Joining me on this episode is Christina Pardy from Sh*t That I Knit.
Sh*t That I Knit is a knitwear and accessories brand dedicated to creating high-quality, handmade products using premium, sustainable materials and are handmade by a team of 170 artisan women in Lima, Peru.
Working with companies like STIK allows these women to knit from home, enabling them to take care of their children while earning a viable income to support their families.
In this episode we’re covering how Christina turned her love of knitting into a million dollar business, how she went about outsourcing production to women in Lima and how she’s learned to approach failure when things don’t go to plan.
Please note, this transcript has been copy pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!
Thank you. My name's Christina and I'm the founder and chief marketing officer of Sh*t that I Knit my mom taught me as a 10 year old. It's always been for me, I love to do. And it was in college that I actually started a terrible website and blog 98 dot com as a joke.
00:03:33 My sisters have been making fun of me and said When you start a website called chip that I met, so I did. Um, and then when I graduated from college, it was just sort of my like fun fact I started doing as a side hustle and then it kind of spiraled out of control from there in 20 15, 2014, 2015. Oh my gosh, amazing. I want to go back to that point in your life where you were, you know, doing it as a blog and then you realize that you could actually, you know, sell this stuff and and get customers and build a brand around that light bulb moment. Can you tell us about that time? Yeah, well for one living is kind of expensive. So all my friends would say like, oh, nick me ahead of me ahead, like you can pay for it. Um, so I definitely wanted to figure out a way to sell things that I was making, but the name really stuck with me the most out of anything. So when I graduated from college with this very bad blog that no one read, um, an instagram started being a thing I decided to get the instagram handle. So I could have a way to post photos of shit that I had met on instagram and not have it clog up my personal, very curated feed and so I was doing that and I actually ended up going to a market in boston called so a, it's an artist market and it was at that market where we did really well selling our things.
00:04:48 Um and at the time I still had a 9 to 5 job, so it was very much like very much on the side not paying the bills, but it was at that market that I noticed that people loved the name when they were walking past our booth, they all sort of nudged each other and it would spell it out and say, oh shit, but I think it's so funny. Uh so I was really like, I'm really much more into branding than anything else and that was, that's what really intrigued me to keep going. Um so yeah, that's sort of have a light bulb went off and when you were at those markets, like how many pieces were you selling? And like, you know, to customers and things back then. Yeah, at the time it felt like so much my mom and I actually spent the entire summer leading up to an october market knitting nonstop. I was a total drill sergeant, I was like keep getting, you know, we have to get all these things made. Uh and I think we probably sold a couple $100 worth of things to different weekends. It's all he did, but it felt like a lot of the time. It took a long time to make all that inventory ourselves by hand. Uh And you know the time sales, you know, selling 10-15 hats was a huge huge deal.
00:05:53 So it probably wasn't a ton, you can't totally remember exactly how much we sold, but we did well, it was super exciting and you're like, oh my gosh, I'm seeing this come to life, How did that evolve? And what were you doing that made you be like, oh hang on, I'm going to quit my job and like go into this as a business. Yeah. So I after that market, we got into a little store in boston, a couple of different stores were interested in what we were making. And then it hit the holiday season and my mom and I couldn't just keep getting everything ourselves. You know, we have moderate social lives and didn't want to get Carpal tunnel just knitting all day long. And I had a full time job. So I actually instagrammed out that I was looking for women to help me produce are things. Uh and I was figuring it was going to be all older women who maybe wanted to knit in exchange for charity donations or something like that turned out to be all women in their twenties and thirties, just like me who love to knit and watch netflix or it on the way to work as one of their favorite hobbies. So we assembled a group of women in boston, about 20 to 30 women who would come to my parents house, pick up yarn, go home, sit on the couch and bring back the finish good later that day.
