Ep #55: A Creative Maker with a Message with Marie Greene

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Being a creative is no easy task, no matter what your chosen field. Whether you like to build businesses, coach clients, write novels, or knit sweaters (like today's guest), giving yourself permission to be creative and try something new can be difficult. That's why Marie Greene is so passionate about providing inspiration & motivation for fellow creators so they can turn their creative visions into reality, whatever those visions may be.

Marie Greene is a knitter, podcaster, and author who’s built a dedicated following thanks to her fantastic knitting patterns and generous spirit. After falling in love with knitting as a child, she became passionate about sharing it with other people wherever she could. Now, after spending years publishing patterns and books for other knitters, Marie finds herself pivoting to a new, broader message of creative confidence.

Marie and I talk about her love of knitting, her community-building superpower, and why she thinks her audience has grown so successfully. She also shares the creative evolution she’s been undergoing as she grows her message beyond knitting to benefit the entire creative community. And we discuss creative entrepreneurship, why it can be so hard to give yourself permission to try something new, and how she's planning to bring this new message to a broader audience.

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • How Marie fell in love with knitting and started making patterns for other knitters.
  • The message that underlies her business and why it's made her work so widely resonant.
  • How Marie turned a creative passion into a thriving business without ruining her love of knitting along the way.
  • How she realized that she was ready to bring her deeper creative message to a wider audience.
  • Why Marie's particularly passionate about teaching other creatives to believe that their work is good enough.
  • Why a message that someone truly believes in is so much more impactful and inspiring than a message that's going through the motions.

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Full Episode Transcript:

Welcome to The Thought Leadership School Podcast. If you're on a mission to make a difference in the world with your message, you are in the right place. I'm Michelle Barry Franco and I'm thrilled that you're here.

Hello my thought leadership friends, I have an extra special treat for you this week. Marie Greene and I had the most fun conversation a few weeks ago. Um, this here, very podcast, totally unaware that I had the wrong setting on my audio. So you may have actually come across that interview because it went out and then I listened to it and realize that the audio wasn't good enough and I wanted, I wanted as much for Marie as for us here at the thought leadership school. I wanted Marie to be able to share something that you could actually hear well, and I wanted to make it easier for you to hear the conversation too. So Marie is such a beautiful, lovely soul and said she was happy to speak to me again. And so this is a new and fresh conversation. We cover some of the same ground. There's some new stuff in here.

And I'm really excited to share this with you. So if you heard that last interview with Marie, this one we'll just add to the riches and if you didn't, this one is beautiful all on its own. So Marie Greene is a knitwear pattern designers, she's an author and an internationally celebrated instructor who empowers makers all around the world. Her engaging style and clear message have made her a favorite among those who seek clarity and confidence in their creative experience. I loved talking with Marie, she's like this bright sunshine but in a really grounded way. You'll hear me talk about that. Marie and I talk about the interplay of making products being a maker and having a message. We explore creativity and how it's such a foundational part of being human as a business person and beyond. Marie published two books in quick succession. She runs a super successful knitwear pattern company and she's making an exciting pivot that we talk about too and we also talk about her very cool new podcast, which I love listening to and you're going to love it as well. So I cannot wait to share Marie with you and this beautiful conversation we had. Let's dive in.

I feel so lucky that I get to have this conversation with you again so soon. Marie, thank you so much for being here. Thanks for having me Michelle. It's super fun to be back. I'm glad we can chat again some quickly. So here's what I love about being around you. You are an ambitious ray of sunshine but not in the whole like blowing smoke. Like everything is perfect in the world way, but I just walk away feeling like all these things are possible after conversations with you or even when I just

sort of watch you on social media. So first tell us how you stay so inspired. Gosh, I wish I knew the answer to that, but I love learning new things and I love new challenges and I suspect that that somehow at the root of it is just always trying to remain engaged and inspired myself and just kind of looking for that next thing that kind of lights my interest. And then usually when I'm interested, then I want to share it with my people and see if maybe this interest them to, and so some of it I think is just this kind of innate desire to constantly be growing and doing that. That's the only thing I can think of. I don't really know for sure what, what the answer is to that, but maybe it's something to do with that. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense and it fits right in.

