Episode #17: How to Get Creative in Business with Shelley Brander
Welcome to Women Rocking Business, where we are here to help you rock yourself, rock your life, and rock the world as a woman entrepreneur. Because the world needs you and the time is now. I’m Sage Lavine, CEO, trainer, unretired camp counselor, and best-selling author of the Hay House Book, Women Rocking Business. We’ve had the honor of serving over a hundred thousand women entrepreneurs around the globe, just like you, who are here to do more, be more, and have more by giving your gifts to the planet. So let’s dive in.
Hello everyone. Hello. I am here with Shelley Brander. If you do not know who Shelley Brander is, she is the founder and the CEO of Loops Productions. She’s got an incredible following online and in the world of creatives and a lot of women creatives. She’s also got an awesome local yarn store in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and she gets awesome creative and knitting resources into the hands of those who want them. She’s got an amazing website, www.knitstars.com. She’s just got a new book out, which I’m so excited about. I just ordered it. Together with her husband, Brent, who is a graphic designer, turned into a full-time painter, Shelley and Brent have three creative, compassionate grown children, and usually at least three dogs. Shelley is on a mission to knit the world together.
She’s knit hundreds of thousands of powerful women creatives together from Kyoto to Majorca, to Copenhagen, to the United States. For any of you that are launching a movement who are building an online following, especially rooted in your own creativity. I was so excited to bring Shelley to you today. Shelley, I’m stoked for your new book.
Thank you, Sage, so much! You’re the best. I’m so glad to be here and share.
Oh my gosh. So for those of you who are launching a movement based in creativity, why creativity? What do you love? What are you most passionate about? Especially those of you that might be artists, healers, messengers, and for you, Shelley you know, you and I have talked a little bit about this cause where we run into some of the same entrepreneurial circles, you know, you had a really successful branding business and like you kind of had like a free ride, like paved for you.
It was all working. Then you were like, “I’ve got this passion” and you opened up a local yarn store and it grew into a global movement. Like what in the world has had you choose this path?
I know it sounds really, really crazy. I think just like all the best things, it just came to me, right.? It just came out of the blue. Everything was rolling along. Like you said, we were doing branding for Hard Rock and AT&T and living the life.
I just started to feel something was missing. I just felt like, “do I want to be selling casinos and phone service for the rest of my life?” You know, “Is this something I can pass on to my kids? Is it really going to make an impact in the world?
It’s not, like I said, “Oh, knitting, that’d be the thing!” I just started to feel the pull. Ever since I had learned it and I was 16 years old, I’d always felt really, I loved it. I fell in love with the process when I first did it, you know, the to be able to make something out of nothing…to take sticks and string and just like create stuff. I geeked out on it. I loved it so much, but I could never find other people that I wanted to share it with. I couldn’t find other teenagers. I couldn’t find fashion-forward people who were, you know, it was all just pretty grandma. It was the stereotype.So when this moment came to pass, I would go to this one little yarn stop in my hometown. The woman said she was retiring and we weren’t going to have a local yarn shop.
She said, “You should open a yarn store.” And I said, “You are crazy!” I have a business, I have kids, I have all this going on. And she’s like, “I just think you have the energy. You should do it.” It just stuck with me. It just kept whispering in my ear, just like over and over it wouldn’t go away. I think that that’s the sign.
That’s the sign! When something won’t let go of you. I have heard some version of that thousands of times. Literally.
I know, I know it’s so true. When I hear other people say that I get so excited, I’m like, “That’s where you’re going.” And they always say, “No, I can’t go there.” They give you a thousand reasons why it’s like, “No, that is your thing. That’s where you need to go.”
If it won’t let go of you, that’s where you need to go. That’s a huge tip right there. It’s almost like you will suffer a lot more if you don’t just surrender to this thing that’s tapping you on the shoulder. You know, ever since I met you, you’re lit up from the inside out. Like you just carry this air of passion with you. I truly believe that that’s because you keep saying “yes” to what wants to come through you. One of the things that we’ve talked about and that you and I think are similar about, and the women who are in this community, this entrepreneurial women’s community, Women Rocking Business, it’s like, we know that creativity is currency. We know that, but yet there’s a lot of us that are still, including a lot of the women here, are still in the process of turning their creativity into currency.
You know, what do you mean by that when you talk about it in your book?
