We sit down with Christina Pardy, founder and CEO of Sh*t That I Knit (STIK), a Boston-based, female-owned and -operated business that has been creating handcrafted knitwear since 2014. In addition to turning her side hustle into a successful business, Pardy also gives back to the community at home and abroad – and even secured partnerships with the NFL, NHL, and Team USA for the Beijing Olympics! She graduated from Skidmore College with a B.A. in art history, business and management.
Tell us about the original spark that convinced you to switch careers and focus on founding STIK.
STIK was very much a side hustle in my early 20s and a way for me to be creative outside of my 9-5. Soon, though, it was consuming my free time, and to be honest, I was updating my site, knitting, and meeting people for coffee while I was “at work.” I was 25 at the time, and my fear of regret was bigger than my fear of failure. I decided (with my parents’ support) that I would try to make it work, and if I failed, I’d get another sales job. It’s been eight years since then!
What advice would you give other young entrepreneurs who are considering launching their own private company?
My advice is to take a week off work and pretend that your side hustle or company is your full-time job. Taking the leap to pursue your passion is really scary, and sometimes people jump too soon and get burnt out by the rejection and loneliness. Filling your day when you’re used to having a boss or structure is hard! By jumping too soon, you often take the fun out of it. Take a week off of your current job and see what it’s like – meet people for coffee, find your rhythm of working from home by yourself, and experience what it would be like to jump fully in.
How important are mentors to you?
So important. I have a list of “STIK Supporters” who are mentors of mine who have helped me in some way over the years. I email them about once a quarter to update them on how STIK is doing, and the list is now over 50 people! This is a great practice whether you’re an entrepreneur or trying to grow your career. People want to know how you’re progressing and how they can help. I would usually end meetings with new mentors or contacts by asking them if they knew of anyone else I should connect with who might have ideas for me. You never know who you’re going to meet.
You partner with local families in Peru to give back to the community while simultaneously scaling your business. Tell us more about that.
We currently employ 400 artisans in Lima, Peru, to knit all of our accessories. When I started STIK, I was knitting everything by hand, so the thought of scaling production to a factory in China never crossed my mind. While that would have been easier (and cheaper), it wouldn’t have helped our brand. Our customers love the story of empowering women in Peru, and it’s my favorite part of the business.
That’s not your only philanthropic initiative. Can you speak more about the “Give-A-Sh*t Knit Kits”?
While we’ve built a certain level of “giving back” into the business model and how we produce goods, we also try to give back to our peers in the U.S. I started the “Give-A-Sh*t Knit Kits” after a friend was diagnosed with leukemia. I taught her and some friends how to knit, and through this it became apparent how therapeutic knitting is – you have to turn your brain off and focus on what’s in your hands. We donate our knitting kits to young adult cancer programs across the country. Our first partner was the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, and they’ve been wonderful to work with.
You secured STIK as an official licensee of Team USA during the 2022 Winter Olympics. Talk more about that.
When I was in sales, my dad told me, “No asky, no getty.” I saw the results from implementing that motto when we landed the partnership with the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Properties. I had met the head of consumer products at a pop-up we were doing in New York in 2016 and just went for it – first by asking for his card, and then following up politely over the next four years. By August 2020, we had a signed contract! It was not an overnight win, but it took being confident enough to ask and ask and ask until we closed the deal. Working with Team USA for the Beijing Olympics was incredible. It has also opened up my eyes to the licensing world. We continue to work with Team USA and have added all of the NFL teams as well as several NHL teams on local licensing deals to our licensing roster.
What do you want the next five years to look like for STIK?
I can see the licensing side of our business really taking off! We are planning to grow our partnership with the NFL (which started this fall) and are in talks with several other leagues. We offer a unique product in the market that hits a lot of points that these leagues are looking for – products for women, a female-founded brand, a focus on sustainability, and a really quality beanie that is actually warm!
Christina, thank you for your time.
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