00:07:03 And so it was at that moment where it's getting a lot of energy attention on instagram and had this really amazing group of women working with me that I was like, I think I need to quit my job and give this a shot. Uh That was sort of what pushed me over the edge, wow, that's so cool to have that community of women who are like yeah we can get involved like many things from the couch. I love that. That's so cool. Yeah. Did you need any money to get started at that point? And is this 2015 that we're talking About? Yeah, I was 2015. I apologize throughout this conversation the years all blend together, but I know 2015 that I quit my job. Um but yeah it was, it was around that time. So I quit my job in May of 2015 knowing that I need the entire summer to build up an inventory and launched a Kickstarter that fall. That was my goal. So actually ended up moving home with my parents used all my savings to buy yarn. I was actually buying yarn from stores. I was buying at retail which is not recommended, it's very expensive, but buying yarn and then having all the inventory made with this group of people in boston.
00:08:11 Uh so I spent that summer and at the same time really preparing for a Kickstarter that was going to launch in september knowing that I needed to do a lot of pr for that, a lot of marketing have everything set up perfectly so we can you really successful on Kickstarter. And so how many things did you, did you have to make for that Kickstarter? Like what was the expectation that you would sell? Our goal was to raise $15,000. Um and so I had enough inventory for that and what we were selling on the Kickstarter was just a discounted, hat so you could buy one of our products that we were going to be making, um and we ended up raising that 15,000 and under 24 hours and then By the end of the Kickstarter raised 25,000 and our goal was just to make sure that we could fulfill those orders by the holiday season. So it was, it was pretty nerve racking. Um Now looking back on it, I realized there are easier ways to get 15 to $25,000 but it was a really great way for me, not only to raise money but also to get in front of a lot of people have little articles written about us, have a really great video made that showcased our brand really well and then also get people wearing our hats the first season without having to front load that amount of money uh since we had the money from the Kickstarter.
00:09:29 Yeah, and I also imagine it really validated the idea because you were like, well all of these people want what I'm producing, so this is a pretty clear sign that I should really, you know, launch hard kind of thing. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And at some point you decided that you needed to outsource further and you started working with women in peru, which is just so incredible. The amount of women that you work with now is amazing. Can you tell us how that evolved and how you, you know how you landed on peru? Yeah, so after that Kickstarter I was sitting around thinking looking at a very small bank account, realizing that I probably was going to need more money because we had spent so much money actually producing things and that it really wasn't very scalable to continue working with the women were working with in boston um, just because I wanted to grow the brand in such a big way that anyone I talked to from an investor perspective or anything like that basically said like Christie and this is just isn't scalable and not from a financial perspective as much as there just aren't that many people in the US who want to knit like this for work.
00:10:35 So I started doing a lot of googling, I was getting all of our young, it's all Peruvian marina wall. So I sort of started the google search their thinking from a carbon footprint perspective makes a lot of sense to have everything made, where the yarn is made and Prue has one of the longest standing traditions, admitting it's something that's passed down from generation to generation, so so knowing all that is great, but actually finding a group is not that easy, I don't speak spanish, must have had a people glasses of wine. Uh, so I, so it was not very easy to find them, but I did end up stumbling across a nonprofit that connects artisan groups to brands and I called her on a Tuesday night and said, how do you do this? And she happened to know the group we still work with today. Um she connected us and yeah, now we, we've grown with them, they work with a couple of other brands, so their business is doing really well and so is our, so it's nice to grow up together, wow, have you been over there? Yeah, a couple times. Um, at first, you know, I really didn't have any money, so I sent them, my life savings over Skype, basically, I was like, okay, looking forward to working with you, you go, yeah, fingers crossed, this works and I ended up going deaf, so I sent the money, you know, sometime in 2016 and I went down while it was in production in october and met them and went around to the different networks of women who are getting.
