If there’s a hobby that would seem to be the opposite of high-tech, it’s crafting. But makers are increasingly utilizing technological advances to create their products, be they scrapbooks, gift cards, or (especially relevant in the last two years) facemasks. Among the companies that are enabling the DIY community is Cricut, which produces cutting machines and design apps.
Since 2012, the company has been led by Ashish Arora. Born and raised in India, Arora came to the U.S. to get an MBA from the University of Kansas, and he went on to work at major corporations such as Morgan Stanley Capital International and Logitech. Cricut experienced six consecutive years of profitable growth before the pandemic, but as with many other DIY-related companies, it really boomed in the time of COVID, posting a first quarter revenue of $323.8 million in 2021 (a 125 percent increase on the first quarter of 2020) and going public in March. The company boasts 4.9 million users, and despite his tech background, Arora credits this community for being the backbone of the business.
“Advancements in technology help make new things and products possible,” he says, “but this industry grows because of a fundamental human trait: creativity. As people, we need emotional security, a sense of belonging or kinship.
This feeling cannot be manufactured, and that is why crafting has grown into a major industry.”
On bringing software experience to the DIY industry:
“I have always been fascinated by technology and software. These types of products impact daily life and change human behavior. Being a part of a company and industry that helps people lead more creative lives allows me to be a part of positive and transformative change. At Cricut, I have the privilege of getting behind the scenes and gaining a better understanding of how these types of products are conceptualized and introduced to the world.”
On lessons learned:
“Fail fast, adapt, and grow. More importantly, understand your customer. At Cricut, we passionately work to create products that make our customers happy. This means that we place exceptional importance on understanding the customer journey and listening to consumer feedback.”
On the DIY industry’s reaction to the pandemic:
“When the pandemic first hit, none of us were thinking about how it would affect business. The most important thing on everyone’s mind was the health and safety of our loved ones and our communities. As the lockdown set in and people around the world were staying home and trying to stay busy and engaged, we started to see more and more people turn to crafting to lift their spirits and connect with those around them… We saw our makers cutting thousands of masks for friends, family, and essential workers. We donated machines and fabric and introduced patterns and ideas for masks of all types. We believe that when we all make together, we make all things possible. This effort to alleviate the mask shortage and provide much-needed support to the front line was met with staggering enthusiasm from our community, which had made more than 2 million masks by January 2021.”
On running a customer-service business:
“Understanding the consumer journey and experience is pivotal. When I joined Cricut, one of the first things I did was listen in on customer service calls, because I wanted to learn firsthand what we needed to improve upon. I still read customer service feedback daily, and I take active part in conversations within our social media communities. We know that our community of makers knows best how our products impact their lives and will always have valuable insight for us. For someone in a new role—whether in leadership, along the front lines, or somewhere in between—the time you use to listen is the most important time you’ll spend on the business.”