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327 – It Started with a Brick and Mortar Yarn Shop and a Vision with Shelley Brander of Knit Stars
Episode 32719th July 2021 • Gift Biz Unwrapped • Sue Monhait
00:00:00 00:52:53

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How to follow your passion and succeed with Shelley Brander of Move the Needles We've all heard to "do what you love," but how does that work, exactly? Today's guest shares her story of how to follow your passion and succeed. Shelley is the author of Move the Needle, Yarns from an Unlikely Entrepreneur. This book has a singular goal: to inspire you to believe that you can pursue your passion and stick to it, even in the face of adversity. The book traces Shelley’s journey from leaving the successful advertising firm she founded with her husband to open a local yarn store. Along the way, Shelley shares stories from her life to show that you can pursue your life's passions - both personal and professional - no matter how quirky or impossible they may seem to everyone around you. Shelley’s Tulsa, Oklahoma-based luxury boutique storefront is the flagship of the Knit Stars/Loops brand. It's also where she hosts her Knit Stars MasterMasterclass Events - the most-attended online knitting festival in the world.

How to Follow Your Passion and Succeed

  • Pursue your life's passions.
  • Have realistic expectations and then craft the kind of experience you want to get from owning your business.
  • Stick with things and make things happen.
  • Start small. The tiniest step is the way to go, so take that first step.
  • When you have all the customers in one place, there’s an incredible lift in the energy in the store.
  • Collaborate with other people who have similar audiences to yours.
  • Have different ways to meet people where they are and give people resources for great inspiration and support.
  • Hire sooner and more often. That way, you can take off some tasks on your list and focus more on business growth (hiring doesn't have to mean expensive or full-time).
  • Get mentors in the areas that are not your strength.
  • In business, you want to be away from the red ocean and in the blue ocean. Look for ways to separate yourself uniquely from competitors.  You always have to be innovating.
  • Lean into your greatest strength. Create a business that doesn't look like anyone else's business.
  • Find the mission underneath your business. You can have a bigger impact than you think.
  • Do whatever you're doing right now. It can go really big places and make a huge difference in the world.
  • When you land on your mission in life, everything else will be magnetized to you.
  • Tune in to learn more about how to follow your passion and succeed!

Resources Mentioned

Shelley's Contact Links

WebsiteFacebook | Instagram | Instagram

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Become a Member of Gift Biz Breeze If you found value in this podcast, make sure to subscribe so you automatically get the next episode downloaded for your convenience. Click on your preferred platform below to get started. Also, if you'd like to do me a huge favor - please leave a review. It helps other creators like you find the show and build their businesses too. You can do so right here: Rate This Podcast Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsSpotify Thank you so much! Sue

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Transcripts

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Gift biz unwrapped episode 327.

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The thing that has really propelled me for the most is

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to think about what no one else is doing for the

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customer and find a way to do that thing.

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Attention gifters bakers,

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crafters, and makers pursuing your dream can be fun.

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Whether you have an established business or looking to start one.

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Now you are in the right place.

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This is gift to biz unwrapped,

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helping you turn your skill into a flourishing business.

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Join us for an episode,

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packed full of invaluable guidance,

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resources, and the support you need to grow.

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Your gift biz.

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Here is your host gift biz gal,

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Sue moon Heights.

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Hi there.

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How you Doing today?

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I'm working on staying present to appreciate the Midsummer vibe before

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it becomes a memory,

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ah, a lazy relaxing sunny afternoon.

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Come with me to this place.

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Close your eyes,

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except if you're driving and imagine yourself sitting in a white

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Adirondack chair beneath the shade of a tree,

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the light breeze periodically blows through the leaves,

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allowing the rays of sunlight to drift through from time to

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time, the soft wind is so refreshing and comfortable mixed with

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the warmth of the summer air.

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The only thing that's cold is your glass holding fresh squeezed

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lemonade with just the right amount of sugar and a Sprig

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of mint.

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You've got a book ready and waiting for you to dive

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into, but for now you just want to take it all

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in, be in the moment.

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So peaceful,

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full of comfort and the feeling that all is well with

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the world.

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You with me,

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let's stay here for a second.

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A wonderful moment.

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We just experienced.

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Yes. Do you recall a time when you let yourself dream

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like this to envision what your business would look like?

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How would it be in the perfect illustrated picture?

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You may have gone through these thoughts as recently as yesterday,

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or perhaps it was a few years ago,

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you enjoying the act of making then interacting with customers who

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are telling you how much happiness your products bring them.

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And then how rewarding it is to see your financial targets

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being met.

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Everyone has done this to some extent,

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or you wouldn't be on this small business journey yet.

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We know reality doesn't ever match up to our initial daydreams

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and that's okay because you have to start from somewhere.

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So it is with our guests today.

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You're going to hear her initial vision,

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how it changed along the way,

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and is equally as grand,

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but with the expected twists and turns that are inevitable.

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When you open your eyes from that initial dream and interject

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reality, Shelly's built her own yarn empire one that fills her

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up as much as it does those who choose to be

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a part of it.

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Let's open the book on her story today.

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It is my pleasure to introduce you to Shelley brander.

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Shelley is the author of move the needle yarns from an

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unlikely entrepreneur.

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This is a book with a single goal to inspire you

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to believe that you can pursue your passion and stick with

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it. Even in the face of adversity,

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the book traces Shelley's journey from leaving the successful advertising firms.

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She founded with her husband to open a local yarn shop

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along the way.

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Shelly shares stories from her life to show you that you

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can pursue your life's passions,

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both personal and professional,

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no matter how quirky or impossible they may seem to everybody

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around you.

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Shelly's Tulsa,

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Oklahoma based luxury boutique storefront is the flagship of the knit

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stars Lupe's brand,

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which also includes her knit stars,

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masterclass events,

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the most attended online knitting festival in the world.

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Shelly, I am so excited to talk to you.

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Welcome to the gift biz unwrapped podcast.

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Hi Sue.

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I'm so glad to be here.

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Can't wait to chat.

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I know me too,

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but we're going to delay that for half a second because

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I have a traditional question here that I ask everybody.

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And that is to have you describe yourself in way of

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a motivational candle.

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So if you were to envision a candle that really speaks

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to you Shally what would it look like with a color

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and some type of a quote or,

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Yeah, I love this question.

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So creative,

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my candle,

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I believe would be blue because I'm all about swimming for

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the blue ocean away from the red ocean,

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where all the sharks are circling.

