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Everyone With Creative Ideas Should Get This Book

How do you get your creative ideas out into the world? Even if you’re surrounded by doubters? You’re going to find out in this interview with the author of “Move The Needle” Shelley Brander.

Interview with Shelley Brander


The Power of “Can’t” [1:56] 

Stu: Shelly, I’m stoked to talk to you because you’ve got a brand new book coming out that is absolutely a must-read for 99.99% of people in our audience. It’s a beautiful book about hope, and about taking an idea that people don’t believe a business can be built around and making it happen. You talked about how you started to see a through line as you were writing this, where people have told you you couldn’t do something. How has that moved you forward throughout your career?   

Shelley: I didn’t really have plans to write a book. I was on my way back from filming Knit Stars in Norway, and I opened up my Audible on the plane where the first book suggested was Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. I didn’t know who that was or what the book was about, I just hit play. In the book, she talks about the power of writing, and I started to feel this desire to write a book. 

She also talks about mind mapping as a tool to get started, so when I got back and rested out, I mind mapped my life, and I kept seeing the word “can’t” pop up. I thought back to my earliest memory, and it was when I was four years old. My mom was going to go to the grocery store and I wanted to go with her, but she said it was going to be a quick trip and left without me. So I went and told my dad that I was going to get the mail. I got on my tricycle, got the mail and then I kept on going. My mom was coming back from the grocery store, and she was like, ‘Oh my god, who would let their kid out on a highway?’ I got in a lot of trouble but I remember feeling this sense of empowerment. The word “can’t” has never sat well with me, it was like gasoline. When I took “can’t” and moved past it, that’s when the really amazing stuff happened. 

What Does Shelley Do Now and How Did She Start Off [4:55]

Stu: Can you give everybody a sense of what business you have now? Then we’ll  unpack how you got to that point. I think there are a lot of great lessons for anybody who has an idea that they’ve been thinking about for quite some time. Or they’re in a creative niche where they’ve been told they can’t make money in that niche. 

Shelley: The primary business is Loops. It started as a local yarn store 15 years ago. Today, it’s a global brand that is an e-commerce site, a flagship store and two memberships, one of which is Knit Stars. We fly all around the world and film documentary style and teaching videos with famous knitters. We bring everyone together through inspiration, teaching, learning and community. Our mission is to knit the world together, which means bringing people together and helping them connect, and then go out and spread joy and positivity. 

Stu: You built this amazing business in the knitting space in a very creative and progressive way. But I know that it didn’t just land in your lap. For anyone who is on this creative journey, where do they even begin? 

Shelley: The first thing people think is that they’re going to lose the thing they love. If they do it as a business, they’ll lose the passion for it. I’ve been doing this for 15 years and I definitely haven’t lost the passion yet. The other problem is that people think they can’t make money off it. Creative people have a big hang-up about charging what they’re worth. 

Going back to how I started, I was a copywriter at an ad agency, and then ended up starting my own agency. But I started to think, ‘Is this what I want to do forever? Am I making an impact on the world? Is it something I want to pass on to my kids?’’ I started to feel like what I was doing every day wasn’t making any difference. I had learned to knit when I was 16 and I was the only knitter I knew, so I felt very isolated and never had that support community. There was a yarn store in town, the owner of which was going to retire, so she asked me if I ever thought of doing this. At first, I said ‘No way, I would never do my hobby as my job.’ But it stuck with me and wouldn’t go away. So I finally decided to write a business plan and started taking the baby steps. From the moment I told people I was going to do that, they said I was insane. But if you have that thing that just keeps coming up, there is a reason and you need to listen to it. The sooner you take action on it the better. 

Keeping Track of the Impact You’re Having [14:09]

Stu: You said you started taking the baby steps, but how do you know you’re on the right track? If you start moving forward, and you’ve still got this pressure and people, but you feel that desire to keep moving forward. What happens next? 

Shelley: There were lots of moments that didn’t go the way I expected. But as long as it’s lighting you up on a daily basis, and you’re having some positive effect on people, that’s what kept driving me forward. Even when you start with a very small launch and focus on one or two people that you’re helping, that’s what did it for me. 

