Evan Helle is a fourth generation sheep rancher and co-founder of the merino wool retail brand Duckworth. In this episode, Evan shares the story of his family, the family ranch and the decision to add more value to their wool by starting an apparel business. He shares insights into the benefits and hurdles of running a vertically integrated business and the importance of preserving wool skills and knowledge locally.
About Evan Helle
Evan Helle is a fourth generation sheep rancher and co-founder of Duckworth. He is an active member of the American Sheep Industry Association, Montana Wool Growers, and Southwest Montana Stockman’s Association.
Shortly after graduating from Montana State University-Bozeman in 2014, with degrees in Agriculture Business and Economics, he jumped into the fledgeling company Duckworth to help launch the startup. Excelling at computer database and software integration, he built the tools required to carve out a vertically integrated U.S. supply chain from Sheep to Shelf™.
After Duckworth was up and running, Evan moved back to his hometown of Dillon where he manages Duckworth’s fabric production remotely and helps on the ranch. He is also an active ambassador for Duckworth and attends trade shows, sales events, and helps with social media.
Evan’s focus is to grow the supply of wool for Duckworth by reaching out to fellow wool producers who buy Helle Rambouillet seed stock. He also is working on integrating new genetic software, management practices, and helping to develop fine wool breeding indexes aimed at improving wool production and quality.
Connect with Evan Helle here
Key Time Stamps
[01:29] About Evan Helle
[02:36] About Duckworth
[03:14] The meaning behind Duckworth
[04:22] About the Helle family and their ranch
[06:31] The valuable skills of the Peruvian sheepherders for US sheep ranches
[08:26] The typical sheep year at Duckworth
[12:39] The reason to start Duckworth
[14:38] The wool supply chain of Duckworth
[16:25] The Duckworth retail strategy
[17:54] The benefits and challenges of running a sheep to shelf business
[20:02] Learnings from the Duckworth experience
[21:00] The importance of keeping wool skills, knowledge and workers locally
[23:08] The role of innovation at Duckworth
[25:46] The pros and cons of blending wool with synthetics
[27:08] The typical Duckworth customer
[28:11] Why are customers interested in the full story of a product
[31:42] The Duckworth brand ambassadors programme
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