Under the Monocle: Kayla Tutunji Takes On Full-Time Quarantine Project and Business
December 7, 2020
Whether it was knitting, mastering the art of baking sourdough bread or binging all of “Selling Sunset” on Netflix, quarantine has given the world an abundance of time for new hobbies. Junior and entrepreneur Kayla Tutunji utilized this time to fulfil the surge of orders for her craft business she created to sell her Japanese inspired and seasonal plushies, sweatshirts, masks, stickers and more.
“I started kawaiikrafts around seventh grade,” Tutunji said. “I started watching sewing videos on Youtube and immediately wanted to start making my own stuffed animals. After lots of hand sewing, I got my first sewing machine in seventh grade and couldn’t stop making stuffed animals! I started with lots of food stuffed animals like apples, ice cream and potatoes and sold them at Churchville’s FAM night where students are able to sell their artwork.”
After continuous practice and the natural evolution of her plushie designs, Tutunji opened her own Etsy shop in 2018. With no advertising for her products, the orders from interested Etsy-surfers trickled in.
“As you can probably guess, that isn’t the most efficient way to try to get your products out there because they have to find you,” Tutunji said. “I thought it was time to have my own website instead of Etsy so I can run it and design it completely myself. It was a huge change for us but a necessary one to grow our business from a small Etsy shop into a real company.”
In addition to designing and publishing a website of her own, Tutunji expanded her means of marketing to TikTok, where she has gained over 65,000 followers since the creation of her account in March- her most popular video, gaining over 1,000,000 views.
“When I started to realize that my TikTok account was going viral, I freaked out,” Tutunji said. “I remember really clearly that I was doing e-learning towards the end of April when my mom said that I was getting a bunch of Etsy orders. Right then I checked TikTok and I realized one of my (now older) videos was getting a ton of likes! I was so excited and never expected it to blow up as quickly as it did.”
As her videos gained popularity, her orders began to rush in soon after. When her schedule becomes too hectic, Tutunji’s family helps to run the business.
“I do all of the financial aspects of the business and take care of customer service questions,” Tutunjis mother, Bobbi Tutunji, said. “I also help with making the stuffed animals as needed especially when we’re building up our inventory prior to posting a TikTok video.”
Tutunji’s family takes great pride in the work that she does to build and advertise her growing company.
“I am very proud of Kayla with how she’s handled the quick growth of the company after some of her videos went viral,” Bobbi said. “She balances schoolwork, time for herself and the business very well. I am amazed at how creative she is when designing her plushies and making her videos. I see how rewarding it is with all of her hard work and how so many sales come from it.”
Tutunji’s many followers on Instagram and TikTok express their interest in Tutunji’s products daily via the comment section.
“Please let me know when you restock,” a comment on Tutunji’s most viral TikTok, after the featured plushie had sold out on her website, said. “I need one of these.”
While Tutunji faces the challenges of finding time to run a business as a teenager, she also expresses the rewards that come with her job and quarantine project.
“I’m lucky enough to call this my job right now, so I get to make my own hours and control my own workplace,” Tutunji said. “I just want to let everyone know that if you want to start a business, it’s possible! If you have a creative or unique idea that you want to share with the world, go for it!”
To learn more about kawaiikrafts, visit kawaiikrafts.com or follow @kawaiikraftsus on TikTok and Instagram.