Katie McRose, 26, and her wife Darian travel around Texas to sheer sheep, llamas and alpacas. They founded their business, Right Choice Shearing, in 2019. This year, they expect to bring in at least $80,000 servicing over 575 farms.
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Katie McRose met her future business partner and wife, Darian, in preschool in Seguin, Texas.
“We were best friends. We totally hit it off. Our first date was at Chuck E. Cheese playing in the ball pits,” Katie McRose jokingly tells CNBC Make It with a laugh. “We started dating in high school, but that was all completely in the closet. And then after high school, after a very traumatic process, we finally came out in college. And we just got married in 2019.”
Together the two make up one of the few, if not the only, wife-and-wife sheep, llama and alpaca shearing businesses in the country.
“Being a sheep shearer is a minority in the United States. And then being a woman is definitely its own subcategory. And then to be a gay woman, I don’t think I know another gay woman, sheep shearer besides my wife,” says McRose. “The business would not be as successful as it is today without my wife, because I might be the brawns (and maybe some of the brains) but she does all of the organization and makes sure that everything runs smoothly.”
Between February and June 2021, the couple made over $80,000 and served roughly 480 farms.
Getting the job
At just 26, McRose already has more than a decade of experience shearing.
“I never thought that I would be a sheep shearer when I was growing up. I had no idea that something like that existed. But when I was 14 years old, I watched somebody shear a show goat and we bought the equipment to shear a show goat. And my mom was on Craigslist looking for someone to shear our llamas and alpacas and saw this lady needed her sheep sheared to my mom was like, ’You know how to do that, right? I was like, ‘Yeah, totally,’” remembers McRose. “So I went out there with a friend and it took us four hours to do seven sheep. They looked horrible. They looked like chewed-up Tempur Pedic pillows.”
She made a grand total of $35 during that first long job. Today, their business, Right Choice Shearing, typically charges a $40 set-up fee and charges between $5 and $45 per “head” — depending on the breed and the number of animals.
But what at first felt like “flying by the seat of your pants” later became a marketable skill for survival.
“My senior year of high school, I separated with my family,” says McRose. “And I had to figure out how I was going to be able to afford to go to college. So I worked four jobs and I picked up shearing again. I started building that shearing business when I was in college.”
Both Katie and Darian studied animal science at Texas A&M. Shearing sheep helped cover their costs.
“I think that the most I made in college was around $30,000 working part-time,” she recalls. “My [grandparents] did help me — $1,000 here, $1,000 there — but everything else was completely out of my pocket. I paid for the dorm that I lived in, paid for all the tuition and books. And I did come out debt-free, which was really nice.”
After graduating in 2017, the pair decided to expand their business rather than get traditional office jobs.
Their business costs included roughly $900 for a motor and a shaft that powers their work as well as $2,000 for their various shearing handpieces. Each year they buy around 60 new combs, which cost roughly $15 each. McRose also paid to take an advanced sheep shearing course.
“We knew that we like shearing and that it allowed us to travel, and we made decent money at it. So we decided to give that a go full-time and it worked really well,” says McRose. “The first year we did 350 jobs, the year after that we did 475, then 575, and this year, we’re gonna knock that out of the park again. It’s really been an exponential run now that we are doing it full-time because there’s not a lot of people that do what we do. And there’s even fewer that do it well.”
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Bringing In $80K A Year Shearing Sheep in Texas | On The Job