Somewhere Over
the Rainbow Loom


getmedia/0009ae36-3701-4a5c-bb78-271bfa7c4fa1/Somewhere-Over-the-Rainbow-Loom_thumb.jpg.aspx?width=60&height=60&ext=.jpg

Most fathers will reach that moment when they want to connect with their daughters and may find it more difficult. When mechanical engineer Cheong Choon Ng saw his daughters creating bracelets, it led to an idea that became more than a bonding experience, it became a business and overnight pop culture phenomenon.

With nearly three million “Rainbow Loom” kits sold by the end of the 2013, Ng is literally up to his neck in looms. Quite a change from being a crash test engineer at Nissan at the time of his innovation.

“Working in that industry was a very good experience,” says Ng, who has an M.A. degree in mechanical engineering from Wichita State University, Wichita, KS. “It was an important job. I got to be involved in crash testing, making sure air bags worked properly. Quality control is a skill that grew there and that helped me grow this business. Many engineers never take the time to understand it.”

But the business alluded to above began when he couldn’t join in on his girls’ bracelet-making fun. Using a wooden board with pushpins, Ng decided to bring rubber bands into play to create bracelets. As other children began to use it with his daughters, it didn’t take long to see how much fun the children were having.

It was time to turn pro.

Rainbow Loom's popularity grew with the help of social media. Image: Will Merydith / Wikimedia Commons

Growing Your Business

Coming home from Nissan and then starting his second job of growing his business wasn’t easy. The bracelets may have been fun, but the lack of sleep? Not so much. “You had to keep your energy going,” he says. “But I really believed in the idea. I had to see it through.” His ultimate success isn’t just attributed to a workable invention, but strong business acumen.

“We utilized YouTube, social media, many things,” he says. “We were able to sell an experience and help [kids] see how it would work.” And now it’s not just Ng and members of his family who have made online videos but countless people. We know sharing bracelets is a way to show a bond, but now sharing how to make them seems to be another bond in itself. “Creating something interesting isn’t enough,” he says. “You have to get the word out.”

Timing is Key

To say it’s been a cultural phenomenon wouldn’t be an overstatement. Anyone reading this who has kids either has it or likely knows a kid who does. That, for Ng, has been incredibly gratifying. “You hear about how much enjoyment it’s bringing them,” he says. “I really couldn’t have seen something like this when I started out as an engineer.”

Even though he’s down to one job, the twist is that something that came from an interest in spending time with his children is now actually cutting into that time. Still, he won’t have to work quite so hard to prove he’s the cool dad—and his family supports him.

“I have ideas for other things and I really want to build on how much I learned from doing this,” he says. “Even 10 years ago, I didn’t have the knowledge to do this. So in some ways I feel it really all came together at the perfect time.”

Eric Butterman is an independent writer.

Creating something interesting isn’t enough. You have to get the word out.

Cheong Choon Ng,
creator, Rainbow Loom

getmedia/0009ae36-3701-4a5c-bb78-271bfa7c4fa1/Somewhere-Over-the-Rainbow-Loom_thumb.jpg.aspx?width=60&height=60&ext=.jpg

January 2014

by Eric Butterman, ASME.org