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We'd talk a little bit more about blue ocean strategy as

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we go along and on my candle,

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it would say,

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I think I can.

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And I will,

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because when I was coming up with the mind map for

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my book,

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I noticed a common thread and that was anytime in my

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life or my business.

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When someone told me I can't do something that was the

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fuel. It was like the gasoline poured on my soul that

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made me want to do it and drove me to do

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the thing.

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And so I think that's why it would say on my

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candle. Ooh,

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I love that.

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So you are an action taker,

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a do it girl,

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and that motivated you where for some people it would make

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them shrink away and question what they're doing.

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Yeah, very much so.

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And I'm a quick start and I've learned that about myself.

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I used to think everybody was that way.

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I just assume,

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you know,

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when you're small,

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you assume that everybody is the same as you.

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And then through time you learn things about yourself and you

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know, there's downsides.

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There's times I jump in without doing all the analysis I

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should probably do,

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but overall it served me well.

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And I think it works for me.

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You definitely sound like a quick start to me.

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I'm a follow-through.

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Oh, okay.

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Yes. And I love all my people.

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Those are very similar to each other.

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It's Important that if you had a whole team of QuickStarts,

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you'd be in big,

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big trouble.

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Exactly. So intro and I already wrote this down because I

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want to get into the blue ocean versus red ocean.

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I'm not sure everyone is familiar with that.

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So that'll be a great conversation.

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But before we do that,

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give us a little bit more detail of your evolution into

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the more creative field,

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leaving a successful advertising firm that you already owned and starting

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something different people could have been questioning whether that was a

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good move or not.

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So talk to us about that whole transition.

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They absolutely did question it as a matter of fact,

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my one employee that I had at the time quit over

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it because she was my sister.

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And she thought that I was insane to shift away from

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a business that was doing so well and supporting my family

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into something that seemed completely crazy and out of left field,

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she quit.

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She said,

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you don't care about your family.

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And this is a terrible idea and quit.

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There was drama.

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Yeah. Yeah.

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Pretty much anyone I told about it and just kind of

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gave me this look like,

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what are you thinking?

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And so,

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yeah, the branding business is going great.

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We had all of these big name clients at and T

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and Hardrock and anybody else might think it looked incredibly sexy

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and amazing.

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I was getting to write and create and do the thing

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that I thought I love to do and get to work

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with all these big brands.

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And I was doing really well financially.

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I had three kids under five,

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and I just kind of came to that point of like,

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is this what I want to do the rest of my

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life? Do I want to be selling cable and casinos and

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pizza when I'm 60 years old,

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is this the kind of thing that's going to fill me

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up the rest of my life?

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And I got less and less excited to go to work.

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Each day I had learned to knit when I was 16

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years old.

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It was a really random way that it came about it.

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Wasn't something I went looking for.

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It kind of found me and I'd always had that passion,

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but I never had a really amazing experience in any yarn

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stores. I'd had really some negative experiences like kind of had

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been shocked.

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Actually. It felt like people didn't really have a business background,

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you know?

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Like they weren't even excited for you to come in their

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store. It was a weird deal.

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When you,

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it was a negative experience.

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Were you searching for different yarns or different techniques?

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Why was it a negative experience?

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It was actually That I would go into yarn shops and

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I would be either ignored or treated with just outright hostility

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because I think of my age and because I didn't fit

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the mold for what they saw as their ideal customer,

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I think they saw me walk in as a young mom

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or as a teenager.

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And they thought she can't be serious.

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She can't be a real knitter.

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She can't be about to spend real money with us.

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And so it was a very dismissive kind of an attitude.

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Unfortunately it has been kind of a hallmark in the knitting

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business in a lot of ways.

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I hear this from a lot of people.

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Yeah. You know,

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now that you say that we used to have a yarn

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shop right below my office here,

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and I have no time for knitting,

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but when I was interested in that and would walk into

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the shop because I had a good friend who also had

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another knitting shop,

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but I'd walk into this one just to see what the

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materials were,

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that type of thing.

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Now that you're saying that I recall that I encountered the

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same thing.

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Like no one came up and asked me if I wanted

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anything and this probably wasn't age related,

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because I think I'm a little older than you.

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So maybe I fit more than mold,

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but now I understand what you're saying.

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So when you were talking,

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they just didn't have that business sense.

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It's like service your customers,

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see if they need anything,

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provide an experience,

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that kind of thing.

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Right? Yeah.

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And there are today tons of yarn shops that are different

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than that.

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But at the time that was my experience.

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I've also come to realize just from an empathetic standpoint,

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I think a lot of people that start yarn shops and

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craft businesses in general,

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a lot of times they're just passionate about their craft and

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they think this is the most natural best step.

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And they think things like,

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oh, I'll get to knit all day.

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I'll get to immerse myself in my passion.

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Nope, Nope.

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I have access to all the materials that I want that

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I can't find locally.

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There's just the different reasons.

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And I think a lot of times they jump right into

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it rather than taking the time to think about things from

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the customer's perspective and build a business plan and learn about

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retail. And historically I think that's the underlying reason that then

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you, and then what you get is they develop a resentment

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because it wasn't what they expected it to be.

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And so when customers walk in,

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it's actually an inconvenience to them and they're annoyed.

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You know,

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they don't want to have to get up from their knitting

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right. For the retail side.

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But you know,

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when you start your own business,

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clearly you can build it to whatever size you want.

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You can integrate it in and play whatever role you want

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to. I mean,

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there's different ways to do it.

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So I don't want to discourage anybody who's listening because there

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are ways to work through this thing.

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But I think what you're saying,

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Shelly is,

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you know,

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you have to add that layer on top of,

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if you're going to switch from a hobby to a business,

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it needs to be a change clearly in mindset,

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but also in exactly what role you'll have to play for

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at least some time.

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Like if you decide you don't want to be the CEO,

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you want to be the maker forever.

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You don't want to be the business manager.

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You can get someone else to play that role,

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even though you own the business and are the designer.

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So there's lots of different ways to do it.

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Exactly. People ask me all the time that you do.

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I still knit.

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I'm like absolutely I've knit through the entire process and I've

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gotten all of those benefits,

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but I didn't know going in.

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And I think it's all about having realistic expectations and then

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crafting the kind of experience that you want out of owning

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your business.

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Right? Yeah.

