International sales from a business based in Johnson County, Wyoming?
Just ask Karen Hostetler, president of Buffalo’s Mountain Meadow Wool. Her strategy: great product combined with help from local economic development officials plus visibility boosted by social media.
Hostetler and a business partner started Mountain Meadow Wool in 2002 with the goal of preserving Wyoming’s heritage of sheep ranching by paying area ranchers optimal prices for their wool. Mountain Meadow Wool buys wool from Wyoming ranchers then processes it using environmentally sensitive practices. The company produces finished wool for knitting and also sells items ranging from sweaters and blankets to hats and knitting patterns.
“We started and it was just a kitchen table thing,” Hostetler says.
But with help from Johnson County, including the entity that is now known as JOCO First, as well as state economic development leaders, over the years they’ve used economic development resources and a Small Business Innovation Research grant to grow their business. Since 2002, they have taken their idea from the kitchen table to a full production facility and retail space as well as selling in stores across the country and internationally through their website.
The company has grown from the initial staff of Hostetler, her business partner and one employee to the current eight full-time and up to five part-time workers. Mountain Meadow Wool “processes 15,000 lbs of wool a year” and “has sold over 70,000 skeins,” according to the company’s website. They sell their wool in more than 40 U.S. states as well as in Canada, Australia and Europe.
“If you market it right, you can sell anywhere,” Hostetler says.
Hostetler says that even from the company’s beginnings, they knew their sales demographic would expand beyond Buffalo and Johnson County.
By combining wholesale business with direct-to-consumer sales via their website, Mountain Meadow Wool is able to operate in Johnson County, even if some people are surprised by a flourishing business located in a fairly rural area. The company uses social media to target wool lovers well outside of Wyoming.
Hostetler has lived in Buffalo since 1986 and decided to open the business there for a simple reason.
“Why? Because we live here,” she laughs.
She’s raised seven children here and enjoys the calm, positive atmosphere and community, she says. And while the pace of life is quite relaxed, there’s plenty to do, whether it’s getting up into the mountains or heading downtown to the Occidental Hotel for the frequent bluegrass jams, she says.
Plus, Johnson County is ideally located for commerce.
“The nice thing about Johnson County is we have two major interstates,” Hostetler says, referring to Interstates 90 and 25.
That means it’s easy for wool to reach Buffalo and easy to send out the finished product.
Hostetler says she also appreciates the business climate in Johnson County.
“Johnson County has pretty vibrant, proactive city and county economic development,” she says. “And they are very much supportive of the businesses that come in…If you have difficulty, they are more than willing to see how you can succeed.”
Find Mountain Meadow Wool online!