Another one of my goals is to minimize the environmental impact of my business. Minimizing and buying eco-friendly packaging and marketing materials is better for the earth. That also makes me feel good. When someone shares with me their bad day, week or year, I encourage them to not give up and that their life is valuable. That makes me feel good too. Designing pretty yarn that helps make the world a more beautiful place while also helping knitters feel good (knitting is definitely self-care)…that makes me feel REALLY good. So, you can see, by doing good things and making others feel good, I feel good too. That’s how and why I keep going.
Laura: And last… if you could give new or struggling entrepreneurs one piece of advice, what would it be?
Mindy: Redefine your definition of success. In your mind, success may mean a certain number of dollars earned or sales reached, maybe a milestone number of followers on social media or people subscribed to your email list. Sure those are good goals to have, but as I continue to learn through my own business, success can be measured in many different ways.
For me, being successful means continuing to move forward, to try new things and most importantly, to love on the people who’ve come across my path in this life. You will probably never understand the impact you can make with just a few simple loving words to the people around you.
Photography by kelliannejordan.com
What a beautiful soul! I know if we lived in the same town we would be bff’s.
Mindy is such a great example to many including myself, on how to run a sustainable brand.
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