It's like I just love and get engaged in things and then I want to tell people about it. So. Perfect. Yeah. Okay. I want to dive into the specifics of your work because the work that you do is quite different than many of the guests that I have on The Thought Leadership School Podcast, which makes it kind of an extra fun, fresh perspective. So will you share your story of how you got started with olive nets and then how your business grew? So I'm a knitwear pattern designer and author and I travel and teach knitting of all things. It's kind of random. It's one of those things where people say, oh my grandma used in it, and they aren't aware that there is this whole huge portion of society that actually nets, and it's not like we're knitting in the underground, but somehow it's, you know, not everyone realizes, but it is still quite, it's quite popular.

In fact, probably more popular than ever. And when I was a little girl, I was about 10 or 11 years old and my maternal grandmother came for a visit. She lived across the country in Tennessee and I was in the Midwest and came for just long enough that we had time to sit and she had time to teach me how to knit. And she really impressed upon me this idea that the knitting art was dying out and that she was bestowing upon me this important role, that it was my job to carry this fourth. So future generations would have knitting. And this was back before we had the internet at home. And so I really was not aware that other knitters were in the world. I really did take this totally seriously and thought this is on me. It's my job. So pretty much throughout my life growing up, I just taught all my friends and made up my own sweaters and things and just, you know, it just kind of became a part of me, something I did all the time. And then as I got older and had just a little time on my hands, I found myself kind of engaging a little bit more the local netting community and started getting questions about my sweaters. And that's really kind of where it started as far as a business. But I definitely had no idea when I started that it would become what it is today for sure.

First of all, you have this experience with your grandma. Did you love knitting while you were with her? Was it more like, oh, I better do this because grandma told me it's going to die and that's my job. I loved it.

Absolutely. Like from the get go, I absolutely loved it and I think she saw that in me and that gave her a lot of hope that, oh, here's someone I can pass this on to. So for her, I felt this real sense that she was trying to pass something on to me, but I loved it. I was really glad.

Yeah. So then, okay, you get older, you get better and better at knitting I imagine. And then you're making these sweet, cute sweaters and people just see you walking around and say, cute sweater, where'd you get it?

I, I started hanging around more knitters as I got older and actually found out, oh, there are other knitters in the world. In fact, you know, hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of them. Yeah. And they would ask me for the pattern, where's the pattern to that sweater that you're wearing? And it was just something I was making for myself. And I do have a background in technical writing, but it wasn't for sweater pattern. Yeah. It wasn't for knitting. And I had never really tried that before. But kind of like I mentioned in the beginning, I love wrapping my head around a new thing. So as soon as that little challenge arose, I thought, well, I can do that. I can write and I can knit. Surely I can do that. There was absolutely a learning curve I had not anticipated in terms of, you don't jump right into that immediately and do it right.

You, you know, there's some learning involved. But actually it evolves really quickly. And I just had such an overwhelming response to the patterns because I think for the first time, especially back when I started, I was designing for a really wide range of body sizes and shapes and sweaters that were for real people that were comfortable to wear and were really fun to make. And prior to that, you know, years ago, at least the patterns I grew up with were kind of designed for very specific shapes and sizes and we're always that fun to make, you know, so it was, it was just sort of this evolution and some of it's just, you know, being able to see what we want and this modern creative age when it comes to a knitting pattern and being able to create that myself.

So people are seeing you wearing these sweaters that they could imagine wearing where before, it's like if they wanted to knit a sweater where they could, you know, that they could get a pattern for, it would end up being a sweater that they wouldn't even really where themselves. So it was more for the hobby, but they didn't get to actually wear it. Yeah.

My experience was, and absolutely there's a lot of different experiences. A person can happen, the world and lifetime of knitting, but for me, I know I hadn't knit things that seems like they would be good on paper, but then the reality was it didn't really fit where it wasn't really my style. And I think a lot of knitters have experienced that. So to have a pattern that was really approachable to work with as far as just being able to read it and interpret it and then have a good experience making it, but then in the end it actually fits you and you feel good wearing it. Yeah. That was not to say that I, you know, I don't want to take credit. Like I'm the only designer that's ever figured that out by any stretch, but at the time it just wasn't something you commonly we're seeing and so at least that's what the customers were telling me.

