Lewis Ryan has been creating a community of knitters across Barnsley after he decided to launch ManKnit.
The Barnsley based entrepreneur secured 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.
ManKnit is 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. He 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.
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.”