Yeah. It’s something that I’ve struggled with all my life. I started as a writer, I’m married to an artist, righ?. I’ve always struggled with this. I think all creatives struggle with this – putting a value on your creativity. And you know, the thing is the more that AI comes into play, right? AI, artificial intelligence, is proliferating like crazy. They’re coming up with ways to do so many things and it’s amazing, but the more AI rises, the more value creativity has. Things that AI can do. The more important it, and the more precious creativity is because that’s the one thing that robots can do.
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Creativity is because that’s the one thing that robots can do.
Yes. I love hearing that, you know, I’ve got this little app on my phone and I can turn photos into watercolor, you know, things, but I’m a watercolor painter. You know, sometimes I turn something into water color and I’m like, “Eh.” The vision I had in my mind, the water color version of this is not, you know, it’s not accessible by the click of a button and so while applications and artificial intelligence… while we have all these tools at our fingertips, creating something that is unique and one of a kind of video and painting a mosaic, you know, a scarf it’s like, this is the new currency.
Something else, Shelley, that has just occurring to me is that creativity is responsible for generating money. Like if you think about it, you know, my acupuncturist has told me before, like the very chi, the very energy that generates our creativity, that is our generating channel. So it’s like if we squash our creativity, we will actually squash our ability to make money, you know?,
We know it intuitively too. People know it because the more digital the world gets, the more we crave, you know, that whole slow movement that has come about, you know, the antithesis of fast fashion. Like we know it. The more time we spend on our screens, the more we crave those moments where we can just sit down and move through the creative expression. It’s like you just said, you know, when you do it on your computer. Yeah, it might look cool, but you’ve missed the chance to move through that process, that creative expression, that process that like releases stress. People feel that it’s a very tangible thing. So that’s what I mean by creative is the new currency.
It is the new currency. Yeah. I love that you said that. I love that you’re getting people knitting because whether you knit or whether you play guitar or whether you paint it’s like… I’ve actually fed my business by doing those things, you know? Interestingly, if I have clients that have hit upper limits in their business and they can’t get it going, and I find out that they love playing guitar and they haven’t played guitar in three months and I’m like, “Fricking go play guitar tonight.” Then the next day they get a new client. Do you know what I mean? It’s like, I think knitting is the same thing. Like it’s a little tedious for me. Like no offense to all you amazing knitters.
That sounds like a challenge.
I accept the challenge. Give me some like really bulky yarn or something. Then if I can create something in an hour less, and it’s possible for me.
Sage, that’s how I roll!
Okay, cool. Cool. Okay. We’ll talk after that after the session, but you know, for those of you guys that know you have something creative that you’ve been squashing, like let us know in the Sisterhood group, let us know on the comments thread, you know, let us know what that is, because I think when we can claim, “I am getting back to this creative act that I know feeds me, that I love.” That’s going to help you build your business too. You know, another thing that you talk about and in the book is in the third section, I think you said… You mentioned when things unravel and you talk about a time when you almost shut down your business, what happened there?
Yeah. So here’s what happened. My original goal with Loops was to franchise and it worked for a little bit. We opened, we had two stores going and because of that, we had a lot of notoriety on the international yarn scene. “Oh my gosh, there’s two stores. Oh, they’re growing and there must be something special about this place.”
So my ego was very tied up in that. But it wasn’t working to have two stores. It created a whole, it created division. It created a division of energy among my team. They were fighting over who had what yarn and the customers were fighting over, which store was better. Everything was going South. I was about to just shut the whole thing down because for me it was more, I couldn’t, it was more of a failure to go down to one store than to just shut the entire thing down and say, “Oh, that was a nice experiment. I’m just going to go back to the branding.”
You know, it would be such a public failure to close one store. I was just so tied up in that. And when I finally decided, “Okay, that’s what we’ve got to do. We’re going to shut down both stores. We’re going to open up one big one in the middle, and we’re going to start to sell more online. You know, we’re going to go more online to make it more available with people.”
That was the moment that everything changed. Like literally I was up till four in the morning, hanging fixtures and getting ready to open the store. I went home and went to bed. I slept for about an hour and a half. I woke up with more energy than I’d had in seven years, because it was like, “This is the right path.”
Things were about to change. This is like,I just knew. It was just there when I woke up. So that was, it was a huge lesson in when things seem to unravel, i actually is your opportunity to knit it back together better than it was before.
Yes. I have experienced that several times in my business where it seems like things are blowing up in my face. My team’s blowing up. People start triggering each other. Things seem like, like almost more chaotic than, you know, a business’s chaotic, but like more chaotic than is manageable.