That's what people were saying. So it just really seemed to take off from there. Successful business works like this, right? We, there's something that people are interested in that we too are interested in and we get some often natural growth or mastery around it because we love it or whatever because it becomes our job and then we see a missing part. You know, we see like a place where we can add to what's out there and that's basically what you did in knitting, right? Again, not that you're saying, and I didn't get that impression that nobody was creating great patterns out there, but you're like, hey, what if I think I have something to contribute to this? You create it and people buy it. It's kind of magical about how business works. All right. I think part of it too is I started designing the patterns I wanted to make and that was what I saw missing in the industry.

There were many wonderful patterns, but they just weren't put together the way that I wanted to put sweaters together. And so that's really the whole I decided to fill. Yeah. And just sort of incidentally turned out to be a spot that other people responded to because they weren't finding those types of patterns either. So yeah, that makes sense. Okay. So first of all, for those of us like me who don't really know even what a, I mean I know a little bit cause I get to be around you some, but I've crocheted before great purchase, not knitting. I, I do know that, but I never used a pattern. I see patterns like I've seen them out in the world and I can't, I couldn't imagine. First of all, has anybody ever figured that out? And then second of all has somebody follows it? So can you just talk about what is a knitting pattern and how do you create one, not the depths of the detail.

I'm sure it's complex, but you know, it starts for me, it starts with a spreadsheet. Some designers are on the more creative side and they start with this illustrious drawing or painting or sketch or something. I start with the math because the technical side is what I love. The thing I can relate it to the most is computer code. It's like ones and Zeros. It's this math, this code and it translates every one is a stitch. And so you're basically creating fabric and shape at the same time where if, if you're familiar with sewing, I mean everyone knows what fabric is or most people I think now with fabric is, and you know with sewing the fabrics already there. So you just cut out the pieces and you sew them together and you make a shape with knitting, you're creating the fabric and the shape at the same time and that's what those numbers are doing.

And so line by line, row by row, you're creating a fabric that also becomes a shape and there is texture involved and sleeves and buttons and you know, all those other things become part of it. But it really is a fairly technical process so that even if you are super creative, that technical piece has to be there to be able to translate the creativity into something that other people can follow, which is where that technical writing aspect is very useful because you really do have to articulate things in a different way than you do when you're writing it down for yourself because you have to make it so that other people can interpret right correctly the information. So it's very instructional.

Yeah. Yeah, that makes sense. And hard for me to fathom. But thank goodness that you have this expertise, right? That's the beauty of the world out there, that you know, we can each bring our expertise and interestingly that that expertise and our experience in the world can evolve over time. And really, so I, I would love to talk about that. And at the heart of that, I'd love to talk about the message at the heart of your work because on the top of our mind we might think that it's not messaged, driven, but it has been messaged, driven for you. So I'd love to hear about that. What is that message and really how did you get there?

You know, I think it really began with teaching friends to net and witnessing the experience of this making process through what I saw in other people. And that was when it started to occur to me that a lot of the insecurities that we face in life are manifested in the way we approach problems and hobbies and our work and all of these other things. And I started to see that I had this opportunity, and I don't know, almost like a mission to kind of be a spokesperson for kind of taking charge of your creativity and taking ownership of it and having that permission slip that says that I get to, you know, I am allowed to do this. I'm allowed to show up in this way in the world and put something out there to express myself. And so part of that message that sort of evolved over the years, it started with really wanting to help other makers feel successful.

And then it evolved into this desire to empower and motivate and encourage and inspire creative people, not just makers, but just this sense that, you know, being able to show up creatively in the world is a real asset for any of us. And so many people don't feel they have permission to do that. And so being able to sort of take the helm with my business and say, yes, here is a way you can do that through knitting, through making, but just in general, just through that ability to live creatively and give ourselves permission to try and fail and not be good at something or right off the bat and to tweak and make things our own and personalize. Because I so often see people who feel like they can't stray outside the lines, like they have to do exactly what's written when really if they were just to do this one little adjustment, they would be so much happier with it.

