Former Legislator Creates Enterprise to Support Sustainable Agriculture

Posted by on January 31, 2016 in Entrepreneurship, Green

pillow“Sustainopreneurship,” a term that blends sustainability and entrepreneurship, refers to the creation of a business that aims to solve problems related to environmental and social sustainability. It is a business with a cause that deploys sustainability innovations to turn local and global challenges into business opportunities.

Cecilia Tkaczyk, a former New York State Senator turned sustainopreneur, has transformed an under-appreciated agricultural product into a local business. Tkaczyk discovered the unique value of this product almost by accident during a frigid winter in upstate New York where she has a small sheep farm.

To keep her dog warm in her old house one cold winter night, she ripped out the dog bed’s polyester fill and replaced it with wool. The short-haired coonhound mix quickly became comfortable, and in that moment, the idea for Tkaczyk’s new company, Cece’s Wool, was born.

Sheep that are raised for meat and milk have shorter wool than breeds that are prized for producing yarn. Their wool is sheared once a year, but is usually just thrown away because it is not suitable for spinning into yarn.

Tkaczyk decided to use this under-utilized material, and soon created a partnership with the Kyle Farm, in Avon, New York, which has a flock of some 1,000 sheep, to source wool, and with Greenfleece Fiber Mill, another New York business, to pick and process the wool into batting.

Tkaczyk created pet beds as her first product, but soon came up with other uses for this material such as pillows. She decided that the product would come from local farmers like herself, and would also help support farms that employ sustainable practices.

The Kyle Farm is part of the Genesee Valley Conservancy, and is careful to ensure good land-use practices. Tkaczyk chooses her farms judiciously after assessing how they take care of the animals and how they manage the land.

Local production is also part of the business model. The products made for Cece’s Wool are assembled and sewn at Herkimer Industries, a company provides jobs to people with developmental disabilities.

The pillows and beds are currently sold online and at farmer’s markets. Tkaczyk hopes that as the company grows, the farms where the wool is produced could also sell the pillows along with their cheese and meat.

Source: Tree Hugger

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