Fifteen years ago, Willow Whitton was camping among redwoods in Northern California, pondering a vision for a future business. Fifteen years later that business, Holy Lamb Organics, is well-established. The business sells to 100 stores throughout the country, employs more than 20 and has found a unique base of operations in Oakville in Grays Harbor County.
That vision for a new business many years ago was inspired by the act of buying a camping pillow for that trip to the redwoods. The pillow was poorly made. Whitton, perhaps staring at those majestic trees, realized she could make a better product.
With a background and belief in the importance of sustainable products, Whitton focused on using organic wool and cotton to make pillows and then a range of bedding materials: comforters, toppers and similar items for cribs and bassinets. The business also has grown to offer a line of mattresses, including an all-wool item.
Her business started in Olympia — the corporate office is still in Olympia — and she forged her own path for five years, working alone while also working three other jobs.
But Holy Lamb Organics was catching on, she said.
In 2005, she took a leap of faith and devoted her energies to the business full time, and then in 2008 she took another leap of faith.
Whitton was invited to a friend’s farm near Oakville and was so moved by the experience that she wanted to bring her business to the same area.
A longtime general store used to serve the little town. Whitton wound up buying the 113-year-old structure, with its 3,000 square feet of space and 14-foot ceilings, and moved in. It’s now home to a showroom for the business, as well as the handmade manufacturing process, and shipping and packing. Across the street is Holy Lamb’s warehouse and a customer service department.
But do customers travel to Oakville? They do, she said.
“We still get people from all over the state,” Whitton said.
And the business continued to grow during the Great Recession because of the health-conscious movement. Organic wool is breathable, wicks moisture away from the body and deters dust mites, she said, which means her products appeal to those with allergies or other sensitivities. The business has carried that a step further by having a no-scent policy at work, asking employees to refrain from using perfume, for example.
Whitton also believes in profit-sharing and providing health care to employees.
“It’s not business as usual,” she said about Holy Lamb.
Holy Lamb’s wool comes from sheep farmers on the West Coast, and then it’s sent to the Woolgatherer Carding Mill in California before coming to Holy Lamb.
The scraps of organic wool and cotton that are left over from the handmade manufacturing process are composted in a Holy Lamb garden, said Kallie Holt, executive assistant.
That’s in line with Holy Lamb’s commitment to zero-waste management, Whitton said.
Holy Lamb Organics
Owner and founder: Willow Whitton
Locations: Corporate office is in Olympia; showroom, manufacturing and customer service is in Oakville. The showroom is at 104 Pine St. Oakville, WA 98568.
Years in business: The business turned 15 in October.
Type of business: Holy Lamb manufactures and sells organic wool and cotton bedding materials, such as comforters, toppers and pillows.
Showroom hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Did you know? Although a significant portion of the business is based in Oakville, just outside Thurston County in Grays Harbor County, the business has been discovered by people in Seattle and Portland, owner Whitton said. Two celebrities — Sandra Bullock and Brooke Shields — have purchased items from the business and it has been featured in Oprah Winfrey’s magazine, O. Whitton was born in Portland, raised in Boston and graduated from The Evergreen State College.