00:11:55 Um and it was wonderful. So we've gone down, we go down about every six months, sadly haven't been able to go down recently due to Covid, but, but I love visiting and it's so much easier to work directly with someone versus what's happening and email and samples going back and forth. But totally, and you work with like 100 and 70 women there, I think I read that's incredible when you speak to those women, what is it that you bring to their life? Yeah. So in lima, it's generally not totally normal for a woman to work outside the home. Um, Meanwhile they have a couple of kids. Maybe their husband isn't providing for them in a way that's enough for them to really take care of the kids, that the way they want to. So this is a really great option for them to, to be employed bringing incremental income while staying close to their kids. Uh, they don't have to leave home where they have to leave their neighborhood in order to get the yarn. Uh they don't have a long commute lima, is it? Have you ever been to lima peru, no, it's a huge sprawling city and to get anywhere. It takes so long. So much traffic.
00:12:58 So do not have a commute is really huge. Um, so they can stay right in their neighborhood, learn how to knit with the woman next door, learn our patterns and and create Really amazing work. Um and on top of that, on top of the financial security, they also have this really great community, some of these groups have been getting together for 20 years and it's what they do together and they support each other and some of them are 60, summer 19, they're swapping parenting advice, taking care of each other's kids, you know, helping out. You know, it's actually a really nice sisterhood community that they love supporting. That just sounds so magical. And I'm sure that kind of um, you know, story and that messaging and that purpose that you bring to the brand is why your community continues to support? Absolutely, yeah. I think I always wanted to do good through this platform, and and I really like that. We do that just from the way we do business. Uh it feels really right that the way we're actually producing our things is the right way. And it's a point earlier community, and I don't have to force it in some marketing messaging is just how we do it.
00:14:04 Uh oh, I do love that, but that's a piece of our business totally. What is driving growth for you now and, you know, over the last few years, what are the kinds of things you've done to leap ahead? We really in the beginning again saying, you know, we didn't have a lot of capital, a lot of marketing dollars relied really heavily on social media marketing and organic or NPR so those have been the things that have really driven the business the furthest by like getting our hats on celebrities just from me emailing their managers and saying like, hey, can I send you something uh to really great pieces of pr again from me harassing journalists or you know, now our in house pr person doing that. Um, and then also just from word of mouth marketing with customers loving are half telling their friends about it and then spreading the word because they love the brand so much so it's, it's really been on a shoestring today. We have a little more budget to test out different things, but that's really how we got started and is the reason why you have more budget because you've done some friends and family rounds since I think I read.
00:15:12 Yeah, so we, we luckily are very profitable, which is great as we do each year. We invest everything we make back into the business and have more budget opened up to do that, but then have done a friends and family around, which we did after the Kickstarter and then a small seed round two summers ago, So exciting and does that go into, you know more products and like the actual yard or is that in terms of marketing and building out your team and things like that whenever I think about giving away equity, I definitely don't want to spend those dollars on inventory. I think that it's now in the place, we are as a business easier to get inventory financing. Um like Shopify Capital and Quickbooks and all these great platforms have really easy ways to get money to finance your inventory. But when I'm thinking about raising money to give away equity, I really want to spend that on ways to grow the business. So yeah, marketing dollars and really what we spent our last round on mostly with people, we hired four more people. Um, and that's where I think we grow the most is when we have really smart, really creative people who are really scrappy.
00:16:16 We're still not having a huge marketing budget, but we have someone else who has an idea and can actually execute it. So that's how we, we've spent those dollars. I feel like your brand will be just, you know, the ultimate on Tiktok, Have you been playing around? They already, we've been trying, I, I feel like I need to get someone else to do it. I feel like I've aged myself out of Tiktok behind, I really need to get that out and really, really badly. It's like on my to do list. I think I need to like get the babysitter and like spend an entire day doing reels? Uh, so I can absolutely, I feel like Tiktok is just the place for vier al Itty and growth at the moment. Um someone that I was, I was learning from and she's actually been on the podcast before is a woman called Rachel Peterson and she's kind of like, you know, the queen of marketing with Tiktok and she gives like program like free programs and has a youtube channel and all this kind of thing. So I basically followed her. Um, I think she does like a few challenges, like the 30 day challenge in this kind of thing and I basically followed what she said and I grew really quite quickly to 10,000 followers.
