Theresa Macklin, our NJMOMpreneur of the Week, has always wanted to help people, and through her life-long love of knitting, she’s helping others in ways she could never imagine. While Theresa had always found knitting to be enjoyable and a great stress reliever, it wasn’t until she opened her shop, Beyond Yarn, that she realized the power knitting and crocheting had. So many clients came to her to join the knitting circles, classes, or hang out, and Theresa began to hear how the craft and community helped them reduce stress and get a better handle on coping with mental and physical illnesses, especially during the pandemic. And Theresa has found joy in making everyone who comes through the doors of her shop feel welcome and part of a community, from a first-time knitter to an experienced one. We caught up with this Edison grandma to find out how she got back into fiber arts after being away from it for so long, why April is now one of her favorite months of the year and the cafe near her shop where she stops in for the most delicious hot chocolate.
Tell us a little bit about your family and background. I’ve been married for 11 years and have two wonderful adult daughters from a previous marriage and three grandsons, ages 17, 3, and 2. I was born and raised in Harlem, and my kids were born there too, but in 1990 we moved to Piscataway and lived there for almost 15 years. I wanted to give them a different way of life. I also lived in a few other NJ towns before settling in Edison, a town I love for many reasons, but especially because the diversity in Edison feels right to me. It’s also a decent commute to and from my shop, which is in Union.
What “aha” moment led you to launch your business? Before I opened Beyond Yarn, I worked for a major pharmaceutical company for over 20 years. During that time, I joined a knitting and crocheting group at work. Growing up, I had done it with my mother, aunt, and sisters, and I realized how much I love the craft. At work, a good friend and I were always talking about knitting and crocheting, and we both said we’d open a store together someday. Ultimately, she decided not to do it, but I couldn’t get it out of my mind and went for it, launching Beyond Yarn in July 2019.
When it comes to your business, how supportive is your family? My daughters are the ones who encouraged me to go for it. They’ve been behind me 100% from the get-go. My sisters and nieces are very supportive and always show up when something special happens at the store. And my husband, Daud, is a great sounding board and often comes by the shop. I couldn’t ask for a better group of people behind me cheering me on!
What are some ways Beyond Yarn is more than just a typical knitting shop? Growing up, I thought I’d be a nurse because I’ve always been drawn to helping people. Though I ultimately didn’t pursue nursing, I try to help people whenever possible, and I always do my best at my shop to make everyone feel good and leave happy. A big part of my business is our Community Care Initiative which aims to help people in need, and the Beyond Yarn community gets involved in everything we do. We contribute to three charities: Knit the Rainbow provides warm clothing to homeless LGBTQ+ youths; Knitted Knockers offers soft and comfortable knit prosthetics to breast cancer survivors; and Hat Not Hate is an anti-bullying awareness campaign that promotes kindness.
What’s the best thing about being an entrepreneur? There’s so much to love about it. First and foremost, I get to work with amazing people—all the ladies who work at the store are such an essential part of the backbone to making the store what it is—I couldn’t and wouldn’t want to do it without them. Also, the fun we all have at the store is part of the payoff. One day, I was playing Encanto, and we all started singing, laughing and dancing—it was one of those great, random, memorable moments that will stay with me forever. And I love my customers. They come in and share so much of themselves and leave their mark on me, whether they’re regulars or not. And lastly, April is now one of my favorite months because of the NJ Wool Walk, which is a yearly event where participating yarn stores have special events, trunk shows, and prizes, and owners get to meet and know each other. I have met so many wonderful people through this, and now I know I’m part of a much bigger community that cares about each other.
How do you like to unwind after a particularly stressful day? Occasionally I’ll crochet, but recently my step-granddaughter got me back into paint by numbers, and I find it so relaxing–it’s quiet and meditative, and I have to focus on what I’m doing. I highly recommend it!
Please share some of your go-to NJ businesses. Van Gogh’s Ear Cafe in Union is just two stores away from my shop. People love it for the live music and delicious food, but this time of year, I stop in frequently for their hot chocolate, which is fantastic. The owners are also lovely, and the antique furniture and handmade items throughout create a beautiful ambiance that can’t be beaten. Also, I like ice cream but am a plain Jane and like to keep things simple regarding flavors, and Applegate Farm in Montclair has the best vanilla, hands down!
What are some places in NJ that you and your family enjoy? Johnson Park in Piscataway has been a long-time favorite. When my kids were younger, we’d go there all the time. They had a small zoo and a fishing competition there now and then. It’s really special and has only gotten better over the years.
What’s your best piece of advice for a mompreneur just starting? Go into your business with your eyes wide open. Before launching, research and find out all the expenses involved because chances are it will be much more than you expect.