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#wyostrong by Pinnacle Bank

#wyostrong: Employing WY Women with Wacky Gifts

#WyoStrong stories, brought to you by Pinnacle Bank of Wyoming, highlight Wyoming perseverance, ingenuity, creativity and resilience.

(Jackson, Wyo.) - Earlier today, local entrepreneur and Jackson Hole native Kathleen Neiley told the story of an older woman with a disease that prevented her from leaving her house. After a successful career as a seamstress, she would sit at home spending hours on elaborate, beautiful needlework.

This woman and other Wyoming women like her, talented and passionate about sewing, is who Neiley hopes to employ in her latest endeavor — WyoWhy.

Why am I starting a business? Why will this matter to the world? Why Wyoming? These are some questions that Neiley asked when she was in the local Start-Up Intensive program last year.

Neiley’s first company was Full Circle Quilts, a product and support organization that literally allows you to give the shirt off your back to support and give warmth to a loved one going through cancer treatment. Using this idea, she has created the technology platform to allow easy and effective group participation in this gift creation (Read more about that company here).

While developing Full Circle Quilts, she found the need for additional revenue and wanted to up-cycle the quilt scraps. She began making humorous ‘hot’ pot holders featuring muscular men and ‘pot’ holders out of marijuana printed fabric.

Photo: 'Hot' Pot Holders by WyoWhy. Photo by David Swift.

“I started making ‘pot’ holders out of marijuana print fabric and put them on the Teton Valley website a year ago during Christmas. I sold 50 in 6 hours,” she said. “People thought it was hilarious.”

WyoWhy's motto is unserious products, serious mission. For both companies, her mission is to employ Wyoming woman who possess sewing skills. She is looking for women who may be out of work due to unemployment, a disease, an injury or needing to take care of an elderly parent.

“We have this wave of elder care that is coming because the majority of elder care and memory care is being done in the home,” said Neiley. “This is what it is all about. It is creating meaningful work for women in Wyoming who have this [sewing] skill.”

After some market testing and securing a steady stream of fabric that can be up-cycled (for example she is now using rejected Carhartt fabric), Neiley is ready to recruit her workforce. She is searching for women in rural areas who may want to sew part or full time to pay bills or just practice their sewing skill. Depending the ability and quickness of the seamstress, they get paid $10 - $20 an hour.

“You are doing something that is creative, you are doing something that is providing income, you are doing something that has a purpose,” said Neiley.

WyoWhy is all about the greater good. She will be donating a portion of the proceeds from her 'hot' firefighter pot holders to benefit Jackson Hole Fire/EMS Captain Mike Tepe, who is facing brain cancer. 

So WyoWhy?

“I love Wyoming and I love the whole state. I didn’t choose the Tetons as my logo, I chose the windmill because it is more representative of the state,” said Neiley. 

“Unserious goods, but the serious mission is for every product I have to not only have a low impact on the environment, but have a high human impact,” Neiley added.

Those interested in sewing for WyoWhy can contact kathleen@wyowhy.com.

Feature Photo: Kathleen Neiley, founder of WyoWhy. Photo by David Swift.