In this series of interviews, we explore stories from immigrant/BIPOC*/women business owners who have adapted during the pandemic. The purpose is to learn and connect through shared experience. In this interview, Maria Arcorace, Adult Services Librarian at Tukwila Library, spoke with Arlinda, the owner of a yarn business in Burien.
*BIPOC means "Black, Indigenous, and People of Color."
Meet Arlinda, Yarn Business Owner
Arlinda Garcia is a South King County resident of Mexican American descent. When the MBA grad saw an opportunity to run a business promoting an activity she enjoys, she jumped at it. “I started crocheting a couple of years ago as a form of stress therapy, decided I wanted to learn to knit, wandered into a for-sale yarn shop, and as they say, the rest is history,” she says. The yarn store she purchased is in a central location, in Olde Burien, with plenty of foot traffic, vibrant shops, and a strong community base with plenty of creative types. Arlinda has immediately become involved in supporting local events. For example, she recently provided a pickup location for lantern-making kits in support of a Burien annual tradition, Arts-A-Glow.
Then COVID-19 Hit.
Arlinda held a grand re-opening of the store on February 1, 2020, so that she could meet community members and begin building local relationships. Just 6 weeks later she, along with so many other businesses, had to shut their doors. “COVID was definitely not part of my business plan!” she says. Her initial plan for her new business was to focus on advertising to reach a wider audience, increase the number of classes the shop offered, and to get her online store up and running. She had to put a pin in those first two ideas and scramble to get the online shop operational.
A Turning Point.
Networking and finding support from experienced yarn shop owners has been pivotal in navigating a new business through these turbulent times. She was able to meet these supportive colleagues through an introduction facilitated by staff at the Burien Office of Economic Development. “It’s been super helpful to check in, see how things are going, and ask questions/get advice about some of the annual yarn events like Local Yarn Shop Day and various yarn crawls.”
Arlinda has also used the library as a resource to learn new skills and to find creative inspiration to apply in her new business venture. She mentioned the variety of instruction and pattern books for knitting, crochet, and weaving available at KCLS and says she’s checked out crochet amigurumi eBooks.
The Road Ahead.
Arlinda has embraced virtual mediums, especially social media, in promoting her business and keeping in touch with her customers and the community. She says she has “tried to leverage those platforms to share news, events, and what’s happening at the shop. Currently, I’m focused on optimizing the online shop and am working on a vlog— is that still what they’re called?”
Arlinda feels grateful that she found herself in such a strong community. She says "even though COVID was not something I was prepared for in any way, shape, or form, I’ve been really fortunate to have a good community to lean on during this time. Small businesses are hard to run in the best of the times, and my customers and community have made this trying time manageable."
Ultimately, Arlinda wants to share the love she found in her chosen medium of fiber arts. "Knitting and crocheting are wonderful stress relievers and the repetitive nature of both are great for mental and emotional health," she states. "If you’ve ever wanted to learn, now is truly the perfect time! The satisfaction and sense of accomplishment you get from completing even the smallest project is truly rewarding. And yarn is just fun to have around."
Arlinda’s Business Tip: Learn what funding opportunities are available. There are privately and publicly funded assistance programs out there right now. The two Arlinda mentioned were The Red Backpack Fund and King County COVID-19 Community Response Fund., opens a new window
Support your local small business community! For more financial and small business resources, visit Invest in Yourself.
The Welcoming Center for immigrants, refugees and new arrivals connects you to the people and resources in the area you live.