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Cheeseball 2018

Well, here we are!! Another holiday season in the books, I was planning on writing this post around Jan 1, but guess what – it’s been below 20 degrees for what feels like a lifetime, and people need their hats. Due to New England weather, the STIK season is far from over, but the demarcation of the end of a year is a nice excuse to reflect and be cheesy - (I’m also writing this on a train to NYC, so you can bet I’m listening to emotional music while looking out the window pretending I’m in a music video).

2017 was a BIG year. While we’ve seen 3x growth YoY (year over year, dummy) since the start, this was the first year I’ve felt truly confident in myself as a business owner. First I’ll admit that I’ve always been an overly confident person, even when I had a bowl cut, braces, and looked like a British boy as a 13 year old, AND I think my deranged self-confidence is one of the reasons I took the risk to start a company with the word sh*t in it, but trust me, this is just a different feeling.

I think the feeling stemmed from a really successful fall that was set up by a very thoughtful and intentional summer. Our summer was amazing. With three hardworking interns, we worked moved out of my apartment and into a studio space and got to work. We expanded the brand ambassador program, worked on our packaging and brand messaging, emailed a billion editors (seriously, a billion) to get into gift guides, overscheduled me for the fall at every event possible, sat around and had anxiety about hitting lofty sales goals, and did lots of other things that I won’t admit in case you’re a competitor and you’re trying to steal my ideas!! JK, I just think this list is going to get boring if I continue.

The hard work paid off- our packaging is on point and professional, our website looks dope, we have gorgeous/cool/impressive/athletic/artistic/inspiring brand ambassadors wearing our sh*t all over the world, we got into a bunch of bigtime gift guides, I went to a million events and sold a sh*tload of hats, I continued to have anxiety about sales goals, and a lot of things lined up and made this a really gangbusters couple of months. Thing is, it wasn’t just luck this time – the way I think it was our first season – this time it was about grit and putting my head down when literally no one is thinking about the winter and getting sh*t done.

I’m now realizing that it’s the same feeling I have when public speaking: when I’m prepared, I am probably the best public speaker in the world (see above, deranged self-confidence), but when I am unprepared, my voice shakes like a leaf and I black out. This year, I knew what I was doing. I took the time to learn and understand things like financial modeling! Freight forwarding logistics! Digital advertising! Tech packs! Inventory Management! How to delegate!! Plus, I believed in myself. I believed in myself because of you.

“You” are the person reading this. You are my customer, you are my cheerleader, you are my spokesperson, my quality-control-checker, my entire business. Without you, STIK does not exist. This brand is different from other brands because you have been there most likely, the entire way. You’ve seen me get excited to hit 500 followers on Instagram, you’ve met me at a craft fair selling hats that my mom and I knit by hand. You've written me an email that just tells me how much you love your hat. You’ve cheered me on when I’ve found my way to the cover of The Boston Globe and you’ve cheered me on when I’ve admitted I’m struggling. You’ve exchanged your hat because you didn’t love it and then you’ve posted a photo of yourself in the Gunn Beanie in White Lie because that's the one you wanted. You understood when I messed up your order and you’ve told your friend that she should also buy a STIK hat because it’s so warm. You are the person I chase down the street to creepily yell, “YOU LOOK REALLY BEAUTIFUL IN YOUR HAT, JUST WANTED TO SAY THAT!!”

You give me the confidence, the crazy/deranged kind, to continue. There are plenty of low points in starting your own business and I’ve only let a select few witness me at my seriously low points. The tears are real!! But I rebound each time because the second I catch my breath from a really pathetic sob, I get an order or a nice email or something positive from one of you.

So thank you, thank you for buying your 7th hat this year. Thanks for making STIK your go-to best friend gift. Thanks for supporting me and watching me gain more confidence than should be allowed. Because I need this confidence to put myself out there again and again, to face rejection on my own, to take on this massive risk that is doing what you love, knowing that it could fail.

Love,

Christina

V OFFICIAL CERTIFICATE

Forgot that she wanted a Sh*t That I Knit hat for Christmas? Scrambling now?! We have you covered. With each purchase between now and Christmas eve, we are adding a little bit of insurance. Here's how:
1. Make your purchase
2. We will follow up with a certificate like this one below (but with the photo of your hat/cowl) and with your details (name filled out and order number) 
3. All you need is a printer and a good excuse (I'm assuming you'll blame me) and you're Christmas gift is covered. 
4. Chances are the hat will be there the next day. It's like a delayed gift and sometimes those are the best kind.
XO! 
Santa and Christina 

She's the Sh*t: Cassie Huck

Cassie Huck and her husband, Austin, founded Hive Studios, an independent photography and video production company based in Boston and New York. Cassie and Austin work together and with their clients to masterfully shoot and create unbelievable content to elevate brands. We like them especially because they donated our video tutorials for our Give-A-Sh*t Knit Kits! (sentence about working with them) Cassie inspires us with her ability to balance her demanding work schedule with being a superstar mother.

