Asian Hustle Network was founded on the principle that community always comes first. With that in mind, we wanted to create a marketplace that highlights Asian-owned businesses because we know that there’s a gap between consumers (like yourself!) wanting to support Asian-owned businesses, but not knowing where or how to find them. Not only is the discovery of these businesses hard, we know how important it is to truly highlight the faces and stories behind the products.
Meet Justine Tiu, Founder of The Woobles
So we present to you one of our first marketplace partners, Justine Tiu, Founder of The Woobles! Beginning her journey as a UX Designer at a large tech company to now running a business that focuses on making the joy of crocheting accessible to anyone.
Justine, tell us about The Woobles.
I sell crochet kits for beginners. That’s right, 100% bonafide beginners. As a former User Experience Designer, I applied the user-centered design process to create a digital and physical experience that teaches people how to crochet cute plushies.
We love that you used your tech background to enter into the crochet business. Can you tell us a bit more on how you got started with The Woobles?
I spent my life following the traditional path to success – get good grades to get into good schools to get a good job. After 7 years in that “good job,” I realized that this type of success didn’t equate to happiness.
I knew I needed to change things up because I was going through quite a low point emotionally and mentally, andI wanted to do something that was all about the good feels. I came up with the idea of The Woobles after I saw how much joy my very first amigurumi – crochet stuffed toy – sparked in people’s eyes when they saw it.
I spent my life following the traditional path to success – get good grades to get into good schools to get a good job. After 7 years in that job, I realized that this type of success didn’t equate to happiness.
My only job experience at that point was as a User Experience Designer at a big tech company, so I started by doing what I knew best – designing digital things. I sold digital crochet patterns and treated it like a side hustle. After a few craft fairs and seeing my friends’ reactions to the finished Woobles, I realized that there’s a lot of people out there who wish they could make them. By using technology and applying the user-centered design process, I realized I could create an experience that would help them gain the confidence to make with their own two hands, and share the joy that only a handmade cute lil’ plushie can bring to someone’s life.
Were there any specific challenges you faced while creating The Woobles?
People traditionally learn crochet from another person in real life. People also generally consider it harder to learn than knitting, the more popular fiber arts counterpart. #challengeaccepted
I got to the product I have today through lots of user testing. (Bless those souls who tried learning crochet from just my photos and text.) I’d ask friends to try out my kits, watch them struggle, and write down the questions they asked. When I only sold at craft fairs, I offered these early customers free lessons so I could see firsthand what needed to be improved upon. Even now I make myself super available for crochet help in order to constantly improve my product and service. For example, I’ll create new crochet tutorials, change up wording or the design of my website to address these issues.
Can you walk us through the process of setting up an online store?
What advice would you give to someone who is looking to begin selling products online?
There’s lots of platforms out there to start your own online store. Depending on what you plan on selling, some platforms are better than others.
The most popular e-commerce platform is Shopify, but if you sell something handmade, I’d recommend starting off with Etsy. That’s because Etsy is a marketplace, which means 1) just by existing on Etsy, you’ll get exposure to potential customers and 2) there isn’t much you can customize on Etsy which is a good thing – it means you, as a business owner and/or creator, can focus on your actual product instead of website design. Shopify does come with a bunch of templates so that you don’t have to worry about web design too much either, but since Shopify is purely an online storefront, you’ll need to find ways to drive traffic to your site.
Whichever method you choose, start by creating good products, finding product market fit, and then figuring out ways for people to find out about your great products.
What quality or characteristic of yours do you feel is most important to you as an entrepreneur? Why?
Listening. To my customers, to my team, and to other entrepreneurs. As a first-time entrepreneur, I’m constantly in the position of – I don’t know what I don’t know. And while I don’t take what everyone says at face value (as they say, if Ford asked what people wanted, they’d say faster horses), I try to understand why people say the things that they do. That way, I can find out what I need to learn more about and figure out solutions.
How has Asian Hustle Network helped you along in your journey?
AHN reminds me to keep on hustling. I find a lot of encouragement from reading people’s posts about who they are and their journey. Also from time-to-time, people post resources for things I’m looking for, like third party logistics operators, virtual assistants, or motion designers.