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So, well,

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I want to underline where we've come so far and that

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is, you're a great role model for someone who's in a

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successful business,

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making money,

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like doing everything,

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but just looking inside and saying,

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this is not going to fulfill me long term and making

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that difficult change.

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I think this is a great demonstration.

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Not that you jumped ship in half a second.

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I did it.

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And it took a lot longer than I planned.

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Right. I had hoped to be out of branding after about

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a year.

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And ultimately it took about 13 years before I was completely

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out of brand name.

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So I think if I dentist a little more homework upfront,

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I could have expedited that,

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right. There was a lot of factors that play into That.

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So was your husband supportive of a switch for you?

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Cause you guys were partners.

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Yes, we were.

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We met in the branding business and I was a writer

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and he was an art director and he's nine years older

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than me.

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So he'd worked at several other agencies and had quite a

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bit more experienced.

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It was not easy to have that conversation.

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He was incredibly supportive,

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but there were a lot of questions.

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The kind of the bargain that we struck is that I

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would stick with the branding business for a while and not

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just completely jumped ship and that I would hire some employees

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and right out of the gate so that I could continue

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to do both things.

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And again,

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that went a lot longer than planned because it took longer

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than planned.

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I had to basically not just replace my own income,

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but replace both of our incomes.

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Ultimately in order to exit the branding business,

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it was a lot of really honest conversations.

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You know,

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we had,

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like I said,

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three kids under five,

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a couple of them had some special needs.

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We had a lot going on,

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but I also think he could see in me that fire,

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he knew my ability to stick with things and make things

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happen. And so he saw that in me.

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And it's,

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you know,

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when you see in your partner,

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a great passion,

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you want to encourage that,

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right? So it was definitely a struggle for both of us

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to work through,

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but to his credit,

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he was and still is very,

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very supportive.

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And now today,

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now that we've closed the brainy business,

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he's painting full time.

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He's a painter and he's semi-retired and doesn't have to do

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anything for the net stars business.

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He still helps out occasionally with some graphics,

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if we're in a big pinch,

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ultimately it's given him the freedom to pursue his own passion.

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Right. And pivot away from branding.

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So worked out for him too,

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you know,

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and it takes those conversations and planning and thought.

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And especially for you too,

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because you're an investment and the whole family income was in

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one thing together,

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right? You didn't have separate positions,

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but it can be done.

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Well, it goes back to your quote,

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right? I can.

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And I will.

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This was the challenge for you.

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And sometimes it takes some time,

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which is fine.

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I mean,

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we have a lot of listeners here who make things on

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the side,

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their creative skill is on the side and they're in a

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nine to five right now,

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but they know they want to start a business at some

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point, whether it's retirement,

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whether it's after their nine to five hours,

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you know,

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there's always a way to start thinking of this.

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If it's in your heart.

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Exactly. It doesn't mean that everybody has to do it.

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If it's in your heart and everyone finds their own path

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and their own way.

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So I think what would be really helpful to people who

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are listening,

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who are at that juncture,

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they know they'd want to start.

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Can you continue with your story a little bit more about

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when you separated from the advertising firm,

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how did you start building knit star?

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I want to circle back to the idea of starting small

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because that's one of the critical mistakes that I make I

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had in my mind that I had to start really big.

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Nowadays, you can start in a million different ways in a

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smallest, tiny step.

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I think in a lot of ways,

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that's the way to go take that first.

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But as far as how the evolution of what happened with

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loops, I started with the intention actually to franchise.

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I wasn't aware of any franchise yarn stores.

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That's what I saw as the big opportunity.

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And that's how I wrote my business plan.

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And I got that first store,

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which was an endeavor in and of itself.

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It took two years to get my first lease.

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And then I was off to the races.

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And without first store,

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it was really successful right off the bat.

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We had a lot of foot traffic.

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People were very excited about this new modern,

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more organized take on a yarn store with great customer service

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and support.

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But seven years later,

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I'm still doing branding.

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Full-time, I'm still doing the store full time.

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It took I think,

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seven years to make any profit at all.

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Like I wasn't bringing anything home and which is way longer

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than the average person takes.

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But again,

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I was being sustained still by the brand new business.

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So that was more to do with kind of like momentum

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or inertia.

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Well, and you also Have a lot more costs.

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Yes. Because you had a brick and mortar shop right from

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the start.

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What year was this?

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2005. Okay.

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Yeah. We had lots of costs.

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I didn't know really anything about inventory management or anything like

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that. It made a ton of mistakes,

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right? It was like a big learning.

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Well, we all do The mistakes are okay.

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Right? Yeah.

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They're necessary yet at that seven year point,

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I decided to open a second store.

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Of course you did.

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Isn't that the natural progression?

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I thought,

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well, I'm going to,

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at the time I live in Tulsa and the city was

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split in half by a major construction project.

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And there were people who wouldn't go across the middle line.

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And so I thought,

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well, I'll put a second store on the other side of

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town and I'll start from scratch with a white box and

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build it how I would want to do a franchise store.

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Right. I'm going to try to create something replicatable because my

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first store,

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we had inherited an existing decor and just worked with what

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we had.

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This makes total sense.

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Yeah. Yeah.

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So I was like,

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I'm going to take everything I've learned and I'm this I'm

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going to create something that can be really easy to replicate

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as practice for franchise.

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So it seemed like a great idea.

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This store was beautiful.

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It was really popular when we opened it.

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People who lived on that side of town were really excited.

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It started out great,

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but there was one big technical issue,

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which is our point of sale.

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We had started an online store by that point.

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And we were wanting to grow our online store component.

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And our point of sale provider had said that the inventory

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online would be able to reflect both stores.

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It would combine them in the online inventory,

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which is really important for yarn,

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because if you're making a sweater and you know,

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you need 10 skeins of yarn to make that sweater in

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this one color,

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you know,

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if one store shows seven skeins and then the other store.

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So those three and then the online inventory shows 10.

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Great, you're good to go.

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You have enough for your sweater.

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But what happened was once we got going,

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once we built out the second store,

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the point of sale provider realized they had made a mistake

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and they could not show the inventory of both stores online.

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So we had to choose,

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and it only showed half of our inventory online,

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which is a little bit complex to explain,

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but hopefully that helps people understand it massively inhibit our online

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growth. And then what started to happen was we had this

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weird energy divide between the two stores.

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It became kind of the north versus the south and the

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teams rather than coming together,

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they felt competitive with one another.

