In our brand spotlight, we feature Abound brands who are ready for retail. This week we sat down with Sunchea Phou, owner of YaY Novelty. YaY Novelty sells reusable bags, gift jars, credit card holders, passport holders, and other accessories, is based in Seattle, Washington, and has been in business for five years.
Robin: Why did you decide to start this business? Why this business and not a different one?
Sunchea: YaY Novelty was created for two reasons: to provide resources for Cambodian genocide survivors and to make something fun, functional, sustainable and of quality.
R: How did you make your first prototype? What changes have you made to your product since then?
S: I sew them at home and gave them away for testing. There haven’t been any changes since the beginning.
R: How do you make your product? What’s your process like?
S: I do it myself. My background is in design engineering and manufacturing. I started with design and specifications, then made the prototype. I also handle the production for the products that are made in the USA, and I have a team in China that oversees the products made there.
R: What’s your day to day like? Do you have any favorite and least favorite parts?
S: My typical working hours are from 8am to 12am. I start with checking emails in the morning, reaching out to new customers, fulfilling orders, doing production, and end with emails. All the parts are my favorite.
R: What was your initial investment? How did you get the money?
S: $50,000. It was a loan from friends and family.
R: Where was the first place you started selling your product? Where do you sell your product now?
S: I started online, and now we’re in The Container Store, and 1000+ shops and boutiques.
R: Where would you love to sell your products in the future?
S: Everywhere if possible, but it’d be great to be in all chain and convenience stores.
R: Do you have a favorite product?
S: Yes, the YaYbag is my favorite.
R: What’s your marketing like? Is social media an important part of your business? If so, how?
S: Since my business is 90% wholesale, trade shows are the most important. Buyers can touch and see the products in person. Social media is second.
R: What are some of the most frustrating challenges and/or moments you’ve had with your business?
S: Sustaining cash flow.
R: What are some of your greatest achievements and victories you’ve had with your business?
S: Establishing and maintaining a quality brand.
R: What advice do you have for people who want to sell a product?
S: Have a clear vision/goal and determination.
R: Is there any business advice or quotes you’ve heard that you think about often?
S: Know why you started the business in the first place. When things go wrong, remind yourself about that.
R: What’s your favorite thing about being a business owner?
The freedom, the wisdom, the opportunities and the challenges.