When Karida Collins first launched Neighborhood Fiber Co., a Baltimore-based hand-dyed yarn company, she didn’t expect the success she’s having now.
Collins said she had no idea the company, based in the Bromo Arts District, was going to succeed because she didn’t plan well and made a lot of mistakes, including taking too many orders she couldn’t fill. But 15 years later, she’s able to provide health insurance and paid sick leave to her full-time workers as well as pay herself.
And, recently, she said, she’s been excited about a recent purchase made via one of her clients.
In March, during a visit at Fibre Space in Alexandria, Vice President Kamala Harris purchased a hand-dyed yarn that’s the color of the Observatory Circle — the residence of the vice president ― made by Neighborhood Fiber to celebrate Harris, Collins said.
Fibre Space is a client of Neighborhood Fiber. Collins said she has known the owner of Fibre Space, Danielle Romanetti, for 15 years. She said her yarns are named after neighborhoods to educate people about places they may not know about, adding that her company had a special yarn for 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. when the President Barack Obama was in office.
Collins said she learned Harris got the yarn for her stepdaughter, but she’d like to send more yarn to Harris, who crocheted as a hobby throughout her life, so that she can use it herself.
“As a Black woman, seeing a Black woman in such a high office — it’s not that she’s just a woman or just that she’s Black. She’s also Asian, and the children of immigrants,” Collins said. “She’s more representative of the kind of America that I want to raise my son in, a place where our differences are celebrated and valued.”
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Harris’ office did not respond to a request for comment.
Collins, who grew in Memphis, Tennessee, and Columbia, is the granddaughter of Ines and Richmond Webb, owners of Webb’s Grocery on North Avenue, which shut down 41 years ago. She moved to Baltimore to take care of Ines Webb because she was ill.
“The reason I decided to stay is because Baltimore makes it easier to be an artist and make a living than other places. There’s more affordable housing,” she said. “There’s more stuff designed for artists. I was able to afford to live here and grow my business at the same time.”
Neighborhood Fiber, which employs eight people, generated $900,000 in sales last year, she said. Twenty-six stores carry its yarns — and it has thousands of individual customers.
Collins said she learned to value her time and encourages other Black women to do the same — meaning when people are planning their business, they need to value labor. If they’re starting a business, and it’s profitable only if they don’t pay themselves, then it’s not profitable, she said.
“You have to pay yourself. I encourage Black women to take the chance to ask for big money. The worst thing that could happen is someone says no,” she said. “I didn’t have access to capital that someone who doesn’t look like me may have had, but it took me a long time to realize the power of just asking.”