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And they would fight over which store had which yarn and

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which store had,

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which customers.

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So then it's a whole employee issue too.

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Yes. And employee.

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And it was also a customer issue because they were identifying

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with one store or the other,

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and they were feeling very loyal to one or the other.

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And it was just a negative vibe that started to emerge

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from that a divided energy.

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I've never heard of this before.

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Shelly, if you reflect back,

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can you pinpoint what triggered that?

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I think It was a lot of things.

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I think there were personalities of the different store managers and

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such, but it probably mostly come down to where my focus

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went. It's kind of like when you have two kids and

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you can't give both of them the exact same amount of

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attention, and of course your attention tends to gravitate to the

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newer kid.

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Right. And I ended up moving.

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I actually,

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at that time,

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my kids were going to school closer to the new store.

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So we moved and I was just in that store a

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lot more.

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My energy was more present with the store,

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which I think created some resentment.

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Was there had also the store that had the inventory online?

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No, actually it was the other one that had the online,

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I wasn't driving to hang out in the other store as

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much. And I think that my attention where it was going,

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had something to do with it,

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I was hanging at the new store more interesting.

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Well, and that makes sense too,

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because the new store is also your prototype of what you're

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thinking you're going to do.

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If you were to have moved into franchise.

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Yes. It was the new shiny.

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I tried to balance it,

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but it was difficult.

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And so I think that was a factor,

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but I also think it was just the simple fact that

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my energy was divided.

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I mean that all the energy was divided between the two

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stores. And so if I got really close to actually just

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hanging the whole thing up,

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we had kind of,

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our reputation had grown in the yarn business because we had

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two stores.

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Everyone was buzzing about it.

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They've got two stores.

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Oh my gosh,

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they must be doing so well.

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And I realized now my ego was tied up in that.

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And so the thought of closing one or the other stores

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to me,

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felt like such a backward step that I was about to

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just shut the entire thing down and go back to branding

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because I couldn't take the ego blow of going backwards.

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I get it.

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And it's a perception,

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right? It's not adjusting and moving forward to be stronger,

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but it's what are they going to think?

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What's everyone going to believe about the brand then So much.

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That's what it was ultimately,

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what I decided to do was to close both stores and

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to build a new one out in between the two geographically

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and a bigger store.

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And we got courted by this shopping center.

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So they were willing to do the build-out because at that

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point, our finances,

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we were scraping by,

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I was paying bills by post-it notes of who had called

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the most to get paid.

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You know,

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I mean,

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it was bad.

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Things were really rough.

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Quick question for you.

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Well, this,

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again, sounds like a great move because merging the two together

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brings you back to one store and even if it was

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bigger, it's a change.

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So it gets rid of that potential perception,

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right? Yes.

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But here's my question for you.

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Would you say that running one bigger store from a cost

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perspective is less expensive than running two stores?

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In our case,

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it absolutely was to be able to put all the inventory

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together, just nuts and bolts.

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I had one electric bill,

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even though it was a little bigger.

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Can you just get down to the spreadsheet factor And then

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you're not jumping store to store.

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Yeah. That factor was way,

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way bigger.

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Yeah. And Then immediate solution to your POS system.

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Yes. Add the part that I didn't count on to the

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part that I didn't even think about at all until literally

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the day we opened that new store,

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it was a crunch we had to close one store,

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move it all to the other store,

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close that second store,

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move it all into a space next door to the new

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store. It was like three moves in about 45 days.

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But when we opened the doors of that new store,

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the thing I hadn't thought about with the energy of the

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customers, I thought about it a lot about the team and

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this kind of infighting that we had going on.

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But what I hadn't thought about was how,

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when you had all the customers in one place,

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the foot traffic and the energy vibration,

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I'm really not that big of a woo person,

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but the energy that happens at the store,

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anybody who owns a store knows brick and mortar,

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that, that vibe that happens when it's buzzing at the store.

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And that just by combining,

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just by there only being one place for people to go

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from day one,

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it was like this incredible lift in the energy.

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Interesting. Well,

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first off,

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yeah. What's the vibe.

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If you walk in and you're the only customer in a

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store first off.

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Yeah. But then just by nature of your product to customers

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can start talking with each other about,

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oh, well,

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what are you working on?

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What are you making?

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Like even just at the counter as they're checking out,

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or when people are looking at yarn,

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because obviously they're coming together with one shared interest and it

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just blossomed from there.

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What I love most about owning yarn shop or brick and

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mortar is the community that happens.

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They'll sit down on a couch and you'll have people of

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all ages and backgrounds and races.

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Everybody is sitting together and they're all creating and this magic

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happens and that wasn't happening at the other stores before that

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point, Share with us really quickly,

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what your store looked like,

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what type of departments,

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like you mentioned in sit down on the couch,

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did you have areas where people could work there or share

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with us the visual of what that store looked like?

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Yeah. And they can see if they go online to Lupe's

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love.com. Although we're getting ready,

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we're rebranding and getting ready to move to a 6,000

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square foot space.

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That's another story.

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But what it generally looks like is the opposite of what

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every other yard store looked like,

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that I'd ever been in which they were all very cluttered

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and jam packed with yarn.

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And it was kind of suffocating.

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And just for me personally,

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it was kind of claustrophobic feeling.

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Our stores are very,

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very open,

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modern, clean,

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contemporary, white background to allow the colors,

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the yarn to really pop and everything's highly organized and just

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a really pleasing fashion because I personally have some OCD.

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And I think almost every knitter I've ever met has just

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really appreciates that organized look.

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And it speaks to the fact that I was very frustrated

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as a younger knitter going into shops and having a hard

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time finding yarn that I wanted to knit with and then

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a project that went with it.

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And so our stores are very curated to draw people's eye

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to a project,

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and then the materials they need are right there.

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So they can just grab and go.

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So that's the general vibe it's almost got like Scandinavian feel

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to it.

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Everything's just very clean,

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organized minimalist,

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But really relying on that pop of color from the product,

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from the yarn.

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Yeah. Yes.

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And the inspiration from that,

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we do a ton of finished projects.

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I believe projects sell yarn opposites.

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That's kind of how the store looks.

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And then getting back to just the evolution of what happened

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next, almost right after we opened the store,

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things picked up the,

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when we combined into the one location and then I shortly

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thereafter discovered Jeff Walker and his launch product launch formula.

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And I took an online course for the first time ever.

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And while taking that course,

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I came up with the idea for a subscription business.

