August 29, 2017 (Port Angeles, Washington) — When wool producer Ann Rosecrants heard about the chance to vie for $10,000 in startup financing through the Washington Coast Works Small Business Competition, she told her non-profit board, “Here’s our website. I’ll take this.”
Rosecrants, who raises Cotswold sheep and llama in Clallam County, submitted her winning application to become one of fifteen finalists in the 2017 Coast Works Competition.
The website that Rosecrants references is at the center of Twisted Strait Fibers’ hub-and-spoke sales platform for any Olympic Peninsula farmer who produces alpaca, sheep, mohair and yak fiber; for the fiber artist who wants to create yarns, art, and products for the home, such as duvets; and, for the consumer who is searching for homegrown fiber products.
Twisted Strait Fibers currently has forty paying members, but there are 516 fiber farms in Clallam, Grays Harbor, Island, Jefferson and Kitsap Counties alone according to the USDA 2012 Census of Agriculture. That is a lot of fiber that is not being processed locally, if at all. Current members recognize that as a cooperative, they can leverage each other’s efforts to create a profitable industry and keep those dollars on the Peninsula. Membership fees and sales profits will generate the revenue to purchase milling equipment. The processing, or milling, of the fibers is where producers lose most of their profit.
“The real costs are in the washing and processing of the fiber,” says Rosecrants, who holds a business degree and is a twenty-year veteran from the United States Air Force. “If we can make this work, we can save farmlands and produce textiles that are biodegradable and sequester carbon,” adds Rosecrants.
“Ann‘s project to create a fibershed on the Olympic Peninsula is an example of the triple bottom line projects that define Coast Works,” says Mike Skinner, Director of the Center for Inclusive Entrepreneurship and the Washington Coast Works Administrator. “It is exciting for all of us at CIE to provide ongoing training and technical assistance to past and present participants so they can move their business ideas forward. This is in part due to the generous support of the USDA’s Rural Business Development Grant program, the title sponsorship of KeyBank, and the ongoing support of The Nature Conservancy.”
Rosecrants is in the final phase of preparing her written case statement. On November 9, she will present a five-minute “fast pitch” to a panel of independent judges.
Learn more at twistedstraitfibers.com or through the business Facebook page.
To learn about Coast Works visit wacoastworks.org, or contact Mike Skinner at (206) 235-6029.