Where did the loomband craze start, and who invented loom bands? That is the question we are going to answer today. Set your loombands aside for a moment and find out!
The Loomband craze started in 2011 with a Malaysian father of two crafty kids. Cheong Choo Ng’s daughters Teresa, then 12 years old, and Michelle, then 9 years old, liked to make bracelets out of rubber bands.
Cheong wanted to join in the fun, but his fingers were too big. His first loom made similar bracelets to the ones his daughters were making, which didn’t really excite them.
His next attempt had three rows of pushpins, and he discovered that he could loop the bands in various geometric patterns to create much more interesting bracelets. Now his daughters were impressed!
At first the family made bracelets for friends and neightbours, until Cheong’s 12 year old daughter suggested he should try to sell the kits. He invested $10,000 in the first sets of RainbowLoom, and approached local stores with his invention.
At first the stores were reluctant to stock the RainbowLoom, so Cheong and his daughters filmed YouTube videos, so that people could see what was so fantastic about the loom.
An American toy shop owner discovered RainbowLooms, and started selling them in her two stores in Atlanta. She and her staff would demonstrate the loom bands to young girls, and the kids would ask their parents if they could buy them.
They soon found that loom bands appealed to boys just as much as girls, and that whole families were soon getting crafty with the little elastic bands!
The store in Atlanta was part of a nationwide franchise (a chain of shops) and when the owners of the other shops heard about this fabulous new product, they wanted them in their stores.
Cheong couldn’t keep up with the demand, as the shops were selling out of RainbowLooms as soon as the new delivery arrived! Cheong gave up his normal job as an engineer for Nissan to work full-time as a toy manufacturer.
So how did a dad with a fab idea beat the big toy manufacturers and come up with this best-selling invention? Cheong told Fast Company, that his training as an engineer helped him to create the RainbowLoom, and how to be successful in business
“Being an engineer I was more open to trying different things. Don’t give up. Try all options. Learn as you go. Push as many buttons as possible, one of them will work.”
In fact, Cheong said that the biggest lesson he has learned as a new business owner is to practice something common at Nissan: the lessons learned system. When something goes wrong, you do a step-by-step critical analysis. Trace the problem all the way back by asking why did the problem happen, and why did the cause of that problem happen and so on and so on until you find the root cause. And then figure out how to fix it so that it doesn’t happen again.
Cheong redesigned the loom 28 times until he was totally happy with the product, and spent a lot of time working out the best way to manufacture it, how to get the best quality, how to film the videos and market his invention.
The story of loom bands is often told as an ‘overnight’ success, but that neglects to look at the hard work and innovation Cheong dedicated to developing the product. Having a great idea is only the first part of making it a success.
Featured Image by Choons Design