The latest in our series of posts that allows some of our AAPN Women to better introduce themselves features Jennifer Knight , the President & CEO, American Woolen Company
Introduce yourself to our audience. Tell us who you are and what you are currently focused on.
I am Jennifer Knight, President & COO of American Woolen Company since its inception in June 2014. We make very fine worsted, woolen, cashmere and camel hair fabric for the tailored menswear, fashion and outdoor markets. Our manufacturing is located in a historic mill in Connecticut, but our equipment and techniques are state-of-the-art.
I’m from Macon, Georgia though spent a good deal of my childhood in Connecticut so consider myself half-Yankee to my mother’s dismay. I’m also third generation in the textile industry. My grandfather was CFO & Treasurer of the Bibb Company, a large home furnishings manufacturer and my dad later became CEO of the same company. That was back in the days of big textiles in the South. Some of my earliest memories are of visiting mill villages with my dad when I was a little girl. We would drive around middle Georgia on Saturday mornings in his red convertible so he could visit the mills and see how things were going. Those visits made a deep impression on me. After college and a brief stint as a sitcom comedy writer in Hollywood (ask me later), I ended up working for and eventually running Georgia Narrow Fabrics, a family owned narrow fabrics business. What can I say? Textiles are in my blood.
Tell us about your favorite AAPNetwork memory or success story. Why are you a member?
I joined AAPN in the mid-2000s when we were looking at moving the narrow fabrics operation to Central America. Everything was moving so fast then as supply chains shifted off-shore and people were trying to figure out how to survive. Business we had taken for granted for years was suddenly at risk, and we had to scramble. AAPN was my first and best exposure to people who were dealing with the same issues, and they immediately became an important resource and network. I particularly remember the Summit in El Salvador in 2003.
What qualities does it take for someone to be successful in your line of work?
In my career, I’ve gone from working in and running a family-owned business to serving as an operating executive for private equity to becoming an investor/operator myself at American Woolen Company. Each iteration has had its unique challenges in terms of interpersonal and team dynamics, but the common thread is the need to be strategic, entrepreneurial, and unafraid to face whatever situations you encounter with integrity, dignity and clear-headedness.
What is one of your most memorable career accomplishments?
For sure, it was helping my father position Georgia Narrow Fabrics for sale to two private equity firms in 2000. The transaction was bittersweet in the sense that it was the end of an era, but we got out at the right time and my dad retired a happy guy. And to this day, he thanks me (oldest daughter of four) for helping him accomplish his goal.
What is your morning ritual?
I live in NYC but spend several nights a week at the mill in CT. When I am there, I wake up early and get on the rowing machine and do some stretches before having a quiet coffee and breakfast while catching up on email. I arrive at mill by 8am ready to face the challenges of the day.
What would you say your personal superpower is?
I never give up. No matter how tough things are, I keep trying to find ways to delight the customer, create good jobs, satisfy the investors, reinvent myself and contribute positively to an industry I love – whatever the challenge, there is a solution!