Yello Interviews: Ashantee Smith, Owner of ‘Everything Plush’
by Karen Rollins Aug 1, 2022
Ashantee Smith, 20, discovered crocheting around six years ago and has been practicing it on and off as a hobby ever since.
Ashantee would occasionally sell some of the items she made to family and friends, but once she discovered amigurumi (the art of crocheting or knitting small creatures) in August 2021, she decided it was time to introduce her craft to a wider audience and launched her brand ‘Everything Plush’.
‘Everything Plush’ offers clients handmade, customisable stuffed animals known as ‘plushies’ in a range of colours and sizes, along with other items such as pillows and keychains.
Yello asked Ashantee to tell us more about herself and her small business.
Describe yourself using three words.
Determined. Shy. Creative.
Please tell us a bit about your childhood.
I was born and raised in Barbados. I grew up in St Thomas and St Michael. I attended Springer Memorial Secondary School, where I was able to make great memories, and meet some great people.
One of my core childhood memories is of when my brother and I would help our mother roast breadfruits (well, we just liked to pretend we were helping) on a sunny Sunday afternoon. We would just sit outside with a couple of our neighbours chatting, laughing, and just enjoying each other’s company whilst enjoying fresh ‘off-the-flame’ breadfruit drenched in butter, salt, and other good things.
Were you always a creative person?
I would say no, I wasn’t always a creative person, because I never really got into anything creative when I was growing up. I thought looking at something artistic was quite nice, but it was never really a passion of mine back then.
What were your initial career plans?
Some people at my age know what they want their career to look like and what they what to achieve, but for me I never really knew what career path I wanted to pursue, and that’s OK.
When / why did you start crocheting and amigurumi?
I started crocheting in third form when I was about 13 or 14 years old. I was in the art room after school and the teacher was talking about crochet and, being a person who likes to be hands-on, I decided “well I want to try that”.
After that initial introduction, I went home and told my parents so that I could get the wool and crochet needles. Then I went on YouTube and just learned from all the different video tutorials that are on there.
For a while, crocheting was an on and off relaxing hobby, then I started making bikinis for my friends, and picking up other sales here and there.
In August 2021, I saw videos of amigurumi on TikTok and decided that it was something I wanted to try. My mom asked family members from overseas to bring in the necessary items so I could begin working on projects.
I started with simple free patterns to build my confidence, before I dived into the harder items, and from there I’ve been hooked!
When did you start your business ‘Everything Plush’?
I launched ‘Everything Plush’ on 14 November 2021. I wanted something more out of life, something I could look back on and be proud as to how far I’ve come.
After I started, I just asked my friends, and even strangers, to follow, like and share my business page to help get it out there.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced since starting the business? How have you overcome it?
My biggest challenge would be my own doubt. Thinking my work isn’t good enough, or that people don’t like it as much as I thought they would or thinking of giving up because I wasn’t getting the quick sales that I hoped would happen.
My supportive family and friends helped me to get over that self-doubt and made me realise that things aren’t going to happen in a flash. It will take time. When I have those days now, they help me to remember that I’m doing OK, and that I am further along than I was a month or two ago, and they tell me how proud they are of me.
Is there anything you wish you’d known before starting the business?
That it is OK to optimise and outsource. There is this mindset where we think that we must do everything ourselves. We don’t.
An example is when you can’t create a logo, no matter how hard you try. It’s OK to reach out to someone in that specific field to work with them and bring your ideas and thoughts to life.
Describe your typical ‘Everything Plush’ client.
This is a hard question because I wouldn’t say I have a typical client.
There is a mix of people who choose to support my craft. There are some who love anything handmade. Then there are those who love plushies and want to collect them. Then there are some who just think it’s cute and want to surprise their significant other, or gift it to cousins, children, godchildren etc.
What is the unique selling point for your business?
I wouldn’t say I have one unique selling point; I just try my best in every aspect of my business, customer service, quality of goods, and reasonable prices.
How do you plan to develop the business over the next 12-18 months?
I don’t have a set plan for the next 12-18 months. I just want my business to flourish and grow even more in the months to come.
What advice do you have for aspiring small business owners?
My advice is don’t give up! Don’t look at what everyone else is doing, just do you. If you have a talent or hobby that you want to turn into something bigger, go for it, don’t let other people deter you from accomplishing something great.
In the end there’s going to be ups and downs, but don’t give up, because fighting through the down period will eventually be worth it in the long run.
What do you love about your island home of Barbados?
I love the beaches, the food, the beautiful sunsets, and especially the Crop Over season.
What do you do / where do you go to relax on a day off?
On a day off, my favourite thing is just to unwind with a good book or listen to true crime podcasts.
What’s your philosophy / approach to life?
My approach to life is just to go for it! You won’t know the turnout unless you try.
Order one of Ashantee’s plushie creatures via Instagram – @everything_plush246.