Originally from North Carolina, Laura Zander ended up in California after attending a series of universities and accumulating degrees in Political Science, Sociology, and Criminology. Laura started her academic career at North Carolina State University, where she was an accounting major. Funded by scholarships, she then received a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Sam Houston State University in Texas, a Masters degree in Political Science from Washington State University, and then started a PhD program at the Pennsylvania State University. Laura left Pennsylvania to start writing software for a small company in California, where she met her now husband and business partner, Doug. Over the next few years, Laura worked as a software engineer for various dot-com start-ups.
In between rugby practice and late nights at the office, Laura eventually learned to knit by taking a class at her local yarn shop in San Francisco. An obsession was born! A few years later in 2002, after getting married and moving to the Lake Tahoe area, Laura turned her passion for knitting into a business and started Jimmy Beans Wool.
The name of the business was derived from Laura’s nickname, “Jimmy,” which came from a song by a singer named Todd Snider called 'Doublewide Blues'. In the song, he talks about this neighbor Jimmy that's so cool because he's got a blue plastic pool on the deck in front of his house. Laura and Doug started saying “cool like Jimmy,” which spurred her nickname and later provided a name for the store. Since they originally had a coffee cart as part of the store, they added “Beans” to the name. The yarn ended up overrunning the store and while the coffee cart is no longer around, the name stuck!
Laura and Doug welcomed the newest addition to the family, their son Huck, in 2009 and moved residences to Reno the same year. When not knitting or working, Laura spends most of her time on the ski hill, running, playing tennis, or relaxing with Doug.
In 2011, Ernst & Young named Laura as one of their Entrepreneurial Winning Women, honoring her in front of 2,100 CEOs at their annual Strategic Growth Forum. Also in 2011, Laura was invited by The White House Business Council to the White House to participate in a forum addressing the American Jobs Act where Jimmy Beans Wool was recognized as a notable Nevada business and has since been featured twice on the White House Blog. She was also the 2013 Nevada Small Business Award recipient for Woman Owned Business of the Year.
Jimmy Beans Wool has been named four times to the Inc. 5000, Inc. Magazine's List of Fastest Growing Private Companies in the U.S. and three times to the Bizate Circle of Excellence, an award earned by retailers who go above and beyond the norm to provide exceptional service to their online customers.
Additionally, Jimmy Beans Wool has been certified as a Womens Business Enterprise (WBE) by the Women’s Business Enterprise Council-West in partnership with WBENC and was recognized by the Reno-Tahoe American Marketing Association ACE Award’s with a People’s Choice Award for its Stitch Red campaign promoting women’s heart health. The company has also been awarded an excellent rating and has been recognized for its outstanding customer service reputation by StellaService.