ICYMI: Yello Interviews Alma Henry, Founder of Absolute Stylez Crochet
by Karen Rollins Nov 13, 2023
St Lucian Alma Henry started crocheting to occupy her time and mind after she lost her job in 2017.
As she got more into her new passion and started receiving positive feedback, Alma realised that it could be made into an entrepreneurial opportunity and launched her small business, ‘Absolute Stylez Crochet’, in 2018.
Alma quickly expanded her crochet skill range and currently offers various customised items, including baby rompers, keyrings, swimwear, hats, and tops.
In August 2021, Yello asked Alma to share her story, and she explained how she managed to turn her hobby into a growing business. In case you missed it, here is our original interview with Alma.
Describe yourself using three words.
Independent, ethical, and perseverant.
Tell us about your background.
My parents lived in La Clery, Castries, when I was born.
My mother moved back to her home village of Anse La Raye when I was about seven years old, where she raised my younger brother and I as a single parent. She always did her best to nurture us the right way and made sure we had what we needed to do well.
I attended the Anse La Raye Infant and Primary Schools, and then went on to Corinth Secondary School where I graduated with seven CXCs. Since I studied business at secondary school, it was natural for me to pursue an Associate Degree in Business Administration at the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College.
While at Corinth, I took music classes after school hours and learned to play the piano. At church, I was also part of a recorder group. I played the ‘tenor recorder’ and was part of a bell choir for a short time.
I also remember being enrolled in a different activity every summer. Computer classes, summer camps, the summer library programme; anything to keep me occupied while I was away from school.
Were you always a creative person?
I’m not sure, but I would say that all those summer camps definitely nurtured the creative part of me. My grandaunt, who’s now a retired teacher, always encouraged me to read in my spare time, which developed my pretty vivid imagination.
As a student I enjoyed subjects like technical drawing, arts, and IT, and even now, I love anything that is unique and imaginative.
What were your initial career plans?
At one point in time, I thought about opening a computer centre where I could help nurture young minds, especially during summer vacations. I loved the idea of continuing a programme like the ones I attended, that would keep youngsters occupied, and doing something creative.
I also wanted to become a certified accountant; I still do! However, I have not accomplished any of that, but I have not given up on my dream.
Did you always think that you would be an entrepreneur?
In my early adult years, I knew that I wanted to be self-employed, but I always imagined that it would have something to do with computers.
At first, I desired a ‘side business’ that I could have while working a normal job because I did not want to live from paycheque to paycheque. Unfortunately, I was never able to start because I worked in the north of the island. I had to leave home early, and by the time I got home, it was too late, which made it impossible to think about a business during that period.
When / why did you start crocheting?
I learned to crochet in late 2017 when I became unemployed. I dreaded being home more than two weeks without something meaningful to do; it was dull and nerve-wracking, especially as I love keeping busy.
I remember browsing DIY kits on Amazon, so I could keep busy while I job searched, and that was when I came across crochet kits. I immediately did some research on crochet and purchased a beginner kit containing yarn skeins, two crochet hooks, two weaving needles and two e-books.
Later in 2018, once I got into the swing of things, I purchased a Crochet Hook Set because I just became passionate about the art. I found myself shopping for yarn, buttons, beads, keyrings, etc.
By then, I was basically learning to crochet from scratch, having no previous experience whatsoever, but I never imagined I would create a business out of it!
What was the first item you made?
The first item I crocheted after getting my kit was a crochet headband from one of the patterns. My first clothing item was a Christmas hat which I made back in December 2017; I still wear it every year.
The next item I attempted was a crochet baby dress set containing a headband, dress, and sandals. I remember being so proud of myself and my work.
What do you like about crocheting?
I love crochet for so many reasons. The main one being that it allows me to explore my creativity and always think of new ideas. I can play around with it, and there’s no limit to the items one can create with crochet. Clothing, accessories, home décor, party favours and décor; so many functional items.
It’s also relaxing! It’s something you clearly need patience to do, but it really reduces stress and anxiety.
I also love the fact that crochet clothing is so comfortable, fashionable and long-lasting (once taken care of). Another fun fact is that when I make a mistake while creating, I can easily unfasten a few stitches and recreate them, no need to throw away a project and restart, which saves material and time.
When did you start your business Absolute Stylez Crochet?
In 2018 I did a Front Office course that required me to create a business plan; that was when Absolute Stylez was born.