If we can surrender to that and trust it and keep walking through it, like, my experience has been the same where like, we just put even stronger foundations in place. We get to the front side of it once and for all. I think that’s what pushes things through to creation. I love hearing you say, like, when you’re on purpose, you can, you can have 10 times more energy on an hour and a half of sleep. I’m just a big believer, you know, I’m just a big believer and I see it in you.
I look back now and I wonder if this is the same for you. When I got through that moment, I looked back and I had no idea how much negativity and scarcity and anger and fear that I was carrying around literally for years. It was mounting mounting mounting. And it was only when I got on the other side I could I see how that was holding me back. I can’t believe how blind I was for so long, right? Yeah. It was, it was, did you have that?
It’s the water? Well, it’s the water we swim in. Right? So then as we do the work, I think for me, there’s been no substitute for actually just starting the business and going for it. I think there’s no substitute for that. I think sometimes we think if I just do a little bit more inner work, if I justI push myself a little harder at the gym, if I just meditate a little harder, it’s like, no, just go do it. Like, that’s where the confidence comes. That’s where the surrender comes.
That’s so, so true. I look back… Part of why I wrote the book is it took me 15 years to get there. I wanted to write the book to help other people not have to shortcut it for them. Then you look back and go, “Oh my gosh, I could have saved seven years there and five years there.” I could have been, you know, it doesn’t work that, I mean, for me, I know everything needed to happen in the order that had happened, you know? “You can only connect the dots looking backwards” is one of my favorite quotes.
I love that quote. I love the quote.And it’s so true in business. You know, I’m remembering a story that you tell about how you got the location of your first store. Tell us that one.
Yeah. This is a funny one. So actually when I was mind mapping out my whole book, the thing that came to me and I hadn’t really realized it before was that every moment when someone told me that I couldn’t do something or said the word “can’t” is when I really dug in. That was the unifying… that kept popping up everywhere when I mind map the book. So what happened with the store , I wrote up a proposal, write up a business plan with the help of a friend of mine who had an MBA. I submitted it to the nicest shopping center in town. I was like dead set, that’s where I wanted it to be. And I got crickets back.
So I would call month after month after month. And they would say, “Oh, you know, it’s, it’s a great idea. We just don’t have space right now.”
But then I would drive by and I would see that space, like doors were open. So the city shopping center was owned by a billionaire oil baron. He owned a company called Helmerich and Payne and he’s not with us anymore. The shopping center was his little side, like his baby. So after two years, Sage, I call it every month for two years, I was like, “Okay, I got it.” Maybe I was on the wrong path. You know, like, I’ve got to give it one last Hail Mary, and then I’m moving on. Right? So I ordered some cashmere yarn from New York city. Cause I couldn’t get it in Tulsa. And I made Mr. Helmerich, that was his name, a cashmere scarf that I thought a billionaire oil baron might wear.
I found out where he lived, which took a little more research today than it would now. I mean, back then than it would today. But I stopped him a little bit and found out where he lived. I made him the scarf, and I wrapped it up really pretty. I wrote him a letter about how the world needed a more modern yarn store.I wanted to start a global movement and I wanted it to start in Utica square. Yes. I dropped it off with his doorman on Christmas Eve and the day after New Year’s, I got a call that I had the lease.
So you basically made the world’s nicest scarf for this billionaire. You basically like brown-nosed your way into the Taj Mahal of knitting, right?
Yes. What I tell people is here’s the lesson. The lesson is it’s back to that creative superpower. I was like, “Okay, what do I have that no one else can do? What do I have that no one else can bring them to it.” You know, like just, I just leaned into my creativity. When I was making that scarf, it was like intention. You know, I was thinking like, this is going to… I thought about the moment when he opened the package and, you know, and that’s what I tell people all the time. It really stuck. It’s like, “How can you lean into your creativity to find a way around this?”
Yes! Creativity as a means for opening the door to being able to help more people like. I tease you and I say brown-nosing but it’s like, I think sometimes we can be a little bit proud or a little bit self-protected when it comes to really advocating for ourselves and asking. I mean, Shelley freaking went like every day for two months. Like that is discipline. Think so many people wouldn’t be, they wouldn’t have the grit. Don’t be so weak that you won’t fight for yourself. Right? Like when I first, when I first started speaking, I really wanted to MC this event called Spiritual Marketing Quest.