And so part of the work I do is also just, you know, giving that permission. So it's been a very interesting evolution of my message, but it's, it's very message driven. And I feel like that's partly probably why my work has resonated with people because there is so much meaning underneath it. You know, like my message sort of carries it forward. Yeah, it's, I mean it is about making sweaters, making beautiful things, which is enough. It is enough by itself and it's also about something more than that. So it just has that additional element and you've done something that a lot of people struggle to figure out and would love to, which is create a thriving business and community around something that they love. It's true. And you know, people sometimes say, but then you won't love it anymore if you turn it into a business.

And I don't think that's true. I think it's just that we have to find the right way to turn what we love into a business and maybe not everything we love. I mean, I love a lot of things that shouldn't be a business. I love to cook and I'm have no business to turning that into something for profit. I just cook for my and my family. But I think if you find something that you are really passionate about and you feel like you can contribute something, it's amazing when you find a way to make it successful. Absolutely. Yeah. You've historically been, and you're still in you, you've published a couple of books is your second book out? My second books out in October, actually. October. Awesome. So you have these two amazing books. You've been empowering people to create beautiful sweaters all these years and really built an amazing community around that mission to make beautiful things, beautiful sweaters.

Is it always sweaters? Not always, but mostly. So it's beautiful knits, beautiful knits and you're shifting. So talk us through that. You know, I think it ties back again to that desire for growth and that learning a new thing and climbing a new mountain. And in the last year or so I've been feeling this call to sort of spread my work a little broader and share my message with a larger audience. Because I think as much as I love knitting, there is more to me knitting and there are a lot of other creative components to my life and I interact with so many creative entrepreneurs and just makers in general who run into the same types of, you know, worries about being good enough and insecurities and just the kind of struggles and barriers I've seen as I've worked with knitters over the years. I see that in the larger creative community.

So it's been really interesting to watch this inner drive. I am still loving the work that I do with knitting, but I'm feeling this call, which is funny because it sort of started when I met you, Michelle, so maybe, I don't know, maybe you inspired that somehow, but I started feeling this call to reach some new people and kind of share that message of inspiring and motivating and kind of giving that permission, not because the permission comes from me, but realizing we get to give ourselves permission to, you know, kind of do this work in a bigger way. So it's manifesting in interesting ways. I started a podcast and name of your podcast, it's called good enough creatives and I'm just past the month mark, so Yay, every Thursday. I'm excited about that and, and it's been a really fun pivot. It's been really interesting to do something not specifically related to knitting but just about creativity and mindset and sort of that that whole worlds that we all struggle with and myself included.

And so it's been a really fun thing to unpack and work with, but that's opening up some other things that I'm hoping to do with my business in terms of supporting creatives and makers in other ways as well. So yeah, it's exciting. Well, you've done one of the things aside from building a thriving business and often part of building a thriving business, but not in the way that you've done it, you have also built a really engaged community and I think that's kind of a mystery to many of us and it's such a meaningful part of thought leadership in particular. If you know that you're meant to make a difference out there in the world with your message and serve a lot of people in a specific set of people, you kind of know how to gather the people and then how do we engage with them?

And you've done that in a really natural way over the years. Can you just share about that process of creating your community and how you've served them so well? Absolutely. I agree. When I speak with others who are thinking about launching a business or have a business, that almost seems to be the number one thing is what do I find my people like, where are they? How do I do this? And I think that is something that I did without realizing I was doing it. So maybe it said like this innate superpower I didn't know I had. I don't know. I didn't realize I was creating community when I did it. But what was really effective for me was I started pretty old school. I started blogging and I wrote as if I had a large audience. I never wrote with the mindset that no one's reading this.

