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May 8, 2024

Student view: Student-Made entrepreneur hooked on spreading joy

Abbie Townley is a senior in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences majoring in digital storytelling and minoring in media photography and graphic design. She is a Student-Made entrepreneur and the founder of Crochet Critters.

My grandma has crocheted stuffed animals throughout my life. When we were little, my sister and I would visit her craft fair booths and pick patterns for what she should make next. We have always been her biggest fans. When we were old enough, we began to help her sell what she calls her “critters.”

The first thing I noticed when I attended her craft fairs was her overall approach to selling her creations. Her goal has never been to make money — in fact, every dollar she makes goes to charity. It’s not about the money: she is 100% focused on spreading joy and love to as many people as possible.

For years, I admired her creations; in December 2022, I sat down with my grandma, and she taught me how to crochet critters of my own. It took a lot of work and time. But through a lot of dedication — and a few very wonky-looking mice — I learned the skill that I’ve watched her use as a tool to bring joy to countless people.

While I have always been a crafty person, I never viewed myself as an entrepreneur. When I first got involved with the Burgess Institute a year and a half ago, it wasn’t to build a business but to work as the Photography and Videography intern for the Launch track of the venture creation program. I loved working and learning about all the different businesses. Even as I got more involved with other student businesses, it hadn’t occurred to me that my creative hobby was a potential business in disguise.

When the Burgess Institute launched the Student-Made program here at MSU, my perception of crocheting completely changed. Since picking up a hook and yarn, I had made so many stuffed animals for myself, and I knew that if I wanted to keep up with this hobby, I had to find an outlet for them. 

Student-Made is an online marketplace that provides a website and resources to help grow student businesses, mainly aimed toward physical products. In other words, it was the perfect program for my crocheting. Student-Made gave me a platform that could turn this passion into a feasible business. 

In August 2023, I joined Student-Made and officially started Crochet Critters. Following my grandma’s footsteps, I adopted her mission of spreading joy and love through affordable, handmade stuffed animals. When I joined Student-Made, I only produced a couple of my favorite patterns, but my products and passion have grown over time.

I never could have imagined that my crafty side business would become as big as it has. Over the past two semesters, I have sold hundreds of critters and have had the honor of sharing smiles with people across campus. At the end of the day, nothing compares to seeing the smile on someone’s face when they “adopt” one of my critters.

Thanks to the opportunities provided by Student-Made and the Burgess Institute, I am fortunate to share these experiences with others all the time. My business has received considerable exposure through participation in Student-Made markets located in Sparty’s Market at 1855 Place and Kellogg’s Market in the lobby of the Kellogg Hotel and Convention Center.

I hear from people who keep their stuffed dinosaurs on their desks as a study buddy and others who have found good luck in their own good-luck ducks. Pop-up and tabling events help me connect with other student businesses around campus and allow me to take custom orders from students who are excited about my business. Student-Made has opened countless doors for me and ultimately opened my eyes to what I can do with my passion.

I’m not entirely sure what lies ahead for Crochet Critters. It’s a business, but it’s so much more than that to me. It’s the legacy of my grandma. It’s the best creative outlet I’ve had throughout college. It’s a way to share joy with others, even in small ways. So, while I can’t say what the plan is for the future of my products, I can say that my mission will stay constant: create fun crocheted critters and continue spreading joy to as many people as possible.

This story was originally featured on the Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation website.

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