From playtime to big time

From playtime to big time
Creative: Rainbow Loom creator Ng Cheong Choon with his daughters, Michelle (with hat) and Teresa.

The man behind the multi-coloured craze is Mr Ng Cheong Choon, 43, a Malaysian who resides in the US state of Michigan.

In an e-mail interview with The New Paper on Sunday, he says the idea for Rainbow Loom came to him in July 2010 when he wanted to join in with his daughters, Teresa and Michelle, as they made rubber bands into bracelets.

When he was young, Mr Ng says he would make jump ropes out of rubber bands with his friends. So it was a chance to impart his knowledge.

“I wanted to join them, but my fingers were too big to weave the bands together. So I decided to make a tool for myself – and to impress my two girls,” he says.

His first loom, he admits, was primitive. Created from a wooden board, it had drawing pins lined up in rows.

Then he created a loom that allowed him to weave smaller and more intricate designs, even if he did not have the dexterity to do so with his bare hands.

At the time he created the loom, Mr Ng was working as a crash test engineer for Nissan.

But he believed the rubber band weaving idea to have legs. So he and his wife invested their savings into making the product, initially called Twistz Bandz.

He says: “I knew there was always a risk in business ventures, but I had confidence in my idea.

“It let me and my daughters express our creativity. I felt that (others) would enjoy the experience as much as we did.”

The Ngs’ budget was too small to work with US manufacturers. So the parts and rubber bands were shipped from China to their home, where they assembled the kits in their basement.

But selling the product was not easy. Mr Ng had many rejections before US company Learning Express Toys of Alpharetta, Georgia, agreed to give it a chance.

Sales took off. Other stores wanted the loom. Then large chain stores came calling. Rainbow Loom now sells across the globe.

Mr Ng estimates 1.5 million Rainbow Loom kits have been sold. He says that online tutorial videos help them reach a larger audience.

But he acknowledges that it is not a simple hobby to take up.

“It requires patience, concentration and hand-eye coordination, which makes it deeply satisfying when you produce something that you like and can be proud of,” he says.

This article was first published on JULY 6, 2014.
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