Seller Story: Maiko from AmiAmi Gocco

A New York sojourn

Maiko Sucich’s world changed when, back in 1996, she decided to take a few weeks off her work in Japan and go to New York City.

She had previously stayed in New York for a year to study English, and had been teaching in Japan since then. The ’96 trip, however, introduced her to her future husband at a party, and though she did have to return to Japan, she knew she was meant to be in New York.

“We wrote letters to each other,” she says of the time they were on opposite sides of the globe. “I came back a year later and we married in 1998.”

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Humble beginnings

Not long after, she became mother to two daughters and a son.

For Maiko, creativity runs in the blood of the women in her family. Her mother wasn’t just a professional dressmaker, she was skilled in oil painting, pottery and stitching as well. Her grandmother, too, made Japanese kimonos, crocheted mats, cushions and accessories.

She considers them her idols. “They always found something to create. I hope I can keep creating unique and sweet stuff to make people happy just like they did,” she says.

So, although being a mother was a full-time job,  she snuck out time for herself to make dresses for her children.

It stemmed from the basic need to keep doing something and not be bored – something she still swears by – but it quickly caught the fancy of the fellow mothers at her daughter’s ballet class.

“Why don’t you sell your dresses, they asked. They told me to start a business. I did not know how to,” Maiko says.

Then one of the mothers mentioned Etsy.

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A bump in the road

In 2013, Maiko put up her first shop, Princess In Dreams, an ode to her love for all things, in her words – “cute and pretty”. Like her mother and grandmother before her, she knitted hats and cardigans.

It took her 3 months to have her first sale. It was a cardigan with a big bow.

Disappointingly, though, the customer did not leave a review, and there was no sale for another 6 months. “Probably because there are millions of similar shops on Etsy,” she mulls.

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Back on the horse

The setback allowed her to introspect. She began reading books and watching videos on amigurumi, the Japanese art of crocheting small, stuffed animals with big heads.

“Youtube was my teacher,” Maiko says. “Once I had grasped the how-to, I started making my own things.”

She changed her line to amigurumi and her shop name to AmiAmi Gocco. Suddenly people were interested in buying what she was selling.

Nowadays, she wakes up at 4.50 a.m. to prepare for the day. Once the cooking, cleaning and washing has been done, and her children sent off to school at around 8.30 a.m., she starts her work. First, it’s sale and shop promotions through Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, then around 10.30 a.m., she begins creating her products.

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Love what you do

For Maiko, the best thing about her work is that she can work anywhere. She has a few shelves for her products and knits and yarns, but no separate work space as such.

“I’m primarily a stay-at-home mum, so I think this balances my family and work very well,” she enthuses.

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When there’s too much work, she asks her family to not disturb her. Sometimes, when everyone in the house is asleep, she can be seen quietly knitting away.

“I love what I do!” Maiko gushes. “I just want my customers to love the products as much as I love making them. I want to bring a smile on their faces. That’s the biggest reward for my work.”

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Her inspiration, she says, stems from the world around her. She is the kind of person who, if inspired by a tree, would go on to make a tree.

For her younger daughter’s 10th birthday, her family got a dog named Choco, who constantly follows her around. Her children treat him as a part of the unit.

“My daughters say that my creations look like our little dog, so I most likely get ideas from him, too,” she says.

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Smart marketing

Throughout her journey as a creative person and an Etsy shop owner, Maiko has known the importance of perseverance and hope.

When her first Etsy shop failed to live up to her expectations, a tremendous sense of frustration took over – so much so, that she almost stopped working. Dedication, though, is a matter of strength. Maiko refused to let disappointment take her over.

Once she changed her line, she understood the importance of social media promotions. Someone helping her manage her social media accounts introduced her to OrangeTwig via Facebook. OrangeTwig is a marketing tool that helps you create, auto-schedule and promote your products across social media.

“I love OrangeTwig! It has really helped me. The tags are very helpful. My sales have gone up,” she says. Her initial tryst with OrangeTwig impressed her so much, that once she was notified about an upgrade, she immediately opted for it. “It has really helped me with my social media management,” she vouches.

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(Created and auto-promoted by OrangeTwig)

Never give up

A small, one-person business means combatting the bad days alone.

On days that she suffers a block, she refuses to let it bring her down. Instead, she chooses to do something else. Mostly, the other option involves baking, an interest her elder daughter shares with her.

At the end of the day, though, it is always her love for the craft that keeps her going.

“The key is to not give up. You have to stay positive,” she advises. “If you love what you do, you will keep at it.”

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While her family forms the cornerstone of her life, Maiko’s aspiration for her shop is to have her customers love what she makes for them.

For her, it’s not about big business ideas, but the innate need to keep doing something creative that is appreciated by people.

“I love my customers and I love their reviews. I worry about sales, but mostly, I just want my customers to be happy,” she signs off.