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So we started a bag subscription or a box subscription where

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we would send curated kits of yarn and projects on-trend and

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effortless projects and patterns to people.

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It was a very early entry into that category in the

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knitting space.

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And so that took off very quickly.

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And then very long story short,

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Jeff Walker made a case study about me and I won

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this case study contest.

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I went to his live event and I was approached by

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a woman who had done an online summit in the calligraphy

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space to see if they,

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if I would partner with her to do an online summit

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or a variation of it in the knitting space.

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And that is what turned into the knit stars brand and

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masterclasses. And so from that point,

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things just really started exploding.

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And so that was about six years now,

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we're in our sixth year of north stars.

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And so ever since that time,

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things have just really scaled up.

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Okay. This is an amazing story for so many reasons.

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You know,

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number one different types of income versus just selling product in

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your shop,

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collaboration with other people,

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whoever similar audiences,

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yours to ground,

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me and everyone else here.

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It's a lot.

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I know,

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I know.

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What do you have existing today?

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So what we have seen today,

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probably the easiest way to explain it is in terms of

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the rebrand.

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So we're right now,

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we're bringing everything under the umbrella of knit stars.

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So what we have is we have the knit stars,

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masterclass events,

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which are online masterclass summits that happen every year with knitting

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stars around the world.

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It's like masterclass on steroids is how I explain it.

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And what happens in those classes and what happens is if

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people sign up for miss star season six,

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let's say they're going to get to 10 workshops from 10

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different knitting celebrities from around the world that we fly to.

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And we produce a series of workshops like instructional classes and

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a documentary style lifestyle video,

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where they get to really see what makes the person tick.

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They get to see what their home and their office is

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like, meet their family and their pets.

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And it's kind of like mini movie.

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Ooh, I want to do one.

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Well, I'll give you I'll hook you up.

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Really get personal connection with the designer,

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whoever was the head of that class.

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Right? And then something that they have made and created that

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you're also going to be able to replicate with the appropriate

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instructions and materials.

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That's it.

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And some of them do a project.

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Others. It's not always a project.

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Sometimes it's something more driven towards helping people in business.

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We have one guy who is a knitting or godliness.

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He teaches people how to have the right posture when they're

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knitting. So they can have lifelong knitting health.

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It's sometimes on yarn dying.

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We specialize in putting together a really cool slate of stars.

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Every season.

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It's a very collaborative group event that has really,

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I think,

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changed the face of not just knitting,

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but also just craft in general.

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I don't know of any other model.

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That's exactly like it,

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it sounds amazing.

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It's the fastest growing area of our business.

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So we haven't just started masterclass mints.

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We have what used to be loops club.

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That's my bag membership.

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Right. But it's now called knit stars club.

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So that's a monthly club.

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People can join.

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They're part of a community.

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They have a bunch of resources and then we send kits

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quarterly now,

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not monthly anymore,

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but quarterly,

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if they choose to get these fun curated kits,

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four times a year,

Speaker:

and the kids are now designed to dyed by knit stars,

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by people who've been part of the net stars masterclass program.

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So that's kind of elevated.

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Wait, I want To point something out here about that then

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too, is these are kids that you can't get anywhere else

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because this is yarn that is created intentionally just for that

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kit. Yes.

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And then we pair dyers and designers and they work together

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collaboratively. So that pattern is created,

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especially for the yard.

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And then we add extra cool little things that go into

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kit too.

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It's kind of like the store experience in a bag.

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And that's what we try to make it like and super

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Special because it's really,

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really one of a kind and limited you're either going to

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get that kit or you're not.

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Yep. Every bit of it.

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Yeah. Oh my gosh.

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That's brilliant.

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Okay. I'm sorry.

Speaker:

I didn't mean to interrupt you,

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but I just wanted to point that out.

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So everyone really recognized that.

Speaker:

Yeah. And then the flagship store,

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which again,

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we're moving to a new location that is about 6,000

Speaker:

square feet.

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It's in a really cool area of Tulsa where a lot

Speaker:

of these top digitally native vertical brands like Warby Parker and

Speaker:

free people and things like that are located.

Speaker:

And it's going to be full immersive experience,

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more of a retail experience than just a store per se,

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that brings together these different parts of our business.

Speaker:

And then we also have an online shop that goes along

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with our brick and mortar,

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which currently is residing@lab.com,

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but it will call come under the knit stars umbrella this

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year. So people can go to shop for special yarns and

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tools and things like that.

Speaker:

It's all interrelated arm of the business is it's all just

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different ways to meet people where they are and give people

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a resource,

Speaker:

not just great yard and a great inspiration and great support

Speaker:

for their whole knitting journey.

Speaker:

Because honestly,

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I was just so isolated and unsupported in my journey.

Speaker:

I want to change that And feels like you have an

Speaker:

entrance point for anybody depending on where they are and what

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their interest Crochet too.

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Right? Knitting,

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crochet, it's all just yarn.

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We even have an Amazon store now because I realized there

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were a lot of people that were going on Amazon and

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trying to learn to knit and ordering materials that were just

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really not great and not getting the support.

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Right. How do you,

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what do you do if you drop a stitch?

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You know,

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you don't have anyone to help you.

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We recently opened an Amazon store with just a few of

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our own products,

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more and more.

Speaker:

We're starting to have our own branded products.

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And Are you under Amazon handmade or do you qualify for

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that? Do You know what?

Speaker:

I don't know what that is.

Speaker:

I don't know what that is.

Speaker:

What is Amazon handmade?

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There's A whole separate section of Amazon.

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That's called Amazon handmade.

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I think that might be for your knitters who want to

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sell finished products,

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kind of like it's a competitor of Etsy for sure.

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Or I won't even say a competitor.

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It's just another audience that you can reach.

Speaker:

But as you know,

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with Amazon,

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it's more of a volume play versus really a relationship development

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type Thing.

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Yeah. For us,

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the main reason we're doing it is honestly,

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I don't want it to sound markety,

Speaker:

but it's more of a lead generation thing.

Speaker:

Like to find where they are already and help bring them

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into our world.

Speaker:

So they're not out there floating without support.

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Sure. I mean,

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I think we all need to be considering that as we're

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building our businesses is where can we get the visibility and

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intercept with people who have a need that we can serve.

Speaker:

Right. That's exactly what you're doing here.

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So your progression of the growth of the business was retail

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shop first,

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then the online store.

