As a rancher, much of your day is spent outdoors performing physical work like herding cattle to and from pastures, maintaining fences and other buildings, and taking care of sick or injured animals. There are no “days off” for ranchers, as they are constantly caring for their livestock and grounds. In Colorado, the job also comes with its own set of challenges when temperatures fall below freezing in the winter and wind gusts reach up to 80 miles an hour. As ranchers, it is critical to stay safe and warm during these conditions. To do this, many rely on their clothing to keep them warm, but not all ranchers have access to the clothes they need.
Introducing Sherri Picciano, a woman rancher in Northeast Colorado. While performing all the needed jobs of any rancher, Sherri noticed distinct disparities between men’s and women’s clothing. She notes that while men had thick and hefty shirts for winter work,
“I’d have to wear 2-3 women’s shirts just to stay warm. I got so fed up with it, I started pulling shirts from my husband’s closet since men’s clothes seemed to be made thicker.”
Sherri lives in a small town located just outside of Sterling, Colorado, called Stoneham. There, she ranches goats, chickens, guinea fowl, and Black Angus cows. Over the years, Sherri has been dissatisfied with the quality of women’s ranch wear. She would pay high prices for clothing that was not very durable or practical for her work. She also noticed women’s ranch wear cost the same but was made of lesser quality than men’s.
This disparity inspired Sherri to get to work crafting her own clothing. It came easily to her because she studied fashion design and pattern making at Apparel Arts in California and El Centro College in Texas. She also ran a successful clothing business before moving to Colorado where she designed and sold gowns for baptism ceremonies.
Reinspired to pick up fashion again, Sherri learned through trial, error, and in-the-field testing, how to make unique and durable women’s western wear for Picciano Designs. Ideally, Sherri wanted to create practical pieces for day-to-day ranch tasks. She also believed in the importance of looking presentable if she needed to head to town for additional supplies. She shares,
“I would go into town to get supplies after working on the ranch all day, and I couldn’t get anyone to wait on me because I looked scary in muddy boots and overalls.”
Sherri recognized a disparity between men’s and women’s expected appearance. Men are not questioned when shopping or running errands in worn or dirty clothes, but women are expected to always look presentable. As a way to combat this stereotype, Sherri designed apparel that effortlessly transitions from the ranch to the town. Her decorative cloaks can be thrown over a dirty pair of jeans and boots to look more presentable.
Experience with Rural Colorado Workshop Series
In partnership with the Logan County Economic Development Corporations and the Deming Center for Entrepreneurship in the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder, the Northeast Colorado Rural Colorado Workshop Series is an interactive certificate course focused on the core elements of what every venture needs to succeed. This multi-year workshop series is part of Deming’s Rural Colorado Workshop Series, which partners with local organizations throughout rural Colorado each summer, and provides resources to educate small business owners and local entrepreneurs.
Sherri heard of the workshop series from one of the local small business development leaders and decided to attend. Soon after registering, Sherri was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. This tragic news left her questioning whether or not to attend, as she was concerned for her health. However, her deep love for Picciano Designs ultimately lead her to take the opportunity to learn and grow her business. Sherri reflects,
“Working with Erick [Mueller] and Hunter [Albright] was not only a lot of fun but inspirational. They help you get outside the box with your ideas. I encourage anyone who is thinking seriously about starting a business, or who has started a business and run into blocks, to take the workshop. You will be inspired and encouraged. These guys are great listeners and since they have run their businesses, they give suggestions and support.”
The workshop helped Sherri identify alternative ways to get brand recognition such as hosting a virtual trunk show. Sherri learned that investing large sums of money into leasing a shop or other physical location is not necessary during the early stages. Through virtual trunk shows, Sherri can reach a larger audience when showcasing her new collections.
Upcoming Projects & Events
In August of 2023, Sherri will host a virtual trunk show where she will showcase Picciano Designs’ new collection. Clothing will be displayed on models who are 5’2” to 5’5” and 5’6” to 5’9” to allow viewers to see how the garments fall.
All of Picciano Designs’ fabric is pre-laundered, meaning garments are true to size and shouldn’t shrink in future washes. Each item is also designed to last the wearer several years in ranch-like conditions. Additionally, Sherri has models test garments on the ranch to gain insight into what’s practical for real working conditions.
Sherri provides the following advice,
"Believe in and love your product! When customers give suggestions on clothing ideas or changes, I can’t wait to get into the production room and start getting those ideas going. That is a sign to me that I am loving what I do.”
If you are interested in attending Sherri’s virtual trunk show, contact her via email at email@example.com for more information.