A Barnsley based entrepreneur with a yearning for the yarn is on a mission to get men knitting after securing support from Launchpad; a unique Sheffield City Region wide programme which provides help and support to individuals looking to turn their business ideas into a commercial reality.
Lewis Ryan, 36 from Wombwell, has been creating a community of knitters across Barnsley for over a year after he decided to launch ManKnit; an online portal providing keen and novice knitters with all they need to navigate the needles.
Lewis’s wool affair began ten years ago, when he asked his mother to knit him an Afghan style rug. After complaints from his mum that it would take her months, if not a year, to knit the rug, Lewis decided to learn how to knit himself and began exploring the world of knitting patterns and needle specifications.
After spending six years working as a Marketing Director for a lighting company before stepping up to work towards becoming the Managing Director of the business, Lewis’ career took an unexpected turn when the business was sold. Lewis decided to return to his creative roots, working from home and providing freelance graphic design and web development services whilst dedicating his spare time to learn the art of knitting. It was during his learning of master wool craft that Lewis noticed there was a lack of male knitters and so he decided to embark upon a mission to transform the way in which we think about knitting.
Keen to dispel the stereotype, Lewis wanted to encourage more men to take up knitting, and decided to weave his woolly interests into a new business. After gaining some experience of running a company in his previous role, Lewis decided to seek out support and advice from Launchpad in a bid to develop his ideas into a commercial reality. The programme gave Lewis the opportunity to work alongside an experienced business advisor, helping him to develop a functioning business plan as well as spending time getting to grips with the finances of becoming a sole trader.
It has been just over a year since Lewis launched ManKnit. Today, Lewis regularly hosts workshops for knitters of all levels in his hometown and he has taken his business idea one step further, pioneering an online store where he sells bespoke knitting patterns, knitting kits and even a specially developed ManKnit yarn which is tailored to his own specifications, spun in Yorkshire and dyed by hand.
Lewis Ryan, ManKnit, said:
“I’ve always been a creative person and outside of work I have many creative hobbies such as music, art and now knitting! When I first started learning and attending classes it raised a few eyebrows and I think many men are put off from taking up the hobby and I wanted to challenge many of the perceptions associated with knitting and encourage more people to give it try. This helped to sow the seeds of ManKnit.
“The help and support I received from my business advisor at Launchpad, has proved to be invaluable in the evolution of ManKnit. The programme provided the support and advice I needed and also helped me to explore new avenues within the business. Knitting is a hobby which can be very therapeutic and can provide a creative outlet. My goal is to get people of all ages and from all walks of life interested in the craft.
“There is such a variety of people who attend my Knit and Natter workshops in Barnsley, from older women who want to learn more skills, to male builders and engineers who use it as a way of relaxing after a hard day’s work!”
Ben Hawley, Business Advisor, Launchpad, said:
“Some of the best business ideas are born from the love of a hobby or craft, which rings true in Lewis’ case. When I first met Lewis he was someone who knew exactly what he wanted in regards to his business and the work he has undertaken is clearly rubbing off on people across Barnsley who are turning to knitting as a result of meeting Lewis.
“The Launchpad programme is designed to help people like Lewis to transform ideas into a reality. The service is provided completely free of charge and provides access to specialist support, advice and mentoring designed to help new entrepreneurs to succeed. Since working with Launchpad, Lewis is now planning to enter the export market and sell his unique products in the US.”
A full range of Lewis’ products and services can be found on his website: www.manknit.co.uk. If you are based in Barnsley and have an idea for a business, visit the Launchpad team at Barnsley Digital Media centre or contact 01226 773 003. If you’re not based in Barnsley but elsewhere in the Sheffield City Region, you can contact 03330 00 00 30 or visit www.scrlaunchpad.co.uk for further advice and information.
Launchpad is a unique scheme which forms part of the Sheffield City Region Growth hub. Funded by the European Union Regional Development Fund and delivered by Local Authorities within Sheffield City Region and the Princes Trust, the programme provides free help and support to budding entrepreneurs in the Sheffield City Region who are thinking of starting their own business, or have started trading within the last two years.