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Yes. Then your kits and then the masterclasses.

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You got it.

Speaker:

I like to bring that up because if someone is brand

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new and listened to what you just said,

Speaker:

it would be like,

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so overwhelming,

Speaker:

like there's so much Oh yeah.

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Do it the way I did it.

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Do not do it.

Speaker:

Well, do what you're away.

Speaker:

Right? Like whatever the way is.

Speaker:

But I think the way you did it,

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it's working.

Speaker:

Look what you've got going.

Speaker:

Now, everyone encounters different opportunities too.

Speaker:

Along the way.

Speaker:

Like I think more people would start probably with an online

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shop, maybe some kits with including in their online shop,

Speaker:

eventually get to a retail store.

Speaker:

If they ever wanted to,

Speaker:

you know,

Speaker:

everyone has their plays the game in their way,

Speaker:

Just to be able to have the options now is amazing.

Speaker:

Yeah. And everybody can win in their own way and how

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you want to run your business,

Speaker:

which is going to lead into my next question here.

Speaker:

How are you organized to manage all these different facets?

Speaker:

Like how does that even work?

Speaker:

Because honestly,

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it was insane for a really long time up until honestly,

Speaker:

about, I would say three years ago,

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I was doing all of the online myself.

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Okay. Meaning the membership,

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the kits,

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I was designing the patterns.

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I was sourcing everything.

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I was managing all the buying.

Speaker:

I was like doing the word,

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creating the graphics,

Speaker:

everything because you Could,

Speaker:

but you shouldn't.

Speaker:

It was because in my mind I had hired a bunch

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of people to work in a yarn shop.

Speaker:

It wasn't fair to make them do this other part that

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I had created.

Speaker:

So in my mind,

Speaker:

I needed to do all that part myself.

Speaker:

Now that was not sustainable,

Speaker:

obviously. Right.

Speaker:

And at a certain point,

Speaker:

a friend helped point that out to me and my team

Speaker:

started to step up.

Speaker:

And then I started to look outward,

Speaker:

limiting beliefs that I needed to hire people only from Tulsa

Speaker:

and people that were knitters.

Speaker:

And both of those things really limited my ability to think

Speaker:

about in the big picture of what I needed to grow

Speaker:

as a team.

Speaker:

So once I got over that,

Speaker:

we started to get to the point where we are right

Speaker:

now, which is currently,

Speaker:

I have a director of operations who is based out of

Speaker:

Wisconsin and comes into town.

Speaker:

Quite often.

Speaker:

We have a total team of about 31 people.

Speaker:

But out of that,

Speaker:

there's maybe six full-time MERS,

Speaker:

but we have people.

Speaker:

We have VAs like in Europe and in Africa,

Speaker:

we've got a lot of contractors helping us out with various

Speaker:

things. I've got different business coaches and lots of contractors involved.

Speaker:

And then still lots of part-timers that are working part-time in

Speaker:

the store are coming in and helping ship and things like

Speaker:

that. So it's a significant team now and it's growing rapidly

Speaker:

and we're really working to bring in more higher level thinkers,

Speaker:

more project manager,

Speaker:

commerce director,

Speaker:

things like that,

Speaker:

higher level thinkers to help grow the business.

Speaker:

The next level it's pretty much night and day from what

Speaker:

it was just a few years.

Speaker:

And this is such a scary juncture for so many people

Speaker:

bringing in and starting to have somebody else put their hands

Speaker:

inside your business at whatever role that's going to be.

Speaker:

Do you have any advice for someone who recognizes that?

Speaker:

There's no way they can grow.

Speaker:

If they're still going to stay a one-woman show,

Speaker:

it's just not going to work.

Speaker:

Yeah. So what should they look at?

Speaker:

How do they decide who that first person should be?

Speaker:

What would you say to someone like that?

Speaker:

Ooh, I can't wait for you to hear Shelley's answer to

Speaker:

this because I'm thinking you may be in this same position.

Speaker:

That's up next.

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To for more information,

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go to the ribbon print company.com

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Piece of advice for everybody.

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And this is in the book as well.

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And I even have a guide for a printable guide.

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I number one piece of advice.

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And one thing I wish I'd done differently was to hire

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sooner and more often,

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I think you have to get over the idea of the

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word hire.

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It doesn't necessarily mean full time.

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It doesn't necessarily mean they have to be a knitter or

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they have to be in your town or those kinds of

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limiting thoughts.

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Just think about what is the part of what you do

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that you least like to do,

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or is most out of your zone of genius.

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Right? So for me,

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and for a lot of creative people,

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I have found those two things are tech and finances,

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right? Agreed.

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A hundred percent.

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What people need to understand is there are people out it

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that doesn't mean you have to go hire a COO edit

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with a six figure salary right off the bat.

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You can hire,

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there are VA companies that you can hire somebody to just

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help you for a few hours a week at a really

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affordable rate.

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So there's very iterative,

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very simple,

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baby steps.

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You can take in this area,

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but the faster you recognize,

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what is your zone of genius versus your zone of competence

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versus your zone of incompetence.

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Somebody else can do it in like a hundredth of the

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time that you're going to put into it.

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And meanwhile,

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while you're trying to scramble and figure out that tech thing,

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what's that done to your creative juice,

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you know,

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what's that done to your vision?

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I spent years and years and years putting together my own.

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I called it Franken systems,

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right? My own cobbled together tech nightmare that has taken years

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and years to undo and redo.

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So I just tell people way before you think you can

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afford it,

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open your mind up to the possibility.

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So that the moment that you can have some informational interviews

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with people,

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just allow yourself to explore it rather than just completely shut

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it off and set this unrealistic goal.

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I'm not gonna be able to get any help until I'm

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making X dollars a year.

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It's much more likely than you think.

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The other thing is,

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if you absolutely don't have the resources,

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the other thing is mentors,

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whether you do or you don't getting mentors sooner,

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especially in the areas that are not your strength,

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getting help with a business plan.

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I found a friend who had an MBA who helped me

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write my first business plan.

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He had no background at all with retail or yarn by

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any means,

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right? But he knew how to write a business plan.

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People want to give back.

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They really do.

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They want to help.

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They want to help lift other people up.

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And so finding mentors and finding low cost options that can

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support you in the areas that are a struggle for you.

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That's my number one piece of device,

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as soon as you can.

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Great suggestions.