00:17:21 So I would like highly recommend her, you know, learnings and it's just best practice stuff. Like it's not any secret recipe or anything like that. It's just like following her best practice tips and then, you know, actually it's quite like easy to grow in a way that I feel instagram has really changed and it's not easy to grow unless you, you know, are doing like really out there. Things. I feel like that virology level isn't the same on instagram anymore. So yeah, pilot recommend getting on Tiktok and I'm writing this down. Yes, Rachel Peterson, she's really cool. Okay. I'm like really old, definitely. I felt the same. I felt the same. I want to talk about something that you did last year? I think it was, which is the Tony birch program, can you talk about that experience and what you are able to gain from going through that Yes, I was so excited to apply, I'm a huge Tory Burch fan um and she has this great foundation, she says that when she started her business, her main goal was when she was successful, she was gonna start a foundation to support other female entrepreneurs And she's done just that, which is amazing her for the first couple years, they only had about five fellows and then they would do a big competition to raise money the year that I got in there actually 50 fellows and it was a weeklong workshop at the Tory Burch offices in New York, so they flew us all input us up, it was really nice and like lots of bags and all the fun things, but really what it was most helpful for was surrounding myself with other female entrepreneurs for an entire week.
00:18:57 I like, I haven't been to rehab but I feel like it was like rehab for female entrepreneurs, so nice to sit down. Anyone you sat down next to had whether she was in knitwear or cybersecurity had some sort of similar problem that she was trying to figure out and so it was just really cathartic to have the opportunity to sit down and talk to people the whole week, so it's really great. I highly recommend applying no matter where you are in business because there were people who had raised millions and millions of dollars and the people who had just started out. So it was a really nice mix of people. That's so cool. What do you think made your pitch or your application stand out to get into the program? Well, that's a good question. I think that I think probably the way that we produce everything with our team in peru and the way we give back, I like to think of myself as an aspiring Tory Burch where we're giving back through this platform. We donate knitting kids too young. Adult cancer patients were always trying to find ways to give back to ship saying it.
00:20:00 So I think that probably helped us in a way. And then also just the way we've grown the business. Um, no craving them totally. Absolutely all of that is so special. And I think that that impact that you're having on different communities, like not even just your own community that you've obviously had in boston, but the women in peru and cancer patients. Um, I want to talk a little bit about the net kits that you did and how that came about. That's so special during the quarantine or or are getting kids the knitting kits. Full cancer patients. Yeah. Um, so I, we we didn't really have any like give back program formalized when I started the business but year or two in a friend of mine was diagnosed with leukemia and her mom asked me to come out and teach her in a group of girlfriends had a knits and she couldn't really leave the house. And I was like, absolutely, I come to do that. And so we had a night where we taught her how to knit and everyone was doing and her mom turned to me at the end of the night and said, jeez, you know, I haven't thought about Annie's cancer in the past two hours and that's all I thought about for the past three months, but it was really nice for me to be able to turn my brain off and just do something else.
00:21:11 And that's, that was just the moment for me that I realized this was a really authentic way to give back. So I got in touch with a young company and had them donate all the yard and all the materials. And then I linked up with Dana Farber, which is in boston and they were our first partner. So we work with their young adult program and we basically just donate the knitting kits. We made videos so someone can learn from wherever they are. They don't have to go and potentially interact with other people. They can learn from their couch or their hospital bed on an ipad. Uh, and they can just take their mind off things, even if it only sticks for five minutes, it's like at least five minutes of something fun they're called Give a shit in that kit. So it's kind of tongue and cheek and silly and uh it's a nice way to a nice way for us to get back. So you donated, I don't know, close to maybe 1000 kids um over the past couple of years, so it's a nice, nice thing to be able to do, wow, it sounds like it's a really therapeutic practice. I know, um one of my girlfriends has recently gotten into netting and she finds it really therapeutic doing something with her hands completely having focused on that one thing and not being on a screen.