City:
Boston, MA

What’s your favorite part of the day?
My days have some amount of routine but almost never look the same so it’s hard to say… I will say I appreciate the quiet moments when they happen, whenever and wherever they happen. Where I can take a moment to look around me with immense gratitude. And if I’m being honest, if there’s food involved.

What did you do before you started Hive? What skills and experience did you have to be a producer at your own photography studio and what were some of the biggest things you had to learn on the fly?
Before starting HIVE.STUDIO I was working freelance as a Graphic Designer and Video Editor, and learning how to be a Mom. It was a nearly perfect situation caring for my (then) newborn son and working in those odd hours that didn’t necessarily fall in between 9 and 5.
Eventually I took some hours photo retouching and then project managment at a photo studio where Austin was working full-time. While there, I helped build more efficient systems for tracking product and pre-planning shoots. That studio didn’t have the same business model Austin and I wanted to pursue later, in fact HIVE was only a distant dream we weren’t planning to pursue for many years, but it was a great primer and we worked with some fantastic people. Then a lot of different factors all fell into place at once, and it looked like a good time to take that leap. We started HIVE.STUDIO and jumped in with both feet. I started by doing what I already knew how to do, and designed the HIVE brand from the ground up. I still get to design the HIVE brand on a daily basis, from treatments to marketing pieces to social media and our website. Being one-half of the HIVE brain, I have my hands in a lot of projects, some days I’m on the phone planning shoots with amazing art directors and some days I’m mopping the floor or taking out the trash!
The biggest thing I’ve had to learn on the fly has actually been communication. As the producer, I’m advocating for both the client and my artists to make something truly special and unique happen. It can be a tightrope act sometimes, sometimes my whole job is to put out fires, it’s often full of adrenaline, and I really love it.

Your business partner is also your LOVE partner. What is it that makes you two work so well together and do you have any advice for couples who want to work together all day erryday?
Austin and I have been in love for over 12 years, and before that we were just childhood friends. No one “gets me” more than he does—sometimes he knows what I’m feeling before I do, and he also knows me well enough to call me on my shit. I can say “shit” on this interview, right?
Working with my husband and best friend is the dream for us, it actually feels natural to intertwine our life with our work. We’re both artists, we’re family people, and we love what we do. We have many of the same priorities, so when our goals are aligned on something we know we’re going to find the right path to that goal together. We both have our own strengths that we bring to the table. The challenges come when our ideas compete, or when a disappointment at work feels personal. We work best when we freely communicate, and when we give the other person space to shine.

What’s the hardest part of your job?
The hardest part of my job isn’t when a model’s agent decides to pull their model 24 hours before a shoot, or when we have to make a rainy look sunny, when something breaks on set or even not getting chosen for a bid I spent all day creating a kick-ass treatment for. The hardest part is always when I start comparing my success with other people’s. It’s incredibly easy to get sucked into that kind of unhealthy thinking, and both Austin and I work really hard to not buy into that nonsense and just do our thing. We work hard to live up to our (very) high standards, not somebody else’s.

When I asked you and Austin to donate our video tutorials for Give-A-Sh*t Knit Kits, you were quick to say yes and that giving back is a part of your business model. Can you tell me more about that and some other philanthropic shoots you’ve done in the past?
Sure! Our work and life philosophies are the same, so it’s important to us to give back whenever we have the time and resources. We don’t take what we have, especially our health, for granted. Getting sick can happen to anybody for no apparent reason. I don’t just think it’s nice to give back, I think it’s our responsibility as human beings. The Give-A-Sh*t Knit Kits is such a great program for the warriors battling cancer, it was absolutely a no-brainer! We’ve also been able to donate our time and talent to the charity Fizz Apparel, who donates school books to children in rural Bangladesh for every shirt purchased, a much needed service in reaction to that area of the world affected by rapid climate change. The models and hair and makeup artists also donated their time, it was amazing. In July, we’ll be producing a shoot to promote the equal representation of people with disabilities in advertising and media, definitely a cool project to look forward to this summer!  