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And I think also when you put in your mind that

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when you hire somebody just as Shelley is talking about,

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and then it frees you up with time in your business,

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that extra time then can bring in more sales too.

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It's not like money is just going out.

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You're opening an opportunity to figure out that new idea,

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create a kit,

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creates whatever is applicable to your business to bring in more.

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But when you don't do that,

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when you're stuck doing everything and your days are just full

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of do it,

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do it,

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do it,

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do it.

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You never have a chance to build anything that can help

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you grow.

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Yeah, I guess the work smarter,

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not harder thing.

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I think the thing that people discount is how much mental

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and emotional energy I used to make myself do bills every

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Monday morning.

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Well, did I want to do anything creative Monday afternoon or

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sometimes even by Tuesday,

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you know,

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I was so depressed from all the bill paying and how

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much I hated that process,

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that it just stopped me for days.

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So you have to consider that and really pay attention to

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what it's doing to emotionally.

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I really agree with you there.

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I want to swing back to something we talked about in

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the beginning,

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because if we don't,

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people are going to be saying,

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wait, you didn't talk about this.

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And that is the blue ocean red ocean.

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So I know we are challenged with time here a little

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bit today,

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but in the time that we have left,

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can you just share a little bit about blue ocean red

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ocean? So we get everybody on the same page and then

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how that applied to you with the business.

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Yeah, sure.

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And I actually didn't learn about this until years after it

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had already been out in the world,

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but it was a real eye-opener when I learned about it,

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there's actually multiple books called blue ocean strategy.

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There's different variations of it.

Speaker:

But the basic concept is that in business,

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you want to be away from the red ocean and in

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the blue ocean.

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And that is if you're out swimming in the ocean and

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you're doing your own thing,

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and you're doing something unique that no one else is doing,

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eventually the sharks will come around.

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All the people are in the same area of the ocean

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and the water turns red because,

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Because just because It's just because that's how it works.

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And so you always want to be swimming for the blue

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ocean. You always want to be looking for a way to

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separate yourself from the pack.

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And this applies in branding.

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And as I looked back,

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I realized how much it applies in my business.

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Like the thing that has really propelled me for the most,

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I think is to think about what no one else is

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doing for the customer and find a way to do that

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thing in our very first store.

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The most unique thing about that first store was that created

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something called the hot loops wall,

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where you could walk in and you could see a finished

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project made up photographed with all of the yard to make

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that project and the pattern right there.

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And that was a revelation in knitting stores,

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right? And we still have that wall today.

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It's one of our iconic elements of our store that was

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blue ocean.

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That was every other yarn shop in the world was piled

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high to the ceiling with yarn,

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but nothing was tied to a project.

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And what appealed to me about knit stars when I was

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approached with the idea was,

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wow, there is nobody in the world doing something like this,

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and this could really change how people think about knitting and

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it can really connect knitters.

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So at every step always be looking for,

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don't go to the red ocean,

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like, oh,

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everybody's doing this way.

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That must be the way that I should do it.

Speaker:

It's really a flip in your thinking.

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People think that's the safe path.

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It's the unsafe path to do it the way that everybody

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else is doing it,

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you always have to be innovating.

Speaker:

And there's a great book.

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Have you read remarkable retail?

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Have you seen that?

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Yes. I have read that.

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Yes. You probably recommended it.

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And it just got revised in the wake of the pandemic

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too, which I thought was amazing.

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He already revised it after one year,

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but this is the core message,

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especially in today's world.

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It's not an option.

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You have to be going to the blue ocean.

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Yeah. It's such an important message.

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Especially for handmade creators who make a product that is a

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common product that we all know candles or pampering products or

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even jewelry.

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I think jewelry,

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you can be a little bit more personable depending on what

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it actually is.

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What you're designing actually is,

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but it's gotta be more than that.

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It's gotta be above what the product is.

Speaker:

And Shelly,

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when you said,

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you know,

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all I had to do was look at the customer and

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see what they would want and get value from that didn't

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already exist.

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Yep. I think creatives sometimes particularly will think,

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well, I have to do it the way that all the

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other business people are doing it.

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Cause I don't understand business.

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I should do it the way everybody else is.

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But it's the opposite of that.

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You need to lead into your greatest strength,

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which is your creativity and think,

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how can I separate myself?

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I mean,

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you probably don't want to create jewelry that looks like everybody

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else's jewelry.

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So like how can you create business that doesn't look like

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anyone else's business,

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Give them a reason for them to come to you specifically.

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Yes. And don't be afraid that you're limiting yourself when you

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personalize down.

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Yeah. And honestly,

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with lots of things,

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like I'm a candle lover.

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I E the candle question,

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Sally, but I don't just buy a candle from one person.

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I like candles of all different types.

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And I buy them for different reasons based on people that

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I know,

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the type of handles,

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they are all different types Of.

Speaker:

And that's the fun of life lead into that.

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That's the lasting power.

Speaker:

That's the staying power.

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Yeah. Final topic.

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Because we have to talk about your book,

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the book.

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How did the idea come about?

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Tell us a little bit more about The,

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you know,

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I had no grand plan to write a book,

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like many things in my life.

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It just kind of came out of the blue.

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I was actually flying back from filming our third season of

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net stars in Norway and Finland and Denmark.

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And I was exhausted.

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I've been on this production trip for a couple of weeks,

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got on the plane.

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It was too tired to knit,

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which never happens.

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I was too tired to even pick a book.

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But the first book that popped up in my audible app

Speaker:

was bird by bird,

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by Anne Lamott,

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fabulous book.

Speaker:

If people haven't read it.

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And it was talking about the importance of telling your story.

Speaker:

And as I was flying over the top of the world

Speaker:

and listening to it,

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I realized,

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I think if I write the story,

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people are always asking,

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how did you get here?

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Why did you leave branding?

Speaker:

How did you get to where you are with knitting?

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This doesn't make any sense.

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You know,

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I thought,

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well, if I wrote a book and it got out there

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in the world,

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maybe it would help a lot of people.

Speaker:

Maybe it would help other people figure out how to put

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their passion first and not wait until they retire or someday.

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Right. Maybe it would encourage people to go ahead and take

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that first step.

Speaker:

And so I kind of mind mapped it out.

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Like I mentioned earlier,

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I saw these common threads of being told can't and then

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I wrote the book and hay house decided to publish it.

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And it ended up making the wall street journal top 10,

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which was unbelievable.

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Congratulations. That's amazing.