This woman who at the time was like larger than life. She’s incredible. Now she’s a dear friend, her name is Suzanne Falter-Barns. She ran this, you know, spiritual marketing event and hundreds of entrepreneurs would come from all over the globe. And I was like, “f only I could get on that stage.” Finally, I made her a video telling her how awesome I thought she was. I even modeled like, here’s how I would open up your event if you let me. I was just pouring into her and guess where I was two months later on that stage. Right? Shelly and I are here standing for you.
It’s like, you are worth going to bat for, you know, so keep letting us know, keep plugging into the Women, Rocking Business community and letting us know, like, “What are you going to bat for on behalf of yourself?” Because you deserve it! This is your only one precious life.
The video tip is great. That is a great takeaway tip. Like I was trying to reach out to Seth Godin to get my book in his hands. He’s somebody that I’ve always looked up to. Our mutual friend, Michael said video. Because we’re also busy. But if you, if you can’t get in the door with a letter or an email or whatever, and making a quick video is a great way and a compelling way, like they are going to watch that video. They act on it. It’s huge.
If you can get that video in their hands, it is a hundred percent so, so, so powerful. I know that several of our mutual friends that have also read the book, I haven’t read the book yet, but I’m, I’m so excited to get into my hands. But they’re saying that it’s a page turner. I’ve heard of a couple of people that like read it in an hour or two. So like, why are people flying through it? And for those of us that are authors, what can we learn from you?
Oh gosh. Yeah. My favorite new adjective is un-put-down-able with lots of hyphens, right? I mean, that’s the thing, it’s really easy to get caught up and like the numbers and everything, and you get into this traditional publishing game, and the list. Someone said to me, a very wise friend said, The best way to sell a lot of books is to write a great book.”
So I’ve tried to stay focused on that. You know, even as we approach and publish date to stay really focused on these reviews that are coming in and what they are saying…the common thread and was like, “I couldn’t put it down. I opened it. I was going to read a chapter. It was two in the morning and, you know, I couldn’t stop.”
What they’re saying, what I’m hearing, is a couple of things.
Number one, it’s just very, very raw and vulnerable. I just got really real with the stories, because I wanted, especially women to know that like, obstacles are going to come, things are going to unravel. This has not been a cakewalk. I want you to see the stuff that I’ve been through, just like, whatever you’re going through, we’re all going through stuff. You can still make it, right? You you can use that as an energy source. So that was one thing. And people respond a lot to that. They appreciate the openness.
The other thing is I just, I’ve been a writer all my life. And my style is just very, and I have a journalism degree. Right? I learned all the grammar stuff. I know all the rules, but I really like to break them. My style is just very conversational.
People have said, “I just feel like I sat down and had a glass of wine with you, or had a cup of tea with you. It was like, we were sitting there together just talking about life.”
That, I think, is what helps people move through it. It’s about 300 pages, but I personally struggled to read really big dense books, you know, like, especially print books, unless it’s story-based and conversational andI feel like I am making a friend, you know, ? We all do that work reading, right? You know, like I’ve been reading Caste, which is amazing book, very dense, very intense information, very life-changing book. But I mean, it’s not a, you know, sit down and chill out and, and relax kinda book.
The other thing I’m hearing a lot of is…At first I worried about this timing, about the book coming out right after the New Year, it seemed like, “Oh, won’t people be busy with the holidays?”
I think it’s turned out to be the perfect timing, because we’ve all just come through 2020. It’s been such a time of reflection and struggle for so many people, especially creative people. I think about the performing arts and what it’s done to like Broadway. So I think the timing is great because it gives people a moment to look reflect and really give them hope that they could put their passion first. They can choose their passion first. They don’t have to do the thing…They have to do their whole life until they retire and then get to do the thing they want to do.
SoI’m getting that feedback and people are really starting to think. I mean, it’s pretty powerful when people are like, starting to think, “Okay, yes, I could do this. I’m going to change. I’m going to do the thing I’ve always wanted to do.” Which is what you do, right? You do that. You fire people to do that. That’s very much in common.
Don’t waste your time. Don’t waste your life. You know, it’s like, there’s a line in the Bible that says, “That which is expressed inside you will set you free.” It says, “That which is inside of you and unexpressed will eat you from the inside out.” I tell this to people. It’s just like, don’t wait, like Shelley, I think your message so needed right now. I think there really couldn’t be a more powerful book to be coming out right now. You’re a hundred percent right that no matter what has gone on in your career, no matter what losses you’ve faced, there’s something burning in you and that’s what’s going to pull you forward.
