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UCLA student crafts knitting business as way of giving back to community

Third-year sociology student Sydney Flamm crochets and knits sweaters with others in mind. Inspired to turn her hobby into a business that gives back, she crafts beanies and plushies, donating the proceeds or a duplicate item to charity. (Courtesy of Sydney Flamm)

By Austin Nguyen

Jan. 21, 2022 8:37 p.m.

For Sydney Flamm, kindness is one stitch away.

After learning to crochet and knit through school clubs and YouTube tutorials, the third-year sociology student said she decided to open her own business, Syd’s Knits. Her site features products such as cardigans and crochet toys, and she said for each beanie sold, she donates another one to a cancer patient. When she first started, Flamm said she primarily thought of knitting and crocheting as a hobby, but as her anxiety around the pandemic increased, stitching became a way to relieve stress.

“Knitting is definitely a therapy,” Flamm said. “You’re able to just take a moment and reconnect and focus.”

While Flamm said she had picked up knitting and crocheting as hobbies for a few months, what inspired her to transform it into a business were stories of her grandmother. When she was a child, her grandmother used to knit her clothes, and Flamm said she integrates donations into her business as a way to honor her grandmother’s life after she passed from cancer. Her neighbor, who Flamm said is a fellow crafter and cancer survivor, provides her with beanies to donate as well.

(Courtesy of Sydney Flamm)
Flamm said her grandmother was also a knitter and would make clothes for her when she was a baby. (Courtesy of Sydney Flamm)

[Related: UCLA student crochets for a cause by donating business profits to charities]

To gather ideas for her products, Flamm said she turns to Instagram, finding inspiration in different styles such as V-necks and cardigans with pockets before creating her own patterns and measurements. Selecting materials is also a diligent process as she said she tries to use sustainably-sourced yarn purchased from Wool and the Gang, the same company Olympic diver and avid knitter Tom Daley uses.

When deciding what platform to put her business on, Flamm said she chose to make her own website since she had experience with web design from making online photography portfolios. A personalized website enabled her to have international shipping as well, and she said the site has even spurred a slight entrepreneurship hobby.

As Flamm’s mother, Lesley Gran said, Flamm’s decision to run a business was unexpected. One of the main concerns Gran said she had for Flamm was balancing her entrepreneurship and her schoolwork, and Gran said she helped out with publicity through word-of-mouth advertising in the beginning days of her business. There were also other logistical details Gran suggested Flamm sort out, such as keeping track of payments and having a return policy, she said.

Now, Gran said Flamm runs her business independently – from the promotions to the bookkeeping – but the family is involved in small ways. Flamm’s sister models select pieces of clothing on her website, and Gran said Flamm shows her finished products and occasionally has her try them on. She feels proud in seeing how Flamm has developed her business, and Gran said she hopes Flamm continues knitting regardless of her profession later in life.

“I’m quite happy that she’s doing this,” Gran said. “Even if she were to do this for free and not make any money, I would be equally as supportive.”

(Courtesy of Sydney Flamm)
Flamm said she tries to source most of her yarn sustainably from companies such as London-based Wool and the Gang, the same brand Olympic diver Tom Daley uses. (Courtesy of Sydney Flamm)

[Related: UCLA student celebrates Indigenous heritage through handmade beadwork business]

Before starting her business, Flamm said she had no entrepreneurship experience and had trouble getting Syd’s Knits off the ground, turning to online articles for advice. One of the ways she said she tried to broaden her appeal was through taking custom orders, an idea she fine-tuned with her family before it became a staple of her online site.

As one of Flamm’s customers and elementary school peers, third-year music history and industry student Samantha Heller said the process of ordering from Flamm’s business was efficient and friendly. After placing an order through an Instagram direct message, Heller said Flamm would update her with pictures of the product as she was knitting it to ensure customer satisfaction. What makes Flamm’s business stand out is not just the knitwear itself but how open and communicative she is with each customer, Heller added.

“You can tell that (Flamm has) found herself through her craft, and she really values every single person,” Heller said. “That kindness comes through in her craft.”

For Flamm, one of the most rewarding parts of her business is collaborating with customers on custom orders and seeing their satisfaction upon receiving them. Looking forward, she said she hopes to continue not only growing her client base but also expanding on her philanthropy. In the past, Flamm said she donated beanies to homeless shelters alongside the Alumni Scholars Club, and she currently plans on donating her business proceeds to UCLA’s Relay for Life team to help fund cancer research for children. No matter how much the business grows, she said there’s always time to give back.

“The time and effort that someone puts into making something tangible for somebody – it’s something very unique and is just a great feeling to give back to people,” Flamm said.

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