00:22:16 So I, I totally imagine really length, that's a really nice moment for someone else to have. Yeah, exactly. I'm wondering about, you know, turning a hobby into a business and how you've kind of progressed from, there's something that you really love, but it's also something that potentially causes you stress that now, you know, brings you a totally different experience from hobby to business. How have you dealt with that change and how do you continue to manage? You know, keeping the spark alive for the love of knitting? Yeah, that's a great question. At first, it was definitely difficult because it was something that I really love to do, and especially when I was physically making the product that took the hobby that I love to do and made it really not fun. Uh so if it's something you totally love to do, but you don't want to make a billion of them, I don't recommend having this path because I can, I can take the fun away, but over the years where we've been able to outsource and and get help in the actual production, I've been able to keep getting up as a hobby, but really also like shit mine, it was my hobby, it was like such a fun, the creative outlet, especially when I had a really kind of 49 to 5 job and I've always reminded myself that I did this to have fun, like I did this, it was fun for me and it was bright and happy and I don't ever want it to be something that's a drag and there are tons of total drag moments, but for the most part it brings me a lot of joy.
00:23:40 So I was going to make sure I check in with myself and make sure like this is still what you started out to do, you know? Uh so yeah, it can be hard though Yeah, and you're baby? Is everything 100 percent are you, are you needing at the moment? I just finished, I had like two different projects going, I had a little sweater for my, for my daughter that I finally finished that I started the day before she was born and I was convinced he was a boy, so it's a very boy sweater and then a christmas stocking, so I'm excited to have clean sleep. I need to figure out the new project, a new project totally. Yeah, every business has its challenges and obviously there are lots of ups and downs when you look back, is there a story that you can share something that happened? You know that at the time probably seems like a really big deal, but you know, over time you're able to look back and lull about it. Yeah, so many. And I think I also, I think you probably speak to a lot of entrepreneurs who are delusional, like I think I'm delusional, I sometimes forget about the bad moments and if my mom were saying here, she'd be like, I can list out all the breakdowns you've had so fun because I think you can hold on to it too much.
00:24:54 Um but one moment that really stands out as our first hats, when for pom poms were a big thing, We have real fur on our hats and somehow Pita got our name in the mix. Um and I was so small, like literally just me at the company, it's just Christina and we got put on their national website, there are social media, everything and I got thousands of horrifying emails. Um our social media was just covered in really scary comments and I was like actually scared for my life, like I was afraid to go to my office because we have our address for returns? Um It was really a dark time? It was right around the holidays. So like luckily we had gone through a holiday season, but it was just, I felt like I couldn't instagram anything because everyone was going to comment on it. So that was definitely um a low moment, I thought I was going to go to business ended up finally getting peter on the phone and like I said, my but in my case and they finally lay off and we do use faux fur which I feel so much better about today.
00:25:59 Um I never liked digging through for pom poms that I'm a total animal lover. It was what the business was at the time. And so that was definitely not ideal, but it, you know, and that sounds like such a stressful situation. My God, how did you actually cope with that? Mental like stress? Like what did you actually do during that time? At one point I was definitely on the ground crying, I definitely had like a moat. Um but I think I had to sort of just like I luckily got this woman on the phone and was like, oh my God, like it's just me, I know you're a nine um much I am a pretty level headed person so you know, I was able to get through and move on, but it was definitely, that sounds like a really rough time. Holy goodness, wow. Yeah, and I think that it's like those kind of moments where you're like, ok do I quit or do I keep going? And you have to take that path of like, I'm just going to have to persevere through this and really like take on the lessons that there are and just move forward.