That’s the answer, you know, the fatigue, the overwhelm, the confusion, it falls away when you get fully on purpose. Shelley, I think you, and I would agree, like we’ve seen this in so many of our colleagues and so many of our friends, you deserve this, you know, you deserve to go for this. You know, I know you’ve got some amazing bonuses when people get the book. I know people can get the audio book free when they buy the book for a super limited amount of time. So we’re going to tell people all that, but as we’re wrapping, let’s also, what can you leave aspiring entrepreneurs, women who are starting their business, but they’rerealizing it takes like 90% of their energy just to get the rocket ship off the ground. What can you leave them with in terms of just not giving up?
Yeah. I mean, for me, the thing that I realized the most looking back is that when my son was diagnosed with autism, that that opened up a well of energy in me that I… At the time, it seems like the biggest devastation, like there would be no way to survive it. Now I realized that opened up a well that propelled me through all of the challenges of entrepreneurial-ism. So whatever, right now looks like a barrier might actually be your springboard. So recognize that and I will say just practically speaking, the book is in four parts and the final part is building your creative team.
The biggest regret I have looking back that would have made the biggest difference for me, would have been to surround myself with more mentors, more and more accountability buddies, more people of tribe. Right? I didn’t have that for a really long time. Now we know, again, we have friends that we are in a tribe together, you know, but it is the fastest way to move forward quickly and with less stress and hire, as soon as you can, cause like the things that you hate to do will drag you down. So you, you don’t have to hire full-time people. There’s so many options… VAs and all kinds of help, and people will help and people want to help you.
Don’t be afraid to ask, that dream mentor, because people want to pay it forward. You know, practically speaking, that’s what I really want to leave people with.
You touched on the key things, right? Two of the big things I see women entrepreneurs struggle with is isolation and overwhelm spinning out. You just nailed it. If you have mentorship, if you have somebody working for you, you force yourself to show up, you know, that’s the way through and to really get that support.
I’m just so excited about the book. You guys head over to www.theneedlebook.com/freeaudio. That’s www.theneedlebook.com/freeaudio. We’re going to put that link here with the [podcast] as well. You’ve got some really cool things happening right now. When people buy the book, what else do they get when they get the book?
There’s a bunch of cool bonuses. We’ve been in pre-launch. So the course there’s like example chapters and, you know, audio chapters. There’s a great list. I actually give my resources that have been the most valuable to me in this journey because people always want to know that stuff. So there’s the tech resources, there’s the personal development stuff. There have put some really significant resources that I truly could not have done it without. We’ve made that page dynamic so we can update it on a regular basis as new things happen, or people come up with new products or links or things like that. So that resources list, I think, I mean, that’s the question. The other question I get most often, other than “How did you get here,” iyou know, what tools, what tips, what, what resources can you give me? Where do I start? If I want to grow an online business, where do I go? So we need to add you to that page.
Yeah. I’ll send you over a link will get me in there. Shelley, I’m so excited for you. I especially encourage you guys who are inspired by Shelley’s creative journey. Especially for also for those of you moms, you know, Shelley, you have not let being a mom stop you. You’ve walked through many challenges with your children and many triumphs and joys. Being a mom has fueled your drive. It’s just so inspiring to me. It’s like, don’t let there be an excuse that keeps you from getting out there and pouring yourself into your next creative endeavor and your next creative currency, especially in your business. What’s the last thing you want to leave our women with?
Oh gosh, Sage. I just going to leave it with, I’m just so grateful for you. I’m just really grateful for your friendship. You’re just the light in the world. Anybody that follows you and is watching is lucky to know you. So I want to leave with that and I really appreciate time and support.
Let’s leave with an invitation to continue. Co-creativity not just creativity, but co-creativity and co creating and collaboration, you know, ‘cause that’s what you see Shelley and I doing here. That’s what I’d really like to invite you guys to move into this new year with is just the sense of you’re not alone, link arms, you know, trust mentors, you know, getsupport and get yourself the resources Shelley’s book and the resources that come along with it are absolutely invaluable. I can’t wait to get my hands on it whenever I’m in the general vicinity of Shelley Brander, I basically just want some of her juju and I think you can see why.
So just you guys go over to www.theneedlebook.com/freeaudio.. That’s www.theneedlebook.com/freeaudio. We’ll see you over there. Thank you so much, Shelley. Thank you. Bye everyone.
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