I wrote it thinking this is going to be on Oprah Sunday knowing it's not, you know, no way. But, but in my mind like this, someday people are going to read this. And I was a really consistent, I just wrote every single week. There were times obviously where I fell off and didn't do it every week. But I really made that effort to consistently blog and not just plug my thoughts and hopes and dreams, but blogging useful, actionable content that my audience would want so that people would actually happen upon it. Or when they went to it, they would think this is so useful. I want to come back again and see what else is here later or spend more time. And then from there I started a newsletter and again I wrote as if I was writing to thousands of people even when I had 20 people and now I do have thousands, you know?

But it was like just that constantly creating a frame for the audience to come to. And even when I didn't have anybody, I was like, I have to have a place for them so that when they come they can stay. And that was really the beginning. And then I started a private Facebook community. And then, Gosh, I've been in so many private Facebook groups with so many different businesses and you know, all these different people have them and some I think, oh this is amazing. And others I think Ma, you know, I could take it or leave it. But with mine I think what worked really well was I spent a lot of time in it in the beginning. Now that's time. We don't always have available, but it was in the early days. So I spent a lot of time there and actually built relationships with the people who were joining and again provided a lot of value.

And I think across the board I've tried to be very generous, not just my time, but the value that I'm providing to them so that if they're taking the time to read my newsletter or spend time in my Facebook group, they're getting something valuable out of it. And then over time, creating some sort of community events in my Facebook group allowed everyone to start to become friends and get to know each other. And from there it just took on a life of its own. Like it's beyond my ability to to keep up with anymore. And now I have a team of people that helps me, but it was really those, I would say like for anybody wanting to create a community, if you really believe in what you're doing, then there are people looking for you. There are people who want what you have to offer, so create a space for them because they're going to come.

And I think too often we wait until they show up and then we're like, oh, what am I doing with you now? You know? And I just created the space first. Yeah, you said something just a moment ago that I just don't think can be overstated or emphasized enough or whatever. It's just become more and more clear to me. The more conversations I get to have with thought leaders like you and that is that you believe in. There's nothing like your own belief in what you're saying and doing. I agree. And it's such a tricky, I, I really find that to be a nuance thing because I know it gets into the whole like self doubt and all the kind of mindset stuff that can end up happening for so many of us. If there's anywhere to just keep looking in the direction of, I feel like it's there.

What do you really believe? What do you believe you can contribute in a way that really, really matters, that really, really will make a difference for other people. And then just showing up and doing your best to make that difference. Absolutely. And, and you and I both know the difference of when that message comes from someone who really believes what they're saying. It resonates so much differently than when someone is going through the motions. It definitely helps to get clear on that. And, and I think we all struggle with figuring out our messaging and that's why we have you, you know, kind of getting clear on that messaging can be really tricky. And even when we do believe in something, you're right, all that mindset stuff gets in the way. And that's, it's unfortunate because so many amazing people have something incredible to offer and they're just not, they're not there yet, you know?

And it's amazing being in a position to help support people in that work. I love what you do for that reason. I think that's just incredible because I want to hear those messages. I want to hear these deeply held passionate beliefs that people are ready to get up on stage and talk about. Yeah. Well thank you for saying that and, and I think that what you're doing is such a beautiful example of actually how we get there. Yes, you can hire someone like me or join one of my programs or take a class, whatever. And I'm not saying those things aren't helpful. They are really though in the end where we learn the most and like you're doing with this pivot, right? You say, wow, I'm seeing something new and it really seems like I can serve in this way. And so you know, I'm going to go out there and serve.

You started a podcast and your PR. I would imagine you're learning a lot as you compose your messages for your audience. Think of ways you can say it so you serve as that true. Absolutely. Yeah. I put a lot of thought into that because again, I don't want to waste anyone's time. I want anyone who comes to feel like, oh, I really got something out of that because those are the people I am following. You know? I look for people that really inspire me and I feel like, oh, that was totally worth my time. I think it's so interesting just getting that clarity about our message and about that belief. I think it drives you forward when you are clear. When you have that, you know you're really point and you've had that connection it, I think it makes it easier because building a business is hard, so when you have that foundation, it makes it so much easier to kind of overcome the obstacles that are going to get in the way.

