Jodi Brown and Tracie Millar—known in the knitting world as the Grocery Girls, have been podcasting on YouTube since 2016, sharing what they’re knitting, yarns they love, and glimpses into their personal lives.
The Grocery Girls embrace organic growth. The sisters, Jodi Brown and Tracie Millar, have been podcasting on YouTube since 2016, sharing what they’re knitting, yarns they love, and glimpses into their personal lives. These two creators have one piece of advice for crafty businesses: be yourself.
Today the Grocery Girls have more than 46,000 subscribers on YouTube and more than 25,000 members in their Ravelry group. But the Grocery Girls had no idea how well-known they were until they attended Rhinebeck in 2017. “We don’t have any clue . . . we come on the grounds and there are people hollering and running up and we’re like this”—Jodi looks behind her—“like who’s here? I’m not kidding you. They were yelling and running to see us!” It’s easy to see why Jodi and Tracie might be surprised at their knitting fame. Podcasting on the internet is one thing, but meeting fans in person is something completely different—and it’s also something they’re hoping to do more of in the next several years.
“My mother thinks we’re the Beyoncé of knitting,” Jodi jokes.
While Jodi and Tracie manage the Grocery Girls, they also hold down jobs at their family’s IGA grocery store—a family business they’ve worked in since they were children, and also the inspiration behind their business name.
The Grocery Girls have seen steady audience growth since their launch, and they admit they’ve never had a plan even as they continue to grow. They laugh when I ask about their social media plan. “We aren’t so much planners as we are ‘oh, I think that’s a good idea, let’s do that,’” Tracie says. “We’re flying by the seat of our pants,” says Jodi. “We never plan anything coming into each podcast.”
They may have more of a marketing intuition than they give themselves credit for, though. While Jodi and Tracie manage the Grocery Girls, they also hold down jobs at their family’s IGA grocery store—a family business they’ve worked in since they were children, and also the inspiration behind their business name. They credit their parents for their work ethic.
“We have an amazing model from my mom and dad who have worked their butts off their whole lives, and they instilled that work ethic in us,” Jodi says. “I never want to be idle. I want to keep going and keep doing and growing and expanding.”
They also love the freedom that owning a business provides. “If you decide you want to do something, you can kind of make it work,” Tracie says. “We’ve never felt restricted, so no idea is out of the question. We don’t feel a lot of limitations put on us. We’ve seen our whole life that if you’re willing to work for something, it’s a possibility.”
They have also found a way to balance their jobs at the grocery store with the Grocery Girls business. One decision they made was to focus only on YouTube and Instagram for social media. They have also established a division of labor that works well for them: Jodi handles shipping and merch while Tracie takes care of communication, including the Ravelry group. And of course, they both do as much knitting as possible. Jodi and Tracie estimate they spend around 12-15 hours a week combined on Grocery Girls, but on podcast days the time commitment is much more. “We are very together on how we see the Grocery Girls and what we want to come out of it,” Jodi says.
While the sisters are not sure what prompted such steady growth, they think their knit-alongs and frequent giveaways may have something to do with it. They also love highlighting indie dyers, thereby introducing fans to new yarns. “At one point it was [indie dyers] treating us to yarn, and then it was like wow, we can only knit so much stuff. We’re going to have all these knit-alongs and we’re going to make these as giveaways,” says Tracie. “That’s a huge part of what we love to do: use our little platform to shine a light on makers that are doing awesome things.”
Thanks to the generosity of so many yarn companies, the Grocery Girls are able to share the love with even more of their fans. They can pick six winners in a giveaway instead of one, for example. When I ask Tracie and Jodi if they have cut back on yarn shopping because of all the generous yarn dyers and companies, Tracie says, “Are you kidding? That’s crazy talk! It has not curbed my shopping.”
“We barely keep anything that’s donated, and it’s ridiculous how much we have,” Jodi says. “Most things that we bring to the podcast and that we talk about, we specifically say this was shared or donated. But most of the stuff we show nowadays are things that we bought ourselves.” Jodi and Tracie want to give back to their fans, and they also rely on them for ideas on how to expand. The sisters, for instance, now design patterns and offer Grocery Girls-branded merch like enamel pins, totes, and tumblers in their online shop thanks to so many fans asking for those items.
“We’ve certainly never started our little podcast thinking it’s anything other than we’re sharing our knitting,” Tracie says. “Our business has grown out of it because people have asked for it.”
After the Grocery Girls podcasted as a duo for a year or two, Craftsy approached them to film four seasons of a podcast, Off Our Needles, starting in 2017. But the sisters do not attribute their own podcast’s growth to that opportunity. “Did we see a sudden influx of subscribers on our channel? No,” Tracie says.
Growth isn’t what they were looking for, though. “We just loved every minute with them. We did not go into that with any expectation, with anything other than, wow, this is so much fun. We’re having such a good time,” Tracie says. “We felt like we were just riding whatever was coming our way.” Jodi and Tracie continued to podcast on their own even after the cancellation—and the Grocery Girls’ YouTube audience continued to steadily grow.
After filming with Craftsy and getting invited to several festivals and workshop events, Jodi and Tracie realized that traveling was something they wanted to do more of. While the pandemic spoiled the Grocery Girls’ 2020 travel plans, they hope to reschedule and travel more in the next couple of years. They’re even planning to host a retreat in the Alberta mountains. “In 2020, we had the most trips booked for work than we ever had. It was almost once a month we were going to be flying and traveling and going to yarn shops or meeting knitters or going to a retreat and giving a little talk and a workshop,” Tracie says.
The Grocery Girls first thought large events would be intimidating, but they credit the knitting community for making them feel more at home no matter where they travel. “You’d think it would be nerve racking to go in front of a group of people. But there’s this weird thing that we have found with this community that because you already know you have so much in common—you all love yarn, you all love knitting, you’re at this festival or retreat—it just feels like you’re coming into a group of friends,” says Tracie. “It’s like an invitation to be friends,” Jodi says. “You knit, I knit, we’re best friends for life!” As the Grocery Girls continue to grow, they say some things will never change, including their focus on just being themselves.
“We’re authentically ourselves. Like if you came over to my house with us, you would find that we are the same people you see on YouTube,” Jodi says. “We’re not trying to be fussy, we’re not trying to put on a front. We are who we are, and we’re just happy to be able to share what we love on YouTube.”
“We don’t look at ourselves any differently than we have, and it’s super fun to meet people, but you don’t see yourself any differently,” Tracie says. “People often say, ‘You’re my knitting group. I know no one who knits. I join you on your podcast, I chat to you on Ravelry,’” Jodi says. “For us, it’s the community and bringing people together, to make sure you continue your craft.”
For the Grocery Girls, the strategy of being themselves and listening to what their fans want have been the catalyst behind the growth—and what makes them happy. Why change that?
Ashley Little is a craft writer and knitting/crochet technical editor by day, serial crafter by night. She is a regular contributor for Bluprint and the author of Chunky Knits. You can find more of Ashley’s work at TheFeistyRedhead.com.