How Lalylaland got started

Introduce your Etsy shop and tell us your story. How did you begin and decide on what to sell on Etsy, and how do you create your products?

My name is Lydia. I am the designer and maker behind the crochet label "lalylala amigurumi". I opened my Etsy shop 10 years ago in 2011 without any plans on what to do with it. At this time I was running a small freelance-graphics studio and originally I had considered offering graphic products and illustrations in my future shop. But that never happened, because then my hobby happened.

I've always done crochet and knitting to balance out my mainly digital work. When I became an aunt, it was only natural to give my niece a very personal, unique and, above all, handmade gift – a little friend for life, a loyal companion. I drew some drafts and after many miles of frogged yarn, my first amigurumi finally looked like it should: a hooded bear, minimalist, with long arms to dangle and to hug.

After that, the ideas for more crochet toys were bubbling up and the feedback was so enthusiastic that I thought it was worth giving it a try: I wrote down the instructions and put them in my unused Etsy shop. 

And some time later, I actually had my very first sale! I did a happy dance through the office and my colleagues thought I went crazy.

Favorite items

What are your favorite items? What makes these so special? Why do you think these items might be selling well?

My favs are amigurumi designs with an extra. Those who are not only cute toys but also have a feature that makes them special, like the Brimstone Life Cycle Play Set. It works like a dress up doll and displays the magical metamorphosis of a butterfly – from a caterpillar hatching out of an egg, through pupation until becoming a lovely butterfly by pulling the wing set onto the caterpillar. The set even has a leaf to “feed”  the caterpillar. 

The concept is to create a toy that is fun, but also has educational value. It helps to focus on the small magical things that we can explore everywhere around, and to understand them.

But the most fun thing for me to create are musical toys. 

In the best case, the tune and the toy design meet perfectly – like at my Flying Saucer, which features the iconic main title of the 90s cult TV-series “The X-Files“. While the music is playing, an oblivious cow is beamed upwards driven by the neon green pull string of the music box. This one gives a good laugh to both kids and adults. 

For me, that’s the best thing in making toys - being able to brighten up someone's day and make one smile.

Getting sales on Etsy

How long did it take for you to earn your first sale and how do you currently attract customers to your Etsy shop?  

It took some weeks until someone found my shop and bought one of my patterns. But after that more sales came quite quickly, thanks to a French blogger who stumbled upon my kangaroo amigurumi pattern and wrote a lovely post about the finished toy on her blog.

More makers found my shop and so it constantly grew bigger. First it was only more digital patterns, later I also offered crochet supplies and physical DIY kits related to my designs.

At the moment I’m testing advertisements on Etsy to see how that works. But I don’t bet on ads. As in the handmade business, it’s more kind of family-like, I never booked advertising before. Commercial advertisements, especially on social media, somewhat felt wrong and inappropriate to me and so I rather try to stay in touch with my followers by posting fun and interesting content.

In my opinion, the most important thing to attract potential customers is to come up with new designs and fresh ideas on a regular basis – no matter how fast you drop a new product. 

I tried to follow the less-is-more mantra for both my products and social media. I take my time to create designs and products to make them as perfect as possible and keep the quality standard high. 

I also don't want my followers to get bored about my postings by repeating old content just to keep the output level high. I just try to avoid all the things I myself don’t like when I am using social media.

Managing Lalylala

How do you manage your shop? Are you running solo or do you have any team members? What tools or services do you use to run your shop and how do you handle fulfillment?

Team Lalylala has three full time members. There’s our lovely colleague Sylvie, my life partner Mischa and I, plus our little son who claims to be our most important team member as he’s our toy tester.

Sylvie is the one who mainly keeps an eye on the daily tasks. She assembles crochet kits and together we prepare orders for shipping. Thanks to her great support, I can focus more on making new designs and kits.

Mischa takes care of the communication and email support. He’s there when a customer comes up with a question regarding an order, or if someone needs help, or advice following the crochet pattern.

I have also outsourced the accounting to a professional, which was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Working as a team is so much better! Trying to do it all by yourself can be overwhelming.

The future of Lalylala

What goals do you have for your shop in the future?

Three years ago one of my lifelong dreams came true when I opened my own wee studio shop in our neighborhood. This is truly my happy place.

For my online shop, there’s no such thing like a masterplan, or a goal I want to reach in particular. I just want our shop to be the best possible experience for our customers. 

It should feel like receiving a gift when unpacking your order and I’m happy if people enjoy our products and when they get back to us sharing their personal stories, precious moments and photos of the toys and their happy little owners.

Advice for new sellers

What’s your advice for a new seller starting an Etsy shop?

Follow your gut feelings and don't try too hard. Get inspired without copying, find your own style. Be consistent, kind, and generous, and treat your customers like a good friend.

Make use of all the possibilities that a platform like Etsy offers you: present yourself and your products with beautiful photos, optimize your products for the Etsy search and above all attach importance to the quality and not to the quantity of your products.

Find a community and share your work on social media and most important: have fun with what you are doing and the rest will follow.