00:27:05 Yeah, Yeah. Gosh, that's an impressive one. Looking to more brighter things, more happier things. What does the future look like? What's happening for you in, you know, coming up to the holiday season, What's happening next year? Yes, this year definitely was a weird one. Um we made a lot of changes, we had plans to do all these fun pop ups all over the, you know, in boston new york and Chicago and had to make a big, a couple big changes. Um so I'm excited to reinvigorate those plans hopefully for next year. Um but our goal really isn't necessarily to expand our product line is it is to just expand geographically. So we're really, mhm. In boston, very new England based and we want to make sure we can grow, so just get our hats on more and more people. So I think we're going to have a wider price range next year potentially and and be able to grasp different parts of the market, so that's that's the big goal, it sounds super exciting, What advice do you have for women who have a big idea and want to launch their own business?
00:28:10 Good question, I think just do it my thought process when I started to design it was that I'd rather fail than regret it. Um I was 25 I was like I don't want to look back on this, you know when I'm 50 or 60 and they had this idea and I didn't do it. I think that that's so much scarier than failing. Um and so I would say, yeah, I just just go for it mm hmm And if you can do it on the side for a while so it's not too much pressure and you can have fun with it and find your audience and test things and get advice from people while it's still not paying the bills. And then and then take the late totally We are up to the six quick questions part of the episode. So question number one is, what's your, why? I I think my wife really started was was to bring some happiness to the world um and I always want to continue doing that and whatever whatever initiative we have. So yeah, just being, having fun and being happy and being that, being our customers best friend, That's that's my why?
00:29:14 Oh I love that question. Number two is what do you think has been the number one marketing moment that made your business pop. Um my first or second year, I was at a movie and I wasn't looking at my phone and I came out of the movie and Kristin Cavallari had tagged our hat on instagram and we had sold through all of the hats that we had on hand plus more because I had some setting turned off allowed to sell through uh so we saw hundreds and hundreds of this one hat and that was so big for us to get that kind of attention to really grow our instagram following and she's been such a great influencer for us. So my big moment, Such a big moment. That sounds so exciting. Question # three is where do you hang out to get smarter? What are you reading? What are you listening to? What you subscribing to? Yeah, well not during covid times, I love to surround myself with other female entrepreneurs. I really grown as a business person from connecting with people and just asking them to grab coffee and talk about their business.
00:30:19 Um and so we actually started a we call it like girl boss lunch um and so I invite all the women that I know in boston to join us, we do some networking and you know help each other out and the list has grown to about 80 people now and I feel like that's really how how I get smarter is from talking to people who are going through it too. So I miss those days. I'm hoping we can pick them up against him totally. That sounds like such a cool lunch. I definitely want to comment wine is always involved and it's a great, great afternoon. Yeah, it sounds like bliss. Question number four is how do you win the day? And that's around your am and PM rituals that keep you feeling happy and motivated and successful. Oh, definitely a lot of coffee in the morning. I'm a morning from a total morning person. I'm usually in bed at like 8:30 or nine. Uh, so I'm up around six or seven having a coffee and a full breakfast and I love to watch the today show and just have like a moment of quiet before the day gets started and then at night I really do try to turn off, try to get off my devices, spend time with my family.
00:31:28 Um, you know, especially during this weird time where we're all working from home. It's really important to me to make sure that I shut the computer uh, and and have some family time and turn off my brain a little bit. Maybe knit maybe going to run or a walk and get away from work. Oh my gosh, I so know that feeling. I'm just so sick of my phone. I'm like, so adding now with these days. It's actually ridiculous. Hate it. Yeah, I need to do more to get up in. It's really hard to admit. I think I'll get off. I should start knitting. I should, I should do a little meeting. question number five is if you only had $1000 left in your business bank account, where would you spend it? I think we spend it on product. Uh, we started out without any money to go towards anything else besides product and, and I think that I can get a lot done. Um, not a lot of money