Featured Designers, Storyland Ami

3 Signs of a Good Leader

How Holly Salzman of Storyland Ami can Inspire You to be a Better Leader

            When you research what it takes to be a leader, there are a great many list of traits that have been found within those people. Traits like:

  • Honesty and Integrity
  • Inspire Others
  • Commitment and Passion
  • Good Communicator
  • Decision-Making Capabilities
  • Accountability
  • Delegation and Empowerment
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Empathy

Some are born with these traits while others can learn, practice and develop these traits within themselves so that they too can become good leaders. After interviewing Holly Salzman, owner of Storyland Ami, I realized that she can inspire so many of us to be better leaders, business owners and entrepreneurs.

Who is Holly?


Holly grew up in a family with a love for crafting. Between her mom running a business and selling on eBay and her older sister running her own Etsy shop and becoming a self-taught needlework master, Holly was born with the potential to be a gifted crafter. Crafting is in her bones! But does being born with a foundation for possible greatness mean that becoming a successful business owner and leader is a for sure thing? Nope. Through her choices, Holly has proven herself to be a tenacious leader and innovator in the crafting business world. Which brings me to the first thing I noticed.

Holly Salzman strives for excellence.

A great leader must always have a desire and drive to achieve excellence. Excellence in their product. Excellence in accuracy. Excellence in standards. A great leader never settles for mediocre or half-hearted jobs. They are fueled by the “why” of what they do. Their passion for something more important than just making money or getting fame keeps them going day in and day out.

            Holly exemplifies that well in a very simple way. Before she officially publishes her patterns, she makes sure she has pattern testers try out her designs and look for any mistakes. She would rather wait patiently for others to check over her work than run the risk of publishing a pattern with a mistake. Having a pattern with too many mistakes could affect her credibility as a designer and potentially harm her business, let alone that it could also be a huge frustration or let down to those trying to make the finished product. Nothing turns people off quicker than poorly written instructions.

When it comes to striving for excellence, Holly says,

          “I’m always pushing myself to get better in what I do, always pushing for the next thing because I know it’s going to be better than the last.”

A great leader can have all the motivation and inspirations in the world but that doesn’t mean they aren’t plagued by doubts, fears or the occasional insecurity. Do you know how great leaders overcome that? Holly does in two significant ways.

Holly Salzman doesn’t go it alone.

All great leaders must surround themselves with other people. We are all human and it is impossible to succeed at greatness if we try to go it alone. Great leaders have coaches, counselors, encouragers and loved ones to help push them forward during the tough times or moments they are weak.

            You can see this trait all through Holly’s story since the very beginning. First, there is her older sister who taught Holly how to crochet. You could say that was one of Holly’s weakest moments of her career – the lack of knowing how to use a hook and some yarn to create the lovable, cuddly critters we know and love today. Since the desire to design was always a part of who she is, Holly persevered through her lack of know how and learned. Then there was one of her best friends who consistently and lovingly encouraged Holly to sell her beautiful designs and make them available to others. Left to her own devices, Holly may have never begun to sell her patterns and risk her hard work being stolen but now that she has, she is so thankful for her friend’s gentle encouragement.

          “It was January 2016 when I published my first pattern after a good friend encouraged me to start selling my designs. I had been totally closed to the idea before, but I received a lot of interest in my patterns after my 100 amigurumi project and my friend gave me the little push I needed.”

Holly also revealed that her fear of her designs getting stolen did in fact happen but despite that being the most challenging part about designing and writing her own patterns, she relied on the support of others to make it through.

          “Honestly, the most challenging part about coming up with my own original designs is having other people copy them or take my patterns and sell them or give them away for free on their own sites. It’s hard overcoming that challenge mentally and finding the courage to keep designing when I know what’s happening to a pattern once it’s published. Many times, there’s nothing you can do about it. I’m thankful, though, for friends who help me with this problem specifically and encourage me to keep going.”

Overcoming fear can be one of the toughest challenges in life, especially for an artist entrepreneur. They are putting their heart and soul on the line in most cases and whether they face those fears or run from them is a huge indicator of who they are.

Holly consistently faces her fears.

            Something very special I noticed about Holly is that she consistently faces the fear of the unknown and pushes through the fearful moment. We all come to places in life where we are standing at the edge of a cliff, with no clear bottom and must choose whether we will jump. Will we take the opportunity before us? Great leaders look that fear in the face and take the leap anyway. This is something I think Holly does very well.

            Throughout her interview, Holly mentioned how she wasn’t sure how one thing or another would turn out. For example, one of her must favorite designs was her cuddle sized bumble bee.

“It was the first cuddle-sized animal I ever made and at the time I was so unsure of how this jumbo bee was going to turn out. I don’t think I ever would have attempted it had it not been a custom order. [I’m] so glad I received that order and decided to make it!”

I can imagine the anxiety she may have felt when she originally got the order for that adorable Bumble Bee. Yet instead of turning down the opportunity, she took on the challenge and low and behold came out successful! Now she is making Extreme Amigurumi that are truly amazing!

            Another example of her bravery was when it came to her website.

“I think that every small business owner’s dream is to eventually move from their Etsy shop and start their own website. I started mine a lot earlier than I had expected to, but I think sometimes you have to take that leap even if you’re not ready or you’ll never end up taking it at all. It’s never going to be perfect and if you wait for perfection, you’ll never get anything done.”

I think my favorite thing of all that showed her tenacity and ability to overcome was when I asked her about her future. I asked her where she sees herself and this was her answer.

“I honestly don’t know what my future is going to look like. I’m always surprised with where I find myself but it’s always better than what I expected or planned. I have lots of goals and dreams for my business. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see if they come to fruition! One goal is to have all my patterns translated into different languages and I’m slowly working on making that happen now.”

Her ability to overcome the mental battle with fear that so many of us are familiar with is what I admire most about Holly. Her willingness to face those things head on, try anyway and push past what could so easily cripple her. That is what a true leader does. This is how a leader can inspire those around them.


Photo by  Taylor Smith  on  Unsplash

Photo by Taylor Smith on Unsplash

            Holly’s example of leadership inspires me personally. It causes me to take a closer look "in the mirror" and do a self-evaluation.

  • Am I requiring excellence in my business?
  • Am I relying on the support of friends and family?
  • Am I looking fear in the face, persevering and pressing into the fear instead of running from it?

I won't embarrass myself with confessing my answers to these questions but I challenge you to ask yourself these same things. It never hurt anyone to pause a moment and take a good hard look at their own lives and see what they can improve. Ok, well the truth might hurt a little, but in the end, we are all better off for it.

One last and final reason why I think Holly is great. She hasn’t stopped dreaming. I can tell that this is a woman who will keep pressing forward with her eyes set high and  will let nothing stop her. She is someone I fully expect will go far in her career and business.

            I leave you with three great quotes I found on Holly’s Pinterest board. I hope they will inspire you as much as they did me:

3 Fun Facts about Holly Salzman:

  1. I’ve never flown in an airplane before
  2. I’ve visited all the states except for Hawaii and Alaska
  3. I love dinosaurs! T-rex’s are my favorite animal!


Want to know more about Holly and Storyland Ami?

Contact her at storylandamis@gmail.com or on her website.

You can follow her on:


She loves Instagram so you’ll find her most active there!

Storyland Ami patterns can be found on her website in her shop or for free at storylandamis.com.