Mother-Son Business Duo Gives New Life to Local Wool
2 minute read

By Amanda Kuhnert

When Laura Jacoby moved back to her home state of Vermont as an adult, she was dismayed at the number of farms that had shuttered in recent years. So she began researching ways to support Vermont’s farm economy and soon discovered that local farmers who were raising sheep for milk and meat didn’t have a market for their wool. 

“Wool from dual purpose or meat breeds is often not considered fine enough for the hand knitting market,” Laura said. “Farmers were composting their wool or selling it to a wool pool for far less than it was worth.”  

She came up with a plan that would put this medium-grade wool to use, while simultaneously creating an additional revenue stream for farmers and providing consumers with locally sourced and produced clothing. In 2019, Laura and her son Cyrus launched Muriel’s of Vermont, a clothing company based out of their home in Grand Isle that produces knit sweaters using wool from local farms. 

“We have developed a finishing process that softens the local, medium grade wool, making it incredibly comfortable to wear as well as exceptionally durable,” Laura said. The business duo also found a way to make their sweaters at a faster rate—about one sweater per hour—than hand knitting, while keeping labor costs low. 

“We invested in a whole garment digital knitting machine that knits entire garments without the need for hand linking or sewing,” Laura explained. “The use of the whole garment machine eliminates waste from our process, so we can afford to use yarn that has been locally spun by spinners making a livable wage from local wool that has been produced without the environmental degradation often associated with commodity-size farms.”  

The process worked so well that, in 2023, four years into their endeavor, the two decided to seek financing for the purchase of a second machine. When they approached their bank about a loan, they were referred to Heidi Krantz, an advisor with the Vermont Small Business Development Center (VtSBDC). “Expansion is such a tricky phase for a small business, and support from VtSBDC has been critical as we’ve navigated that,” Laura said. 

“Though Cyrus and I both have some leadership experience with small businesses, there is so much that we don’t even know we don’t know,” she added. “And honestly, just having another perspective and someone to reality check our ideas every few weeks has been invaluable.” 

A wide variety of short- and long-sleeve sweater styles, all designed by Cyrus, are available for purchase on their website,

Looking for more? Check out our resources page or reach out to your regional advisor!

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