Rubber band fad springs to the fore

PETALING JAYA - What began as a family acti­vity making rubber band bracelets with his kids became Malaysian-born Ng Cheong Choon's worldwide hit invention - a toy called Rainbow Loom, which was last month crowned the 2014 Toy of the Year in the United States.

The kit that enables children to make rings, bracelets and other accessories took off with flying colours when it also won three other awards from the US Toy Industry Association.

They were the Activity Toy of the Year, Girl Toy of the Year and Specialty Toy of the Year, making it the first single toy in the association's history to clinch four awards.

However, despite its international success, Ng, a 45-year-old engineer from Taiping, Perak, said in an e-mail interview: "I'm always proud to tell anyone that I'm from Malaysia. We were surprised and humbled by the awards. This is definitely the high point in our lives."

Ng lives in Michigan with his wife and their two girls aged 15 and 12.

The Rainbow Loom was born four years ago when Ng joined his daughters in making bracelets from rubber bands and created a loom from a small wooden scrub board and pushpins.

He showed that he could use the loom to create various designs and soon the family decided to market it while his US-based younger­ brother Cheong Yeow helped to develop it.

It was reported in December that the toy had generated US$55million (S$70million) in sales over the past year worldwide.

Ng said his sister and brother-in-law were working on launching Rainbow Loom in Malaysia in the next few weeks.

"My hope is to expand the Rainbow Loom product line, and to make it a brand, rather than just a one-product company," he said.

Ng, who is now an American, said he had not been back in Malaysia for the past four years due to the booming business. "We plan to return this year. I miss seeing my parents and, of course, Malaysian food," he said.

On his advice to people trying to make it big with their inventions, Ng said: "The formula for success consists of two elements - readiness and opportunity. You have to be ready to execute when the opportunity is right."