Among the hottest toys to hit American store shelves back in 2013 was the Rainbow Loom, a kit of rubber bands with a special loom that makes bracelets.
Created by Malaysian-born immigrant Cheong Choon Ng, the kit sold over 8 million units worldwide, along with 40 million packets of rubber bands a year after it was made available across the United States.
In a recent feature on YouTube, Ng revealed that he invented the hit toy to impress his daughters. It did not take long for him to realize that his simple idea has the potential to become more than just a side project.
Back in 2010, Ng, an engineer, saw his daughters making bracelets from rubber bands. He tried to join in on the fun but found that his fingers were too big to tie the bands together.
He then created a makeshift loom from a small wooden scrub board and added some pushpins to it. His daughters Teresa and Michelle, who were then 12 and 9, respectively, were amazed at how he was able to create various geometric designs by using dental hooks to stretch and link the rubber bands together.
Seeing that his daughters enjoyed his creation gave him the idea to market the loom, which was later named the “Rainbow Loom.” Three years later, the product has reached nearly every toy store, with news outlets describing it as the “biggest thing to hit the toy market since Beanie Babies.”
Ng, who moved to the United States in 1991 and became a U.S. citizen in 2011, says their first challenge was sourcing for initial funding. Using their savings and daughters’ college fund of $10,000, the family was able to pay for the mold used to create the loom and enough parts to make 5,000 kits with rubber bands.
The first kits were assembled by the family members themselves before they were sold online in July 2011. However, initial sales figures were not as high as they hoped because no one actually knew how to use the loom.
Ng and his daughters soon started making instructional videos and uploaded them on YouTube.
Their first break came in 2012, when a Learning Express Toys franchise owner ordered some 48 kits before placing a $10,000 order soon after.
Arts and crafts retail chain Michaels test-marketed the product in 32 stores in June 2013. By August, the store was already carrying Rainbow Loom in its 1,100 locations nationwide.
As soon as their YouTube channel “Rainbow Loom” gained momentum, the videos exploded in popularity generating million of views on their own, not including videos by customers who also shared their own designs. By this time, the kits are being manufactured in China and then stored in a 7,500 square feet warehouse near his home.
According to The New York Times
, Rainbow Loom became a popular pastime in summer camps and summer clubs in 2013. The toy was also named one of the three most popular toys of 2013 by Cyber Monday Awards
It became so popular that celebrities such as Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, David Beckham, Harry Styles, Miley Cyrus, and Pope Francis have been seen wearing Rainbow Loom bracelets which were apparently given to them by fans, reports the BBC
While not as popular today due to the multiple copycat companies that eventually started sprouting, Ng’s Rainbow Loom gave millions of children an enjoyable and memorable childhood activity. Not too shabby for an idea that started from a dad’s attempt to impress his daughters.
“My family, especially my daughters, got to see how a simple idea could evolve into one of the most popular toys or crafts in the U.S. I think it is amazing.”
Ng was quoted as saying