You have two of the most adorable children on the universe. How do you manage your time as a working couple and fun young parents?
Haha thank you!!! I’ll tell you this: even though I work more now than when I used to have my full-time job, I get to see my kids more. Both Austin and I get to spend more time together and with our kids. We aren’t required to be at work at certain hours just to fulfill certain salary requirements, we are project-based. There are also busy seasons and slower seasons in this business, and we work really hard to prioritize both our family and our work. And we’re very lucky to not have to ask permission or have to think about sick days or vacation time—it’s all up to us.

What’s your fave STIK product and why:
You mean besides EVERYTHING?! I love the Motley Beanie in Heather. The knit pattern and colors are eye-catching and classic, the raccoon fur pom-pom is so gorgeous, and all the STIK hats feel luxurious but are also super warm. Perfect for New England shenanigans. But one of my prized possessions is the custom shit Christina knit for me—my STIK hat HIVE knit right into the pattern. It’s AMAZING and people always stop me to ask where it came from.

This Shop is the Sh*t: Bella Funk

Next up for This Shop is the Sh*t is Bella Funk, a high end and high quality women’s clothing boutique in Littleton, New Hampshire.

Katie and Stef, two sisters, were best friends growing up and dreamed of one day owning a business together. As 23 and 24 year olds, they saw the need for a boutique of young and “cool clothes” in their hometown of Littleton as a perfect opportunity to live out their dreams.  They were feeling young and fearless and heavily inspired by their entrepreneurial parents who raised them to believe in the importance of taking risks. As a result, they both decided to quit their 9-5 jobs and take a leap together to open up Bella Funk. Bella Funk is now well-established and highly recognized as a go-to women’s store in Littleton.

Since its opening in Littleton, locals have come to really appreciate and share the value of quality of products Bella Funk offers. Stef and Katie strive to offer high quality, everyday clothing that empowers women and makes them feel special. They like to provide for customers’ everyday needs but also offer up and coming trends for customers to treat themselves to.

Because we have MAJOR respect for taking leaps and being young and fearless, we asked Katie and Stef for some advice. First, we asked about the challenges they faced in the early stages. They said initially their biggest struggle was finding financing and feeling like they weren’t being taken seriously by banks who doubted their business plan and treated them like kids. They never let anyone deter them from their vision and learned to keep pushing, trying a new bank as soon as one said no. Their major piece of advice was @ female dreamers, aspiring entrepreneurs, established business owners--they said: “Never stop believing in yourself! Follow your passion and stick with it, 110%. It's worth the fight to get there.”

This Shop is the Sh*t: Flock

Flock is a fun shop in the South End of Boston featuring clothing and goods in bright colors and free flowing styles. Its bohemian and free spirited styles of clothing and accessories have people flocking from around the world. Mother-daughter founders, Lisa and Dani, had always appreciated fashion and enjoyed shopping together. Flock was born from Dani’s dream of opening up her own clothing shop and opening it with her mom seemed just right. They ventured together thinking that they, by doing the buying together, could attract all age ranges so that mothers and daughters could shop together in Flock. Flockettes are always on the lookout for brands that embody that bohemian, free spirit style, but Flock is proudly at the point where they get a lot of inquiries from brands who want to be stocked in Flock.

As a fellow Girl Boss, we asked Dani about the challenges she has faced starting and running her own business. She said her biggest challenge personally is making financial decisions that might compromise her vision. In a perfect world she would do the buying in a way that she would ideally love to see the shop curated, but sometimes it doesn’t make sense from a business and financial standpoint. She also recognized that she has to cater to the wants and needs of her customers. Bringing in new people to her Flock family is not necessarily a challenge, but it’s always a little nerve racking. She believes that people are the biggest asset to any business. The Flockettes are huge fans of the South End, especially the undeniable sense of community there. They go out to dinner every month to enjoy the neighborhood together, their favorite spots being Myers and Chang and Coppa!

Why Dani thinks STIK is a good fit for Flock:

I love STIK for so many reasons, I don't know where to start. I love that Christina was not afraid to take the leap in doing what she truly loves. When I first saw STIK hats, I loved the yarn colors so much and of course the amazing signature fur pom pom. In the winter, it's easy to get caught up in blacks, greys, and all shades of neutrals but STIK are bright, happy and fun. It's truly the perfect fit for Flock!​”

She's The Sh*t: JJ Benson Foraie

Meet JJ Benson Foraie, authentic, kindhearted, and badass. She is a rockstar female flyfisher, working long days, taking stunning photos, and having the most genuine heart. She is a shining example of finding something you love, sticking to it, and making it your life--kind of like CKO Christina! With a baby on the way, we could not be more excited for her to start a new chapter in her life! We like to believe that the only thing she likes more than fly fishing are STIK hats :).

