Amigurumi (pronounced ah-mee-guh-roo-me) is a Japanese word which describes small knitted or crocheted stuffed toys.
The craft has become increasingly popular in recent years, especially with people who are already creative and love challenging themselves to make 3D dolls, animals, or even food-inspired items.
Barbadian Kimelle Jemmott fell in love with amigurumi about four years ago, so when she lost her job during the COVID-19 pandemic it seemed the ideal time to see if her passion and talent could be turned into a successful business.
‘The Island Hook’ was launched and Kimelle’s small enterprise is continuing to grow. Yello asked Kimelle to share more about her life as a small business owner.
Describe yourself using three words.
Introverted, creative, resilient.
Please share a bit about your childhood.
I grew up in Hillaby St Thomas and I used to hate that I was so far away from everything (the beach, Town and of course Chefette) but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate the peace and quiet of the countryside. I was raised primarily by my aunt who was an entrepreneur at the time.
I attended Hillaby Turner’s Hall Primary and then Louis Lynch Secondary School. After that I went to the SJPP (now known as the Samuel Jackman Prescod Institute of Technology (SJPI)).
I had a generally happy childhood; my cousins and I were always up to some hijinks or another. I think, as I’ve grown up, I’ve become a bit boring!
Were you always a creative person?
I’ve loved drawing and crafting from an early age. Two of my uncles are artists and really encouraged my creativity so from young, I was painting ceramics, making paper mâché creatures, and putting kites together.
I got really into writing as a teenager and there were many paranormal romances and angsty teenage dramas on my laptop’s hard drive. My B2K fan fictions are probably still floating around somewhere on the internet.
What were your initial career plans?
I studied aesthetics and massage therapy at SJPP and spent a good while in that field, but as time went on, I could feel myself starting to lose the interest and passion I had for it, so eventually I left that profession in search of something else.
When/why did you start crocheting and amigurumi?
I started crocheting about eight or nine years ago. I was helping a friend clean out a spare room at her house and came across barrels filled with yarn, knitting, and crochet notions. The colourful yarn is what really caught my eye at first, so I asked her about knitting because that is what I was more familiar with at the time. She was really into it at one time, but had then picked up beading, so she told me I could have whatever I wanted.
Comparing the instruments, a single crochet hook seemed less intimidating than two knitting needles, so I decided to start with that. From there I hopped onto YouTube to watch tutorials. I started out making tams and beanies and then went onto bags and swimsuits.
About four years into my journey, a Facebook crochet group that I was a part of decided to do an amigurumi challenge, where everybody would work on a specific design for a couple of weeks. That was the first toy I made, and I enjoyed it so much that I gradually dropped other forms of crochet and dived into it.
Tell us more about your business ‘The Island Hook’.
My hobby turned into an official business during the pandemic. The company I was working for closed its doors and I was stuck asking myself, “well what am I gonna do now?”
After working from home for over a year, the thought of a daily back and forth commute, as well as having to integrate myself into a whole new workplace culture, didn’t mesh well with my social anxiety at all. And I still hadn’t found anything I could say that I loved and wouldn’t mind waking up day after day to do in a work capacity, except amigurumi. I could do that for hours and love every minute of it. Plus, people liked my work and were willing to pay for it.
So, I started researching crochet/handmade businesses, registered the name and ‘The Island Hook’ was born.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced since starting the business? How have you overcome it?
I’d say pricing my items appropriately is the biggest challenge I’ve faced. I was still in a hobbyist mindset, so I had to get over that and start looking at things from a business standpoint.
I had to work out all my material costs, factor in how I would charge for my time, while still observing the economy and how it was affecting my potential customers. So much math!
Honestly, it’s still a work in progress but I’ve gotten much better.
What is the unique selling point for your business?
The quality of my products and the attention to detail that goes into each item.
Describe your typical client. How do they find you?
Someone who appreciates handmade goods. They usually want something that can be customised to their tastes. From parents who would like a plushie with their child’s initials embroidered onto it, to animal lovers who would like something resembling their pet. I also get quite a few gamers and people who are into anime. Most people find me via Instagram or word of mouth.
Is there anything you’ve made that makes you feel particularly proud?
Yes, my medusa! It was the first semi-intricate pattern that I decided to tackle. I was working with a different type of yarn than I was accustomed to, and it was also my first time trying to integrate a wire frame into a piece.
The trial and error was so frustrating, but I knew that if I wanted my skills to grow, I couldn’t give up. So, I kept at it and was finally able to finish it.
How do you plan to develop the business over the next 12-18 months?
Right now, I’m working on securing funding to help with materials and I’m also hoping to do a few markets/expos later in the year to bring more attention to my business.
What advice do you have for aspiring small business owners?
Don’t be afraid to start. Do as much research as you can into whatever area you choose as well as the business side of it. Be intentional about what you’d like to achieve and keep working towards it every day.
What do you love about your island home Barbados?
The food! I’m also fascinated by our history and culture, despite our small size, we are absolutely steeped in it.
What do you do/where do you go to relax on a day off?
Relaxing for me is lying in bed with a good book or watching a TV series. I’ve recently gotten into gardening so that has been interesting as well.
What’s your philosophy/motto/approach to life?
Nobody gets out alive so you better enjoy life while you can.