Crocheting is all the rage these days, and this Chinay entrepreneur knows it!
Meet Chelsea Diu, the ambitiously creative spirit behind your next adorable must-haves. Diu is the founder of Koko Gurumi, an online hobby store that showcases a diverse array of crocheted dolls, clothes, and accessories that can range from animal-themed coasters to anime-inspired bucket hats. As the shop’s name implies, Koko Gurumi places a special focus on the concept of amigurumi, the traditional Japanese art of knitting or crocheting stuffed yarn toys.
Starting out: a marriage of hobbies
Having created a vastly intricate portfolio of crocheted works, one would think that Diu has spent more than a handful of years practicing the skill. However, as it turns out, Diu’s humble beginnings in amigurumi started out like many niche hobbies do — during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I started making amigurumi during the pandemic. It’s been two years since then, and I’ve recently joined cosplay events to help my business grow,” shared Diu, who has so far participated in the Anime and Cosplay Expo (ACX), Cosmania, and CosMatsuri to appeal to fans of popular culture that her works are inspired by.
Naturally, it does not need to be said that Diu herself is such a fan, bringing home trades and hauls from other talented artists she has met in those same conventions. Those who are interested in the same fandoms as Diu do the same for her merchandise as well. Most of Diu’s amigurumi dolls, after all, take after lovable characters such as Baby Yoda, Baby Groot, Ice Bear, Anya (Spy x Family), Shooky (BT21), and more. For fans of popular Chinese series, there are even bunnified versions of Mo Dao Zu Shi’s Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian!
Commenting on her love for the community, Diu said: “It was a bit challenging since it was during the pandemic [when] I started, so there were a lot of competitors and emerging small businesses as well. Also, customers can only interact with you via social media, so they can’t really see the products in person. I was able to overcome those by consistently engaging with other artists. We helped each other grow.”
Promoting art, fashion, and small businesses
Although crocheting is a relaxing hobby for many, no one can deny that it takes a lot of time. It is especially time-intensive as an online business, which is why, instead of simply mass-producing crocheted goods, Koko Gurumi often takes custom-designed orders that the customers themselves choose to buy. The unique individuality of such designs, Diu believes, is what differentiates Koko Gurumi from the rest of its competitors.
“Since my business is crochet, everything is handmade and cannot be replicated or copied by a machine. Just with that, [Koko Gurumi] is already set apart from other businesses. Customers can request what character they want me to customize,” said Diu.
Other than amigurumi, Koko Gurumi provides artful crocheted clothing, which can also be made custom. Diu explained, “If it’s an apparel [piece], [customers] can request a design and choose what color they want. It will be a unique item. It will be one-of-a-kind, [with] every stitch handmade with care.”
Further expressing her interest in fashion, Diu may also often be seen attempting and featuring pattern tests for apparel by other fellow crochet designers on the Koko Gurumi page. This is because part of Koko Gurumi’s philosophy is to be a strong supporter of slow and sustainable fashion, especially those from local and small businesses. (Note: Diu regularly posts reminders of giveaways from her featured crocheting peers, so be sure to keep an eye for those!)
That said, as a small business owner herself, Diu has had her own fair share of challenging experiences when she first began her venture. To other aspiring online entrepreneurs starting out their own journey, she shares these three tips: “Keep engaging with other people, post content regularly, and most importantly, have fun with your business.”