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I had a Ted talk just come out actually this past

Speaker:

week called how your weird little hobby can help change the

Speaker:

world. So it's pretty applicable actually to your audience.

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I think they sort of go hand in hand.

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So yeah,

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the books have really resonated with people.

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It's interesting.

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I love most of all,

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of course my audience read it and responded well,

Speaker:

but what's really cool is when you hear about totally different

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kinds of craft business or people that started fitness businesses,

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right? From the principles of the book,

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I think people that are looking for that second career,

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but also especially women coming out of college,

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wanting to do something they're passionate about.

Speaker:

Not necessarily follow the usual path.

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People can get it anywhere.

Speaker:

And we have a website,

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the needle book.com

Speaker:

where there's some extra bonuses.

Speaker:

That's got the resources that I used and relied on a

Speaker:

lot. It's got to find a mentor guide.

Speaker:

I've got a book club guide.

Speaker:

So if people go to the needle book.com,

Speaker:

they can actually see the Ted talk at the top of

Speaker:

that page.

Speaker:

And then they can get some extra goodies for getting the

Speaker:

book from Amazon or wherever they get the book.

Speaker:

Perfect. But if they go to the needle book.com,

Speaker:

that's where all the goodies are.

Speaker:

Yeah. And people should definitely listen to your Ted talk too.

Speaker:

That sounds amazing.

Speaker:

Like this last week I was supposed to give it at

Speaker:

the beginning of the pandemic March of last year.

Speaker:

And then it got postponed due to the pandemic.

Speaker:

It was recorded on the stage,

Speaker:

but without a live audience about six weeks ago and then

Speaker:

just went up on the 10 sites.

Speaker:

So yeah.

Speaker:

Good timing.

Speaker:

Perfect timing.

Speaker:

Well, they knew we were going to talk today,

Speaker:

so they made sure to put it up right away.

Speaker:

Well, wonderful.

Speaker:

Well, any final comments for everyone who's listening here today?

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We, my biggest Comment is to think about not just what

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you're doing,

Speaker:

but finding the mission underneath it.

Speaker:

I think for me,

Speaker:

that's when things really started to change was when I sort

Speaker:

of landed on this mission of knit the world together,

Speaker:

which on the surface may sound a little cheesy and people

Speaker:

kind of get a giggle out of that.

Speaker:

I have found as things have moved along,

Speaker:

that I've actually been able to really connect people,

Speaker:

really help people connect through their hobby to have deeper conversations.

Speaker:

And it literally can change the world.

Speaker:

You can change people's hearts and minds.

Speaker:

You can help people start to see that there's a lot

Speaker:

of other people like them all over the world.

Speaker:

You can have a lot bigger impact than you think you're

Speaker:

talking about candles and knitting and things.

Speaker:

People might dismiss it.

Speaker:

But the reality is it's where the really good stuff can

Speaker:

happen. It can create a bond between people that can transcend

Speaker:

the craft itself.

Speaker:

And so that is my mission.

Speaker:

Once you really land on what your mission and life purpose

Speaker:

is, you'll draw a team to you.

Speaker:

You'll draw customers.

Speaker:

They'll just naturally be drawn to you,

Speaker:

creates a kind of a magnetism.

Speaker:

And so I would just encourage people to set aside an

Speaker:

hour or two and really think about you get on this

Speaker:

on the hustle.

Speaker:

It's such a scramble as a startup entrepreneur and just creating

Speaker:

that space to really think about where could all this lead

Speaker:

to dream a little bit and think about what kind of

Speaker:

impact could you have on the world with this thing that

Speaker:

others might dismiss as something not really important.

Speaker:

I just want to encourage everybody that whatever you're doing right

Speaker:

now, it can go really big places and make a really

Speaker:

big difference in the world.

Speaker:

I've seen it,

Speaker:

not just with my own business,

Speaker:

but with many others.

Speaker:

And you're doing a great thing,

Speaker:

Shelly Fabulous words.

Speaker:

You are such a great role model.

Speaker:

And example of exactly what you just talked about.

Speaker:

Thank you so much.

Speaker:

I appreciate giving us a behind the scenes of how the

Speaker:

business started,

Speaker:

where it's going.

Speaker:

You're definitely someone to watch as you continue to grow and

Speaker:

evolve. I want to take a peek at that new store.

Speaker:

One of these days,

Speaker:

if my travels ever bring me down that way,

Speaker:

Thank you so much.

Speaker:

This has been great.

Speaker:

And I've loved the perspective that you bring with the wider

Speaker:

perspective and what you're doing for people in the making spaces.

Speaker:

I appreciate it.

Speaker:

Thank you so much.

Speaker:

Take care and have a great day.

Speaker:

Shelley has an amazing story.

Speaker:

Doesn't she?

Speaker:

And it's still being written.

Speaker:

I think that's one of the beautiful things about each of

Speaker:

us starting our own visions and writing our own stories.

Speaker:

It's unpredictable sometimes a little scary and uncertain.

Speaker:

Get the next chapter is always up to us.

Speaker:

Perhaps I've gotten your wheels turning here.

Speaker:

This podcast provides you with resources that you can refer back

Speaker:

to at your convenience.

Speaker:

And to do that,

Speaker:

I have a great way for you to find what you're

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looking for.

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Have you ever listened to a podcast here knew you wanted

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to write something down relisten at another time or come back

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and grab a resource that was mentioned,

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but for the life of you,

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you can't remember what episode it was in.

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Well, now you can find it instantly.

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forward slash search,

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enter keywords on any topic you want.

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Yay. I'm so excited about it.

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And quite honestly,

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I've been using it for myself as well.

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That link again is gift biz,

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unwrapped.com forward slash search.

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Make sure to join me next week,

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where we're going to be talking about how to make the

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Oh my gosh.

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It's about time.

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If you found this conversation helpful,

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take a moment to follow rate or review on your podcast

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player of choice.

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Did you see the new layout in the apple podcast app?

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It's entirely different.

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Just something new for us to get used to and now

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be safe and well get out and enjoy these beautiful Midsummer

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days. And I hope you'll join me again next week on

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the gift biz unwrapped The podcast.

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I want to make sure you're familiar with my free Facebook

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It's a place where we all gather and are a community

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Got a really fun post in there.

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That's my favorite of the week.

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I have to say where I invite all of you to

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reaction from other people and just for fun,

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because we all get to see the wonderful products that everybody

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