Katrinkles Inc. gets crafty about helping the environment

WHIMSICAL PRODUCTS: Katy Westscott, CEO of Katrinkles Inc. in Providence, which makes buttons and tools for crafters, goes over some of the company’s products with production technician Brandon Amorin.
PBN PHOTO/TRACY JENKINS
WHIMSICAL PRODUCTS: Katy Westscott, CEO of Katrinkles Inc. in Providence, which makes buttons and tools for crafters, goes over some of the company’s products with production technician Brandon Amorin.
PBN PHOTO/TRACY JENKINS

PBN Manufacturing Awards 2022
EXCELLENCE IN GREEN MANUFACTURING:
Katrinkles Inc.


BE THE CHANGE you want to see in the world, an axiom attributed to Gandhi, could also be the operating through line at Katrinkles Inc., according to company CEO Katy Westcott.

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Westcott, a Rhode Island School of Design grad and jewelry maker, launched Katrinkles, a small Providence-based business making whimsical buttons and tools for crafters, in 2012. The idea started as a side hustle, Westcott says. She found an audience on Etsy and local fiber festivals, and that allowed the company to grow without a huge financial investment. In the beginning, Westcott operated solo, but crafters responded. She bought her first laser machine in 2014. In 2017, Westcott hired her first two employees. Now there are 12 who do cutting, finishing and shipping.

Although being green had always been a personal priority for Westcott, Katrinkles didn’t start that way.

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“As the company got bigger, I realized it’s important. I don’t pretend to be an expert on sustainable policies,” she said, “but we only have one Earth, and we want to make it a better place.”

Marianne Harris, Katrinkles’ chief operating officer, said she’s proud to work for a company that “doesn’t just talk about being sustainable, but is actively looking to make small changes that matter.”

Katrinkles uses sustainable woods whenever possible, Westcott says, and using local businesses reduces carbon emissions from shipping and transportation. Product packaging is made by a Johnston company. Katrinkles’ tools are cut from wood that’s sourced from a Narragansett business and trees grown in upstate New York. “I’m glad we’re using local cherry,” Westcott said. “It’s beautiful.”

Westcott says she and her colleagues are always brainstorming ways to develop high-quality tools that last a lifetime. Katrinkles makes everything in-house. Buttons fashioned from bamboo plywood and knitting-needle gauges from cherry are sustainable, lightweight and strong.

Perhaps the most popular tool on Katrinkles’ website is a darning loom made of birch. Do-it-yourselfers use them to mend pesky holes in socks and jeans. Westcott and her staff hatched the idea during the COVID-19 quarantine. As more people started working at home, she says, they were encouraged to mend their clothes, rather than toss them.

Not only was the trend good for the environment, it also signaled the importance of keeping things that are well-worn and well-loved. “We want to celebrate that,” Westcott said.

Shipping boxes are sealed with paper rather than plastic tape, and bubble wrap has been replaced with recyclable shipping envelopes that are themselves made from 100% recycled paper. With five international packages being shipped from Providence each week, and 600 packages a month to addresses in the U.S., that’s a lot of space being saved in landfills.

Other innovations have been more serendipitous. Case in point: the recent introduction of NOBUTTONPACKAGING, a discount that has proved to be popular. Shoppers who receive their buttons in environment-friendly glassine bags get a 10%-off coupon. “It started because a woman in New Jersey kept returning her packaging. It made me realize not everyone likes it,” Westcott said.

“Our packaging is cute but ultimately it ends up getting recycled, so giving the option to remove it altogether can mean a lot to a customer,” Harris said.

Even clean, leftover wood scraps from laser cuttings are stuffed into lawn bags, typically two per week, and available to anyone who wants kindling for wood stoves and campfires.

For Katrinkles, doing well by doing good has proved to be a healthy business practice, selling to knitters and crocheters through the online retail site, as well as to 800 wholesale stockists. Although Westcott doesn’t disclose specific numbers, she says the company’s revenue has climbed a healthy 25% each year for the last several years.

But does Katrinkles’ emphasis on sustainability make sense economically? The short answer is not always, Westcott says.

“We pay to recycle acrylic scraps. It takes more time, so it’s less economical. Our paper packaging is recycled, but it’s more expensive. Still, it’s better for the environment,” she said. “The bottom line is: what makes sense to us, makes sense for the planet.”

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