International Day of Friendship: Meet Jennifer & Jen
Crochet | 4 min read time
Stitch & Story was built on a friendship! Join our founders Jennifer & Jen as they share the story behind it.
Each year on July 30th, people all around the world celebrate an International Day of Friendship. Founded by the United Nations in 2011, it recognizes the relevance and importance of friendship in people’s lives, and how it can inspire peace efforts, and build bridges between communities. The inclusion of different cultures in community activities that promote international understanding, and respect for diversity, are integral to this.
So let’s find out a little more about how two friends embarked on a mission to build a community of confident crafters that inspire, and empower each other to discover their creative side.
A Tale Of Two Jens
Our story begins with two school girls, and a hobby.
Jennifer Lam, CEO: I remember, aged 15, Jen got into knitting and gave her first project to me: a thin, peach-pink scarf, in acrylic wool. It had a few holes, and cost just £1, but I thought it was such a meaningful gift. It was the beginning of our friendship; who'd have thought we'd end up starting a knitting business together!
In the summer of 2008, an internship at a startup Korean beauty brand paved the way for Jennifer and Jen’s first working relationship. Jennifer worked in the accounts department, while Jen did graphic design, but the two worked together at trade shows and exhibitions. It was their first insight into a startup brand, what that entailed and how a product is brought to market.
Jen Hoang, Head of UX & Co-Founder: The benefits of working together at a young age allowed us to see how similar our work ethics were - proactive, organized and willing to go the extra mile - important qualities when running a startup!
Jennifer: We learned a lot from working a summer internship at a startup; what made it successful; what worked/didn’t work; and what needed to be done to make it work.
A young Jennifer & Jen
Though Jennifer went on to complete a business degree and pursue a career in publishing, while Jen went on to study design, the two remained close friends. Jennifer had hopes of becoming an editor, but the job wasn’t the creative outlet she’d envisioned, and in an act of self-care, to disconnect from her mundane office job, she took up knitting.
Jennifer: I picked it up because it’s one of those social crafts. It’s also easy to transport; you can do it on your commute or lunch break. Jen and I used to meet in coffee shops and knit together for hours.
Back then, knitting was seen as old-fashioned, and Jennifer found the UK craft scene uninspiring. The patterns were hard, yarn quality was cheap, and the craft felt like it belonged to an older generation. Knitting was no longer being taught in schools, and fewer parents and grandparents were sharing their skills.
Jennifer wanted more people to benefit from this amazing craft, so in 2012 she asked Jen to go into business with her. The response was an immediate Yes! With Jen’s background in design and Jennifer’s experience in publishing and business, the pair believed they had the tools to inspire more people to learn to knit.
The insights Jennifer and Jen had gained from interning together at a startup meant they felt they were one step ahead when it came to starting their own business.
The light bulb moment was when Jennifer and Jen decided to bring this traditional art form to a new, tech-savvy audience. It was perfect timing: With the growing popularity of social media platforms, crafters were super interactive. They wanted to tell their own stories and celebrate each other’s creativity.
Hosting our first knitting workshop
Jen: It’s great to see so many of the younger generation getting involved. Knitting and crochet are definitely becoming more popular and fashionable!
Jennifer and Jen believe there is so much to be gained from knitting and crochet, especially the well-being side of it. The name Stitch & Story came about because the pair know how empowering it is to enable others to start their own projects and tell their own stories.
Jen: Knitting and crochet are so therapeutic - you can lose yourself in the stitches and forget all your worries. It’s very mindfulness. Nowadays, it’s rare to get a moment to yourself.
The Stitch & Story business plan began with a series of workshops in London, but when Jennifer and Jen realised that they weren't reaching enough people this way, it was decided that knitting kits were the perfect solution. Each Stitch & Story kit is a ‘workshop in a bag’. The initial Stitch & Story kit made its debut at a stand at Spitalfields market, London, in June 2012.
Jennifer: We had no savings, so I had to stay in my job for two years, and live at home. It was hard to convince buyers. But we managed to get a loan — and were able to turn a profit in our first year!
Our first stall at Spitalfields Market
Now, Stitch & Story kits are shipped worldwide, and sold in a selection of high-end department stores, and independent craft stores around the world. Collaborations with global brands have included Miffy, Sophie la girafe, Hello Kitty, Pusheen, and Peanuts, with plenty more on the horizon!
Jennifer: I am incredibly proud of our small team and our efforts to inspire a new generation of hobbyists. It’s been a mad journey, but it’s a dream running a business with my best friend.
Jennifer and Jen’s advice for crafters who want to start their own business is to go for it! Build your confidence by surrounding yourself with supportive people and a great team. Make sure you have a business plan and clear goal, then be sure to remind yourself of this as your business progresses.
Jen: It's an amazing experience to work with your best friend; someone you can fully trust and build an honest relationship with. I have been able to grow as a person both inside and outside the business. For anyone who is looking to work with their best friend, find someone who has similar work ethics and make sure you have opposite strengths. One of the reasons Jennifer and I work so well together is because we complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Work towards a relationship where you can be open and honest with each other. Make sure you don’t lose sight of your professional and personal relationship either; Jennifer and I are able to differentiate between the two and weave them together. We work 24/7 and are constantly talking to each other - it’s like being in a marriage - we just make it work!