In the yarn store, I would see all types of people sit down and knit together, experience the magic and form connections. Seeing the joy happening with other people that I had experienced, and seeing the connection that I had always longed for but never had in the early days as a knitter. Keep track of the impact you’re having, because before you know it it’s everywhere, and people can feel that. 

Stu: When you’re an artist, you have no idea whom your work can impact. As entrepreneurs, we’re all going to have our ups and downs, but the thing that fuels us is the passion, and also the people we get to serve.

Shelley: There’s a line I use in the book, ‘Creative is the new currency.’  As Artificial Intelligence (AI) comes along, the number of jobs it’s able to replace is mind boggling. But with creative, you have job security. One thing AI can’t replace is your creative ability, so as we move forward into the coming decades, I want you to know that your value as a creative is everything. Whatever you think you should value it at, you should probably double it. I didn’t think I was going to be this transparent in the book, but I wanted people to know that I’m not some crazy superwoman with magical power. No matter what you’re facing, you can push through it, you do deserve it and the impact you’re going to have on the world is worth it.

Understanding Your Worth and Deciding What to Charge [21:28]

Stu: I want to ask you about something that relates to everybody, whether it’s a creative business or not, and that is understanding our worth. How did you get the clarity to understand how much to charge for what it is that you were creating?

Shelley: Being in the ad business helped me a lot, I had to get comfortable with my value as a creative. Even when I wasn’t producing tangible things, I was making up ideas and writing, and that’s a really vulnerable place. As far as the yarn goes, the biggest moment was deciding what to charge for my membership. It was tough even after years of experience. You have to invest in yourself over and over again, and to know what you have to offer is worth it. What gave me the confidence to move forward is support from people, and also asking the members what they think it’s actually worth for the value they get.  

Building and Cultivating Community [24:34]

Stu: I never knew until I met you was how vast the knitting community is. What have you done on your end to begin cultivating this community?

Shelley: The biggest thing I’ve done within my niche besides building a community itself is upleveling the expectation for the production levels. The other thing is that top people in my industry were paid very poorly. A lot of people in the creative industry struggle with the same problem. By coming up with the structure we did for Knit Stars, we’ve been able to massively uplevel what the top people in their game are making. As we’ve moved on through Knit Stars, we’ve just completed our fifth season and had 50 different stars or masterclasses in knitting, and we’ve been able to shine a light on people that maybe haven’t shone the light on themselves. 

Stu: When I observe from the outside, you’ve done an amazing job of lifting people up around you. I believe your community really connects to that – they can feel that this is about them all being together and about upleveling what they do in the knitting community. 

Scarcity Mindset of a Starving Artist [28:59]

Stu: I want to wrap up with one final thing. When you hear the term starving artist and the whole mindset around it, what do you think now?

Shelley: I think a lot about that term. My husband, who is a painter and went to school for fine arts, was looked down on because he was a graphic designer. People would say you’re a sell-out. As a writer, I was a sell-out for being a copywriter. If you’re in that mindset that you need to be a starving artist to be a true artist, you’re in a scarcity mindset. And when you’re in that mindset, you can’t serve people anywhere near as well. I lived in that place for the first 12 years of Loops, just struggling and struggling. And then when I did my first membership, it broke it open and gave me some security. Only until that moment could I look back and see that I was in such a scarcity starving mindset. If you’re starving, how are you going to feed everybody else?  

Stu: I appreciate you for all of the stories you’ve intertwined all throughout the book, and highly recommend everyone to go and grab a copy. Any final thoughts, Shelly? 

Shelly: Just believe in your creativity, believe in yourself. And if you need an injection of hope, read the book and figure out how you can put your passion first. I would love for this book to be the launch pad for a million creative businesses.

Memorable Quotes

  • When I took ‘can’t’ and moved past it, that’s when the really amazing stuff happened.” – Shelley Brander
  • As entrepreneurs, we’re all going to have our ups and downs, but the thing that fuels us is the passion, and also the people we get to serve.” – Stu McLaren


Move the Needle by Shelley Brander
Knit Stars
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

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