Woobles founders Justine Tiu and Adrian Zhang — Photo courtesy of Shoott
Hook for a moment. Thanks to viral trends like Harry Styles’ patchwork cardigan, Tik Tok bumblebee and Bernie crochet (not to mention the handmade mittens he wore at President Biden’s inauguration), crafting is cool again. . And, with so much time spent at home, more people than ever have had the time to try it out.
The only problem is that the average person is convinced they can’t do it. They think it must be difficult or they’re not good at doing things or they’re just too clumsy.
Enter the Woobles.
How cute are these Woobles? — Photo courtesy of the Woobles
Dreamed up by millennials Justine Tiu and Adrian Zhang, Woobles are irresistible amigurumi – Japanese crocheted plushes – that you make from all-inclusive kits that are a complete game-changer.
“I’m over 40 and, without exaggerating, I’ll say I’ve been trying to learn how to crochet all my life,” a fan emailed the couple. “My grandmother tried to teach me when I was ten, but I couldn’t. Every now and then I’ve picked up books/patterns claiming to be perfect for beginners. No chance. However, the two kits I bought from you taught me a lot. Thank you!”
So how, after more than two centuries of the crocheting status quo, did the Woobles manage to disrupt the industry and change the learning curve?
“We’ve always focused more on education than crochet,” says Tiu. “We really wanted to teach people something, and crochet was a great option because 1) it’s something people expect they can only learn from person to person and 2) you just need to master a few basics. to be able to do a wide variety of things.
Justine with Fitzherbert the bear — Photo courtesy of Shoott
Tiu and Zhang, college sweethearts who recently married, both have strong education backgrounds: She led UX Design at Google for education products like Google Classroom and Expeditions, and he was a director at Deutsche Bank and a tutor at Henry Street Settlement.
“We were inspired to launch The Woobles by a woman named Emily,” Tiu recalled. “She had been trying to learn how to crochet for years, but couldn’t figure it out because she was ‘too old’, ‘not coordinated enough’, ‘not cunning’ and ‘not smart enough.’ offered to teach her and, after an hour together, she understood. She spoke louder, straightened up and couldn’t help but smile. It was like she was becoming a new person.
According to Tiu, “It wasn’t hooking specifically that changed the way Emily saw herself. It’s because learning to crochet showed her that she still had the ability to learn. The experience had such an impact on her that she changed the way she behaved outside of the hook skill. Seeing his transformation is what made us want to boost the self-confidence of others.
Although Tiu crocheted for about five years before founding The Woobles in the summer of 2020, Zhang learned on the job from a Woobles crochet kit.
Adrian with Sebastian the Lion and Peter the Penguin — Photo courtesy of Shoott
“We pre-start each project so learners can master the basics before trying higher-level skills,” he explains. “Starting a crochet project is one of the trickiest things to do – so much so that it could put off a complete beginner. We’ve set it up in a way that’s impossible to unravel, creating a safe space to fail If a learner makes a mistake and has to start over from the beginning, it’s less daunting.
Additionally, adds Tiu, “Pre-starting the coin also creates the endowed progress effect, which means providing a head start to encourage someone to achieve a goal. That’s why loyalty cards customer are usually accompanied by at least one free stamp.
Loyalty is something the Woobles have been humbled to earn over the past year. “We thought that once people had successfully learned from a kit, they would leave us,” admits Tiu. “But we were surprised to see that every time we launched a new kit, we actually struggled to keep up with demand. We sold out the Nico the Cat kit in less than a day when our email subscribers bought all of our stock before it was available to the general public.
Woobles now offer eight beginner kits and five intermediate kits, with Peter the Penguin topping them all.
Each kit – which beginners typically complete in three to eight hours – comes with all the tools you need to create your plushie plus a step-by-step video guide. There are right-handed and left-handed versions for everyone, and Tiu and Zhang even provide unlimited help via email and virtual crochet office hours.
Woobles kits include everything you need to crochet an adorable creature — Photo courtesy of The Woobles
“One of the main things we think about is how to reduce cognitive load,” says Zhang. “We break down the learning process into small steps because we know people learn best when they receive small bits of information at a time.”
Over the past year, the Woobles have taught over 60,000 people how to crochet and the business has grown from zero to seven figures. They’ve even hosted virtual team-building events for clients like Google, Twitter, and Tufts University.
“Our goal is to teach people the technique of crocheting, not just the ability to crochet a specific Wooble,” Tiu explains. “Our kits explain how to read the patterns so people can choose any crochet pattern. We also have a bunch of free tutorials on our website to advance crochet skills outside of the kits.
Many of the Woobles’ customers have created Instagram accounts to show off their crochet creations, and some have even opened Etsy shops.
Looking ahead, Tiu and Zhang prepare their first batch of kits ready to be sold in stores. They’re also introducing what they call “the most beginner-friendly yarn” and testing an even easier way to teach crochet with technology.
“We eventually want to expand into teaching a whole handful of physical skills,” says Zhang. “But, first, we want to become the resource for all things crochet.”