Everyone who is anyone in the world of the geeky internet knows who Twinkie Chan is! And if you aren’t familiar with her, you are probably familiar with her work. She practically invented the adorable food scarves you see on Bloggers and YouTubers alike, across this big blue Internets. She crochets cute foods into practical wearables! Twinkie Chan is a busy busy San Francisco based woman – between running her cute crochet store, creating patterns to share with other crochet enthusiasts, writing for her adorable blog, and running the massive Twinkie empire (Or TwinkiePire as I like to call it) – we’re not sure she even has time to eat the food she works with daily! She contributed exclusive designs to the Hello Kitty 35th Anniversary fashion show in 2009 and the Sanrio 50th Anniversary art show in 2010. She’s purely fabulous! We had a chance to speak with the Twinkie behind the Chan, and asked her the nitty-gritty details about her very cool and kawaii job. Here is what she had to say!


Twinkie Chan herself!

Thank you so much for doing this interview… can you tell me – What would you say is your job title, if you had to give one to yourself?

Hi! Oh my gosh. I still have a tough time answering this whenever someone asks what I do. I guess I would say that I’m a crochet designer with an accessories brand.

twinkie-assorted

Can you tell us a bit about all of the different sites you run? Such as Yummy You, your book website, and any other of the branches of the great Twinkie Chan tree?

My first love is www.TwinkieChan.com, which is kind of the overarching umbrella for all my zany crochet antics. You can find my blog there, which includes crochet patterns, outfit posts, small biz rants, fun giveaways, and random life stuff. It also links to my Etsy shop, where you can find crochet patterns and crocheted goodies designed by me. You might also run into my YouTube channel, where I’ve started focusing on free video tutorials for various crochet projects. TwinkieChanBooks.com exists, but I have to admit, I don’t update it much, although I *am* working on writing my second crochet book in the next few months! YummyYou.com is where you’ll find my diffusion or mass line, where we take my more popular crochet designs, like bacon and egg scarves or pizza scarves, and produce them overseas to make them more accessible to more people and allow for wholesale to boutiques which I cannot really do on my own. And finally, you might also run into www.TissueBoxBakery.com, which is this experiment I’m trying out, where I offer free patterns specifically for cute little crocheted tissue box cozies, and people can work up these patterns, send me their cozies, and I post them for sale, where all proceeds go to a charity.

When did you first realize you wanted to (or had the opportunity) to become a professional crochet mastermind? What was your big break when you realized you’d hit something big?

I started crocheting scarves for myself in 2005 and ended up creating a website for them that same year. It was all just for fun, and I had no master plan. Word of mouth spread like crazy, and various magazines would contact me for articles. When someone read an article about me in Giant Robot Magazine and asked if I’d consider licensing or mass-production, the wheels started turning, and I never had thought before about producing my work on a mass level. Also, I initially set out to sell unique accessories, but I think what has gotten me more notoriety now is selling my crochet patterns or posting them for free on my blog. I think my demographic is changing, so I’m trying to also adjust my business model as I go. It’s all sort of one big grand experiment!

What did you go to school for? Did school primarily help you get into the crocheting and Internet business, or did other hobbies, work experience, and personal learning on your own time help more?

I’m an English major with an emphasis in Creative Writing and Short Fiction. So, that doesn’t seem very related to crocheting or running a business. However, after college, I spent 10 years as a literary agent, helping writers find publishers, editing their manuscripts, and turning people into brands. Oddly enough, my experience as an agent really helped me develop an eye toward turning art into commerce, and specifically, trying to get noticed in a sea of millions of people attempting to all do the same thing. I’m not saying I’m a great business-woman, because, frankly, I never really know what I’m doing, but I always tell everyone to focus their craft and their message to be as memorable as possible.

What’s a typical work day like for Twinkie Chan?

Daytime is for running errands, going to buy yarn and craft supplies, packaging orders, running to the post office, making phone calls, business-related Skype seshes, shooting photos of product or video tutorials, stuff like that. Night time is reserved for creative time, crocheting, sketching, editing photos, editing videos. I’m kind of just working all the time!


Where the magic happens!

You seem to be the muscle behind the business, doing all the crocheting, the marketing genius, doing all the social media and promotion of the brand, and generally the woman who does it all for the magic that is Twinkie Chan. Do any other people play an important role in your business model?

I have a business partner for the Yummy You side of my business, and I also used to work with a licensing agent as well as various companies who would license the rights from us to produce items. However, we are starting to try a different angle and investing in producing our own product, so I’ll tell ya how it goes :P. For the first time, we hired a social media manager to help me with Yummy You-related work, because, frankly, it was too much for me to handle both the Yummy You side and the Twinkie Chan side. I really do most of the Twinkie Chan stuff on my own – designing, crocheting, blogging, YouTubing – although I have a handful of crochet elves to help me keep my Etsy shop stocked and also be able to vend at craft shows.

