Justine Tiu and Adrian Zhang met as undergraduates at Duke University when they were in the same chemistry class. (Justine likes to joke that “we had chemistry—literally!”) They both went on to work in high-powered jobs in New York City. Justine was a User Experience Designer at Google. Adrian spent seven years as a Wall Street trader.
But their highly successful business venture, The Woobles, grew out of something low-powered and simple. Justine likes trying new things, particularly making things with her hands, and wanted to made a handmade gift for a friend. She decided to crochet a “plushie.” Justine didn’t know how to crochet, but figured “how hard could it be?”
Well, she found out. It was HARD! She spent weeks piecing together YouTube videos and studying crochet blogs. As she began to gain skill in crocheting, Justine experienced the joy and excitement of learning something new. She realized that her work as a user experience designer at Google would be useful in creating user-friendly kits and tutorials for people who wanted to learn to crochet. The small, stuffed yarn creatures designed by them are based on the Japanese art form called Amigururmi.
Justine and Adrian began to experiment with various materials and created instruction videos. In June of 2019, Justine participated in a FAD (Fashion, Art, Design) mini-market show in Brooklyn. In 2020, the couple founded their company, The Woobles, with a $200 investment.
Justine and Adrian promoted their new enterprise through a national Google Ads campaign and set up a website and Facebook page. The business grew quickly. Within a year they had 10,000 followers on Facebook and now have over 20,000. According to an article by Brian Gordon in The News & Observer on 9/27/22, within two years, the company has sold $5 million worth of kits and accessories.
Woobles sells six basic animal kits with frequent special, limited-edition designs. Each kit includes yarn, crochet hook, beaded eyes and access to step-by-step online tutorial specific to each animal. Kits are designed for either novice or intermediate crochet ability.
Justine and Adrian believe that their kits are effective and popular because they spend a lot of time and effort in improving the learning process. She says their company is about much more than learning to crochet. It’s about showing people they have it in them to learn something new. When people are successful in learning something new, no matter what the task is, people gain confidence in themselves and the sky is the limit.