Hometown:
Crested Butte, Colorado

Favorite part of your day:
Starting the morning with a hot cup of coffee and journaling my daily gratitude. (In full disclosure baby hasn’t quite made his/her arrival yet, so I am sure my answer will soon change).

I guess the way that I found you on Instagram was totally girl-crushing on your angling skills. Tell me the story of how you got into fly fishing and what it means to you:
I grew up competitively riding horses and skiing, but fly fishing didn’t become an integral part of my life until my late-twenties. I was originally introduced to the sport when I was in college pursuing a post-grad degree and asked a close family friend who is a world class angler if he would take me. While being on the river was never far from my daily thoughts after that, I didn’t make the decision that fly fishing was (and is) what I wanted to to do more than anything else until two years ago when I asked my husband for my own rod for Christmas.
What started as a genuine love and appreciation for being on the water, disconnected from the daily career grind turned into so much more - something that saved my life and kept me centered through some pretty challenging life events. My goal(s) today looks a little different than they did when I started: I want to be a good angler. Not just fishing for trout in my home streams, but to be able to fish well for different kinds of fish, in different situations and scenarios. And I feel like I am getting closer to realizing that goal all the time. Each time I go out, I learn something new. I am so grateful for fly fishing and for all of the wonderful opportunities and people it has brought into my life, to the guides who have put me on new species and taught me about their fisheries to those who have supported me and encouraged me in this journey.

Instagram seems to be a place where people escape their city lives and follow people like you who live the dream life- outdoors, enjoying what you love. What was it like to become an “influencer” for living your life?
I suppose I’ve never really considered myself as an “influencer”, although I am honored that you would consider me as one. I think for me, it has been more about enjoying the intersection of my passion(s) for photography and being outdoors, posting pictures of special moments I want to remember.

You were recently highlighted in the Orvis Catalogue about “Women on the Water”- can you tell me more about that?! So cool!
Orvis has been a big proponent of encouraging more women to fall in love with fly fishing which is really neat, and being included in their campaign was a fun surprise for me. I didn’t know I was going to be featured until a guide friend of mine who works at our local Orvis store sent me a picture (before I even got the catalogue in the mail). I have been fortunate to forge some really cool friendships with talented photographers and anglers I like to fish with - some of whom work with Orvis. Seeing memories published from fun days on the water is just a cherry on top of the cake.

If you’re not flyfishing in some gorgeous place or hiking in the mountains, what is your typical day-to-day like?
I am in a state of transition. I went from being a career girl to navigating new parenthood. I am honestly still trying to figure it out.

From what I know about you from Instagram and our email exchanges, you seem like a truly authentic person. I know from starting STIK that when you are authentic to who you are and what makes you happy, good things happen. What are some words of wisdom for people who might be struggling with that in this time of constantly comparing ourselves on social media?
I too have to remind myself that comparison is the thief of joy. It’s easy to go down a rabbit hole of envy following anglers and photographers that travel and chase exotic fish on the fly all around the world. What we don’t see are the years of sweat-equity and likely (many) tough sacrifices that went into getting them where they are today. Social media is a highlight reel, we often don’t know everything behind "the square". My Instragram is a carefully curated set of images too. Up until very recently when I left my job to stay at home with our baby I worked a 50-60 hour work week and lived the life of a weekend warrior - I’ve just never posted pictures from behind my desk or the late night drives and early morning commutes to the river.

Favorite STIK product and why!?
I really love my Gunn Beanie in White Lies. I wear a lot of white so I rock it more than anything else, but would love to incorporate a STIK hat in black and grey into my wardrobe too.
As a mountain girl from Colorado I have collected quite a few winter garments over the years, but nothing holds a candle to my STIK hats. In fact, I consider them such an essential winter staple for everything from winter fishing to daily wear that I have donated almost all of my other hats. The wool is legitimately soft. Honestly, I didn't know wool could be this soft--it feels SO good. I also find that wool is warmer, more breathable, and more beautiful than synthetic materials. The major kicker for me is that it holds it’s shape in wet conditions on the water too.