Meet Amy, the enthusiastic amigurumist and the owner of Hooked Academy where she teaches amigurumi dolls and runs crafts classes for crochet, knitting, cross-stitch, book binding, nails & strings, sock dolls, bag sewing, dress sewing and mohair teddy bear making with a group of professional crafters.
In this interview, we learnt about how she gathered the courage to quit her promising job in the IT industry to begin crocheting full-time and eventually turned her hobby into a business. Read on to learn more about her entrepreneurial journey and how she achieved more satisfaction and balance in life.
- Tell us a little bit of your background. How did you get started with crocheting?
I was working in the IT industry for about 8 years before I finally call it quits. I loved my job but it was becoming more of a routine for me and the workload has taken over my life. My husband was not very supportive of my decision to be a full-time amigurumist in the beginning. He did not like the idea of me leaving a stable job to make dolls for a living, also mainly because I have zero experience in the crafts industry. However I was very determined and worked really hard in putting down my ideas in a business plan. Just two weeks ago, I achieved another milestones by opening Hooked Academy.
I first got my hands on amigurumi through a friend. She has great talent in designing dolls and I thought, since I was in the verge of quitting my job, maybe we should work together! And I started to learn some basic patterns and eventually designing my own. Although she has quitted after a few months into the business, the passion in amigurumi has rooted in me thus I took over and continue running it myself.
- What is an amigurumi? Did you name yourself after it?
HAHA! No, I didn’t. My mum miraculously named me Amy since my birth and oh, such beautiful coincidence that I am into this obsession now. In Japanese, ami means crochet and nuigurumi is stuffed doll.
- What was the first amigurumi you made? Any tips for beginner crocheters?
The first amigurumi I designed was a long caterpillar, as a baby bolster. Honestly, just like all other crafts, to make a decent looking amigurumi is not easy but it is not hard either. As long as you have the patience and the “never-give-up” attitude, you will make great dolls after consistent practice on your crochet stitches.
- What made you decided to turn your hobby into a business?
I started with a Facebook page where I posted photos of my plushy dolls just to test the curiosity of people. Amigurumi is still rather new here in Malaysia and I wasn’t sure what the response would be like. Surprisingly the momentum picked up very quickly and soon I have many fans dropping by to like my page and the items I posted. That was really encouraging and I began getting numerous requests to teach. And I would say the rest is history!
- What inspires you when creating your designs?
My characters are mostly animals that I just think is cute. Sometimes my students or clients would place customise orders, which gives me new ideas. I love crocheting customised dolls – those are great challenges which brings great satisfaction when I am able to complete the project.
I also like to borrow a little from gamer culture – like the Mario Mushroom and a little from cartoon characters – like the Elmo and Cookie Monster Baby Rattle.
I have a pet Silky Terrier and I also love to create fun toys for her. I’ve made a UFO and a Doggy Bone, which I stuffed a huge bell in it just to excite her.
- Tell us about your Kids Doodle Series.
I’m really excited about this fun project actually. I’d like to call it a collection of crocheted doodle dolls where I turned kids’ drawing into a real toy. I guess mothers would never think their kids’ doodles could come real into an actual doll. It is a great way to motivate kids and build their confidence level through drawing. Well, what makes it special is there will be no other doll looking the same as your kid’s!
- What makes you get out of bed every morning?
I love how everyone smiles when they laid their eyes on my plushy dolls. This satisfaction I often get push me further, to spread the love and passion, by sharing the art of crochet. I believe a handmade craft speaks a thousand more than a gift grabbed from store. Hooked aims to sprinkle that little magic touch of love to everyone around, so that you too, can make your love ones smile.
- What do you consider the most challenging about running your own business?
Hmmm… Coming from someone who has no experience in any craftworks before, I find it a great challenge (and at the same time a joy) to keep myself updated to more and more advance /new techniques in the market in any crafts. There are so much to learn, it is never ending. I guess this is also why I love crafts, as I can never get bored doing it.
- What are the perks of being ‘self employed’ (self motivating) and do you miss your old job?
No – I do not miss my nine to five job. The moment I stepped out from the corporate world, I know I would never go back.
Although I have yet to taste the luxury of being flexible in managing my own schedule… just yet but I love what I am doing, I can never get bored with it even when I needed to work longer hours than my previous job.
- What advice would you give to anyone who is thinking of starting a business?
To hold on to what you believe and do not give up! Although I didn’t understand crafts and no one had supported my idea to do amigurumi business full time, I determined to hold strong to what I wanted and turned these negativity into motivation to prove to everyone I could do it. I have not regret a bit till today for giving up my fat pay job.