Since I was already crocheting, I decided to use the idea and turn it into a business. I was receiving positive feedback after all, so why not? It was during that time that I designed my first logo, business name, and other details that propelled me to become an operational business.
What was the main challenge you faced starting the business? How did you overcome it?
When I first began, I think a challenge I faced was having a steady flow of business. Orders were seasonal, and I was basically advertising items I made to discover what my market was.
What I realised is that most times persons purchase items after seeing ready-made items that they loved. So, what I started to do was diversify my products, so that I would basically have something for everyone.
Another challenge at times is having the right colours for a project that a client requests for a timely occasion. In that regard, I decided to order a variety of main colours in bulk to make my work easier.
Is there anything you wish you’d known before starting the business?
Looking back now, I wish I knew how helpful it is to keep a business journal when crocheting. Now I record everything! For example, the hook size I use for a project in the event I need to create similar items. That is especially important for me when I work on multiple projects at a time using various hook sizes.
What products do you currently offer?
Currently, I focus on customised baby products like matching clothing sets, baby rompers, hats, booties, rattles, pillows and blankets.
I also offer customised pompom and monogram keyrings, swimwear, curly / pompom ribbons, letter and number pillows, bottle holders, wall hanging décor, hanging kitchen towels, curtain ties, pillows, hats, and tops.
Who are your clients? How do they find you?
Any and everyone is a potential client.
At the moment, I have a few supporting friends, but I would say my main market revolves around baby products. Clients purchase items for their babies, baby showers, nieces and nephews. I do my best to cater to everyone who needs some crochet goodness in their life.
I’m currently using social media platforms to advertise and gain new customers. I can be reached via Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp Business on 758-721-0054. I often post photos of my work across these platforms, and you can also find a catalogue of my products on WhatsApp.
What are your plans for the business over the next 12-18 months?
My plan is to expand my market and provide wearable products for men and full outfits for women like dresses etc.
I also envision having a boutique or set location for Absolute Stylez Crochet since my space at home is becoming crowded.
I would also like to develop my marketing strategy and a brand as soon as possible and gain better recognition for my crochet.
What advice do you have for aspiring small business owners?
If you are passionate about something, have a dream or an idea, and want to pursue a business, go for it! Sometimes we are consumed with doubt. You may also think that so many persons are doing an aspect of business that interests you, but you just might create a brand that is unique, or that may head in a totally different direction once you get into it.
Surround yourself with positive persons and attitudes, not everyone will understand your dream and support your ideas.
Just start, figure it out as you go along; growth is inevitable. Ask yourself, what do I have to lose? What do I have to gain? I’m sure you will be able to decide then.
Don’t let funds discourage you from choosing your passion. You can start with just five items and move forward from there, have faith that it will be successful, and work towards it.
What do you love about St Lucia?
St. Lucia is a small island, but she is so picturesque and full of inspiration. I love how unique we are, and it encourages me to represent the same in my art. We’re such a vibrant and expressive people, and I am able to fuse that culture into what I do.
There is always something to explore in St Lucia, whether simple or adventurous, and there is always something to look forward to outside of work.
When I wake up daily, I’m thankful for the beautiful weather, the birds with their melodious singing, and the fresh air. There’s simply nowhere like this Helen of the West!
Where do you go to relax on a day off?
Personally, the beach is my favourite place to be on a day off. I simply cannot get enough sand and sea. I will spend hours in the water, looking at the sky, and just clearing my mind. Sometimes I spend the day just enjoying nature and regaining some inspiration.
I also enjoy going to the beach with friends. Just chilling, sipping on some wine, eating good food, laughing, and enjoying the simple pleasures of this beautiful island.
What’s your philosophy / motto in life?
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step” – Chinese proverb.
To arrive at any destination, we have to start somewhere. A dream may be smooth sailing or more strenuous than others, and one must take that first step towards a goal; there’s no reward for being stagnant.
Another one is, “I can do all things through Christ who strengths me” – Philippians 4:13.
As of recent, a new favourite quote is: “The size of your dreams must always exceed your current capacity to achieve them. If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough” – Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Something always seems difficult or impossible until it’s done; put God first in everything, never limit yourself, and work hard to achieve your goals. Set high but attainable standards for yourself, and no matter what, keep pushing forward.
If you could go back 15-20 years and talk to your younger self, what would you say?
Invest, invest, invest!
Invest in yourself, focus on a business and your life. I would encourage my younger self to go all the way with my study plans and create something earlier that would propel me to become better equipped in life for circumstances or disruptions such as COVID-19.