For this week’s #ShopFranklin Spotlight, I sat down with Holly Sennott of Kooky Critters!
Arts and crafts are in Holly’s blood. Her grandmother painted and fired china, her other grandmother was a seamstress who taught her to crochet and sew, her great-grandma was a tailor, her mother sews, and her father enjoyed woodworking. “It definitely came down through the genes,” says Holly.
The Kooky Critters themselves were born on a rainy summer day several years ago, when Holly and her three kids had gone through all of their craft supplies, watched every movie they had, and exhausted every other possible activity. Holly finally brought her family to the bookstore, where they found a book on how to make your own stuffed animals. While the kids loved the book’s ideas, Holly told them, “Guys, we can do better than this! You draw what you would want me to make.” The result was the first Kooky Critter, an adorable monster with crooked teeth and crazy eyes, but Holly didn’t stop there. “I was ready for something other than just being Mom,” Holly says, but she wanted to find something to do that would still allow her to be at home with her kids. When the monster t-shirt she made for her neighbor’s son was a huge hit with his friends, Holly’s neighbor suggested she turn it into a business, and the rest is history.
Holly tries to “make items that are functional and helpful – they’re not just toys.” Holly makes several varieties of customizable Critters, including ones that keep kids’ lost teeth safe for the Tooth Fairy, but she’s most proud of her Worry Critters, Wilson and Willow. The Worry Critters grew out of Holly’s feeling of helplessness when one of her children experienced crippling anxiety. Several years later, a friend of Holly’s asked for a customized Critter that would help her child deal with his own anxiety issues, and the Worry Critters were the “culmination of her idea and my design.” The concept is simple: parent and child can work together to write down the worry on a slip of paper, which they put into the Worry Critter’s mouth and the Critter eats it. The worry is safe with the Critter, and the child can “be free of it for a little bit” and return to it when they’re ready to deal with it. “I call it my million-dollar idea that’ll never make me a million dollars, and I’m OK with that,” says Holly.
Kooky Critters can also produce custom items based on kids’ drawings, which Holly says is a huge gift idea around the holidays. Even the #ShopFranklin community is getting into the fun, with a custom Kooky Critter now gracing the bagel rack at Elizabeth’s Bagels, and more in the works for other businesses around town. As a long-time resident of Franklin, community giving and support is important to Holly, and Kooky Critters gives away at least one Critter per month to school auctions, local foster children, families dealing with serious medical issues, and more. No matter what the design, every Kooky Critter is completely handmade, and it’s important to Holly to “be able to put my hands on every piece.” In order to grow her business without sacrificing that personal attention to each Critter, Holly is working on expanding her offerings to include patterns so that other people can sew their own Critters based on Holly’s designs. Holly’s family also helps out with the business, with her son handling website maintenance and her daughter creating custom graphics for the Kooky Critters Facebook page.
While Holly and her husband originally settled in Franklin because of its easy accessibility to their jobs and families, Franklin’s support for the visual and performing arts has also been a plus for Holly’s family, particularly the music program in the Franklin schools. “If you have children, get them involved at some level. You will not regret it,” Holly says. As a business owner, Holly also appreciates the “tremendous support” Franklin offers for local businesses. “I love that sense of community that Franklin has,” says Holly.