The world of adorable crochet seems primarily dominated by women. Are there men involved in the world of crochet?

There are! Maybe more than you think! Are they crocheting cute things in particular? I’m not sure, but I have a feeling that they must be. I’m actually not super in-tune with other crochet designers and what they are up to, but there is a fella named Howie Woo who would crochet really cool stuff and photograph his adventures with them. I tend to stay in my own little crochet bubble, and I tend to follow or look up to creatives who have a similar aesthetic to mine but different skill sets and products, like jewelry-makers, clothing-designers, or visual artists.

What’s the most interesting and exciting part of your job? What has been most rewarding part of your job?

I have always been really introverted and shy, but meeting tons of people with common interests has been the most fun! When I worked in publishing, I really loved it, but I still never really felt like I fit in or had found my people. I totally found my people through crocheting and the world of crafting. It only took until my 30s to get here! 😛 I also am so overwhelmed when I receive emails from people who have discovered or re-discovered crochet because they were interested in my patterns. Recently, someone wrote to me that she asked her mother to help her learn to crochet because she wanted to make a crocheted baby Groot from my pattern. I think that’s pretty cool and pretty sweet!

What are some of the more unusual perks of your job?

So, I never set out to be a model or anything like that (I was always the smart one, not the cute one!), but as a result of blogging and posting outfit photos and just in general being a wackadoo online, I do sometimes get sent cool clothing and accessories to wear and shoot photos in! I don’t think that’s something I would have ever predicted.

Where did the name Twinkie Chan come from?

“Chan” is my mother’s maiden name, so that’s a nod to her side of the family. “Twinkie” … is kind of a weirder explanation that nobody really understands. It’s a term we sometimes use for Asian kids who grow up in America, because they are yellow on the outside and white on the inside. I know, it’s awkward to talk about, but, that’s the real story!

What role has the Internet and specific social media outlets played in your success? Would you say any of these are particularly invaluable?

YES, very much yes. I didn’t have to hoof it from boutique to boutique to sell my goods. I didn’t have to open up my own actual brick and mortar shop to sell my goods. I can have one-on-one discussions with random people who like what I do. The internet is amazing. Yes, it has its pitfalls and it can be a cesspool of horridness, BUT, how easily we can connect with people from all around the world can be such a wonderful and amazing thing. I’m always really slow to adopt new social media. Blogging is my number one first love, and is a great way to connect with people. Twitter came next for me, and I just enjoyed it on a more personal level to amuse myself. I really disliked Facebook for a long time for some reason, but once I decided to start putting time and love into my Facebook page, I found that work really paid off, and it has been another great way for me to connect with fans and interact with everybody. Facebook gets a lot of heat about its algorithms and all sorts of other stuff, but, currently, it’s the place that is easiest for me to pick up new followers/likes, and there really are a lot of great page-statistics available for us to check out. Instagram is a lot of fun, too! I’m really goofy on it, though, I think, and less business-y, but I hope that has more appeal than not, haha.

Are there any skills that you unexpectedly learned or had to take on to make this business model work?

I had to learn how to use Photoshop and Illustrator!! OMG. I am still super sucky at both of those things, but I never in a million years thought I could get any sort of handle on Illustrator! Luckily, I have a friend who helped guide me through that mess, but there was a time around 2010 when I was just starting to learn, and I was expected to create all of these t-shirt graphics for Yummy You on a tight deadline, and I was just out of my mind! Also, bookkeeping! Yuck! I’m not saying I’m good at it or know a lot about it, but I have to fumble my way though it and all the taxes and legal stuff. It’s not really fun, but it’s a necessity!

What would you offer as advice to someone who wanted to get into the same type of job as you? Any encouraging words of wisdom?

Guess what? I’m still figuring it out as I go. You have to be flexible, you have to be willing to work harder then you ever have before, you have to not care if people hate what you do, you have to follow your gut when you start working with other companies. But mostly, in the beginning, I always tell people to think about themselves as a brand. People should equate a certain product or a certain style with your brand name. They should feel like they can only get a specific thing through YOU, or else, they’ll just go and get it from someone else. Really hone your message and try to figure out who you are, what your brand is, and how you can stand out in a crowd. Start trends, don’t follow them. As for crocheting for a living specifically? I would still say find a niche, pay attention to your audience’s needs, and always focus on quality – from design, to production, to photography, to customer service!

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By now we’re sure you’ve fallen in love, and gotten a little bit hungry, looking at all this cute wearable food! So be sure to stop by Twinkie Chan’s store, follow her on Twitter, like her on Facebook, and of course, maybe give some of her crochet patterns a go! Thanks for inspiring us Twinkie Chan!


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