But I think that also helps people really connect with your message and you know, part of that too is being genuine. Yeah. Because we have so many sort of just experiences in life these days. It seems like everything is curated and, and I think people are connecting to that genuine authenticity for, I hate to say authenticity because I think we probably use that word way too much, but, but that, you know when, when you're showing up, you're really, you truly believe in what you're saying and you're passionate about it and you're willing to bring yourself to the table. I think that really makes a difference.

Yeah. I think we're leaning toward it, but I'd love to hear you talk maybe a little bit more or more specifically about what is that, what is the stand you take that makes it sound too formal? So I don't want, you don't have to say something all buttoned up and perfect. Like what do you really believe? Is it about creative entrepreneurship? Is it about creativity overall? What is it you believe on, on the behalf of the people that you're serving? I really believe it's about creativity. I think we are all born creative. Yeah.

Even if we don't think we are, because I, when I think about it, creation as the opposite of destruction. And so I think that we're naturally as human beings inclined to create something, which is why we have businesses and ideas and new kinds of flowers and different kinds of houses. Like it doesn't have to be something maker, knitting, sewing, that kind of creativity. But I think in general we all have this inner drive to create something. And so often life gets in the way and mixed messages from our upbringing or from society get in our way. And so what I really believe is that everyone deserves to live a creative life to whatever capacity they want that to be and that they deserve to take up space in the world and that their ideas deserve to take up space in the world. I think just, it's just so easy to hold ourselves back and not do that and forever righty of reasons. But you know, I feel like that's sort of my mission is to say, you know, you've got something in you that you want to express, now's your chance. The world is waiting for you. And that's the message that I want to share. That's my platform is, is I want people to feel empowered to show up in a creative way, not just entrepreneurs, because it doesn't have to be a business. It can be, you know, building birdhouses for your friends, you know? Yeah. Anything. Yeah. So

cool and right on point. Inspiring as you, as you always are. I think so. Well I try [inaudible] so tell us where are we find you. So we can get daily inspiration are the best places to get more of Marie

Olive nets.com and I'm sure you'll put it in your show notes. Yeah, that's the knitting side of things. And you can find my podcast a good enough creative anywhere you listen to podcasts, they can find it and more things are coming but aren't fully launched yet. So for now those are good places to find me. And there are have a newsletter for both. The podcasts and the knitting where you can get weekly updates and so you can find those in those same places. So

awesome. Ooh, I'm kind of intrigued. That was mysterious and I'll be watching.

Yeah, that's awesome.

Well, I love being inspired by you and I really am so I'm just so grateful that I get to share this conversation with our community because I know that creativity is at the heart. Also a finding that message and sort of allowing that creative energy to just keep moving us forward as we try to figure out how to make our difference in the world just like you're doing. It's what we're all doing in various ways, so thank you so much for helping the rest of us along the way too.

Oh, absolutely. Thank you so much for having me, Michelle. It's always my trait to talk to you.

I just love Marie's story, the story about her grandmother and how she just was introduced to knitting and how she just knew. It's always amazing to me how those things happen, right? We just take to something. I love hearing the twisty turny ways we find ourselves in business and thought leadership. It's an exciting life, isn't it? I highly recommend you follow Marie and her adventures. She's inspiring and uplifting, but in that kind of grounded way that doesn't make you think it's all smoke and mirrors. I've learned so much from her about how to build beautiful, engaged community and I think you will too. Have I told you lately how grateful and happy I am that you're here? I'm grateful and happy because you're the reason I do this to serve you, but I'm also grateful and happy because I know that you're here as part of your commitment to make a bigger difference in the world with your beautiful work and your message. Please keep doing that. We need you out there because my friend, you were made for this. You really were. You know how I know that because you know that now get out there, gather your people and serve them big and bold with all that love that you carry and I am over here cheering you on always. All right. I can't wait to see you next week. Talk soon.

Thanks so much for being here with me on The Thought Leadership School Podcast. If you want specific and actionable guidance on how to become a recognized leader in your industry, you can download a free copy of my book. Beyond applause, make a meaningful difference through transformational speaking at speak, so it matters.com forward slash free books.


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