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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

'A voice for the voiceless'
Kiley O’Brien ’25, Assistant Features Editor • July 18, 2024
Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim '25 M.A., Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

More than just a hat

Greta Shanley ’18 knits personalized hats for customers at St. Joe’s (Photo by Cassandra Muratore ’18).

Student runs handmade hat business for social justice.

Greta Shanley ’18 hasn’t been in touch with her third grade teacher for years. But the unconventional lessons of that teacher, Mary Johnson, inspired the St. Joe’s senior to start her own business.

Shanley, a managing human capital major, is the founder of the hat-making business G.G. Knits.

“Mrs. Johnson was a really great knitter and decided to bring it into the classroom,”  Shanley said. “I even still use the knitting needles she gave me.”

In third grade, Shanley would knit during indoor recess and after school with a group of students. Johnson even came to Shanley’s house to help her finish knitting her first custom-made bright green and orange hat as a Christmas present for her younger brother.

After she left Johnson’s class, Shanley didn’t pick up knitting again until she started college. She originally made headbands she would donate to local organizations such as Back On My Feet Philadelphia.

When Back On My Feet asked if she could make hats, she took on the challenge with confidence. She began knitting hats non-stop not just to donate but to give to friends and family as well.

Shanley informally started G. G. Knits in the spring of 2017, when she started selling handmade hats to her friends around campus.

“It started really organically,” Shanley said. “I would only sell them by word-of-mouth. I wanted to do it for fun and not be overwhelmed. I just loved to talk to people.”

Now, G.G. Knits has an Instagram page with over 200 followers, an email address and a waitlist of about 30 people. A custom-made hat from G.G. Knits costs $20. Shanley said she has made about 200 hats.

Even though the business is expanding quickly, Shanley said she still puts a lot of love into her hats.

“To me, the hats mean more than just a hat on your head,” she said “When I make a hat for someone, I think about them, their impact on my life, the memories we’ve had together and my intentions for them. My love really is knit into the hat.”

Gabriela Perdomo ’20, a friend of Shanley’s, knew once Shanley started her business she needed to order a hat for herself. Perdomo said she is proud to show to the world Shanley’s undeniable talent.

“There is a hat that fits any style and her ability to tailor them to each person is one of the many ways she shows her love for her clients,” Perdomo said. “Every time I walk around campus and see others with a G.G. Knits original, I know they are carrying something special.”

When Shanley studied abroad in Spain in the fall of 2017, she became interested in where her materials were coming from and started learning more about the yarn industry. Not all yarns are ethically or sustainably made, so she began researching fair trade yarns and visiting the studios of the makers themselves.

As a student with a new business, Shanley finds it financially difficult to use only fair trade yarn, but she tries to do so as often as she can.

“It means more to me using fair trade yarn and supporting small businesses,” Shanley said. “Meeting the people who actually make the yarn makes the knitting experience so much more exciting for me.”

Shanley has also combined her passion for mental health awareness with her love for knitting, as the tagline for G.G. Knits is “Colorful hats for colorful minds.” She likes to call the hats “thinking caps” because she wants them to reflect the person’s unique character traits and thoughts and what they bring into the world.

“The hats are something tangible you can see, and mental health is something you really can’t see,” Shanley said. “It’s not going to cure someone’s depression or anxiety or giving healing power, but maybe it is a conversation starter.”

Shanley is trying her best to make the most of the time she has left on campus since St. Joe’s students are her main market. However, she said she plans to continue to make hats in the future and hopefully expand her business to a larger market.

To those also interested in entrepreneurship, Shanley says to get running with it right away.

“If you have an idea or you have a passion, don’t be afraid to act on it now in college because it could turn into something amazing,” Shanley said.

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