Weav­ing rain­bow dreams

A malaysia-born fa­ther in­vented a loom to im­press his daugh­ters and started them on the ad­ven­ture of turn­ing a sim­ple idea into one of the most pop­u­lar crafts in the United States.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FAMILY - By IVY SOON star2@thes­tar.com.my

MAK­ING skip­ping ropes from rub­ber bands was some­thing engi­neer Ng Cheong Choon re­mem­bered from his childhood. But when he tried to join his daugh­ters in mak­ing bracelets from rub­ber bands, he found his fin­gers had grown too big.

So, he fash­ioned a loom from a small wooden scrub board and added push­pins to it. At first his daugh­ters Teresa and Michelle – then 12 and nine – were not par­tic­u­larly im­pressed. But then he showed them how he could cre­ate var­i­ous geo­met­ric de­signs by us­ing den­tal hooks to stretch and link the rub­ber bands to­gether.

In fact, Ng’s daugh­ters had so much fun with their fa­ther’s cre­ation they con­vinced him to mar­ket the loom, which was named the Rain­bow Loom.

That was three years ago, and the be­gin­ning of the fam­ily’s jour­ney in build­ing a prod­uct that has been de­scribed as the “big­gest thing to hit the toy mar­ket since Beanie Bean”.

“I knew that this prod­uct had great po­ten­tial, but in­tro­duc­ing it to cus­tomers was the big­gest chal­lenge,” says Ng, who moved to the United States in 1991 and be­came a US cit­i­zen five years ago.

The Detroit-based Ng was a test engi­neer for Nis­san till he re­signed to give his full at­ten­tion to his Rain­bow Loom busi­ness.

Ini­tially, their plan was to start a home-based busi­ness.

“I wanted to cre­ate an In­ter­net busi­ness for my wife that she could run from home. But I later no­ticed that I have the ex­pe­ri­ence and skill sets to run this prod­uct from pro­duc­tion to sales,” says Ng, 45, in an e-mail in­ter­view.

The first ob­sta­cle they had to over­come was sourc­ing for ini­tial fund­ing.

They put in their sav­ings and daugh­ters’ col­lege fund of US$10,000 (RM32,000), but that was just enough to pay for the mould used to cre­ate the loom and enough parts to make 5,000 kits, and rub­ber bands, re­calls Ng.

“Short­age in fund­ing to be­gin this prod­uct was the main chal­lenge. We started very small and my dad and brothers (who lives in Malaysia) later helped fund the pro­duc­tion in­vest­ment,” he adds.

The fam­ily as­sem­bled the first kits them­selves and started sell­ing Fam­ily dream: Ng

cheong choon (sec­ond from right) cre­ated the loom to

im­press his daugh­ters Teresa

(far left) and michelle (far right),

and con­vinced his wife chan Tyng Fen to in­vest their

sav­ings in the busi­ness. them online in July 2011.

But no-one knew how to use the loom.

So Ng and his daugh­ters made in­struc­tional videos and put them on YouTube. Their YouTube chan­nel now has more than 13 mil­lion views, not in­clud­ing videos by cus­tomers shar­ing their own de­signs.

Ng said their first big suc­cess came in the sum­mer of 2012, when a Learn­ing Ex­press Toys fran­chise owner who’d or­dered 48 kits placed a US$10,000 (RM32,000) or­der soon af­ter.

Since then, Rain­bow Loom has caught the imag­i­na­tion of chil­dren and teenagers, with over three mil­lion kits sold.

By April, Rain­bow Loom’s as­sem­bly and dis­tri­bu­tion had moved from Ng’s liv­ing room to a ware­house, and they now have 14 em­ploy­ees. Rain­bow Looms are sold in more than 2,000 re­tail out­lets.

Ng said Rain­bow Loom’s suc­cess has been a sur­prise.

“My fam­ily is very blessed and sur­prised by the suc­cess. I think the fans (kids) are help­ing to make this prod­uct a suc­cess. They have been mak­ing bracelets for dona­tion and shar­ing them with friends

The cur­rent craze for kids, rain­bow Loom bands and their many knock­offs, is sur­pris­ing par­ents and child de­vel­op­ment ex­perts. — aP Photo

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