Aug. 15, 2013 at 8:21 AM ET
First came friendship bracelets, then slap bracelets, then Silly Bandz. These days, Rainbow Loom bracelets are the hottest commodity for children’s wrist real estate.
Kids make Rainbow Looms on their own using a kit, which, for $14.99 plus shipping, comes with a loom, a crochet hook and multi-colored rubber bands. A bag of more than 600 additional bands is less than $4.
The product’s inventor, Michigan-based Choon Ng, created the Rainbow Loom in his basement as a family project with his two daughters, Teresa, 15, and Michelle, 12, and his wife, Fen Chan.
“My daughters started doing this, making bracelets about three years ago. I saw them making the bracelets, so I wanted to learn from them,” Ng told TODAY in a segment that aired Thursday. “Their fingers are smaller than my fingers, so I started with pushpins on a scrap board. They weren’t impressed at first.”
But the fiddling continued, and the family created some YouTube how-to videos along with packaging for the kit. Suddenly, local toy stores caught on and began placing orders.
Soon the family had so many orders to fill that they had to install an elevator to transport boxes to their garage.
“I decided to buy a lawnmower with a trailer, so I was driving it from the basement to the garage,” Ng explained. “That’s when we installed the elevator in the house.”
Today, Ng has sold one million kits. Michaels craft stores stocked the kits nationwide and sold out almost immediately — a rarity in the toy and crafts industries. Online, Rainbow Loom YouTube videos have garnered 3.6 million views.
“It’s mind-blowing because I don’t know 3.6 million people personally,” Ng said.
Ng’s prototype loom differed from the version available for purchase now at toy and craft stores. He changed the product's name from Twistz Bandz to Rainbow Loom, and he altered the loom to make it easier to pick up the rubber bands and lay them down.
The family initially packaged the kits for sale themselves.
“We were not really accurate, so we have to take a lot of rubber bands out and we took too much so we have to put more in,” Ng said. “It just takes a really long time for us to put the rubber bands in the bag.”
They’ve since streamlined the process, and the product is continuing to sell out rapidly. Kids have begun teaching their friends their Rainbow Loom techniques through instructional videos of their own, and they spend hours making the bracelets for themselves and their friends. The craft also has become a hit at summer camps, a common venue for rocking the au courant accessories.
And, since Ng’s initial goal was to create fun items for his daughters, he’s been surprised by another trend: Many kids are gifting their Rainbow Loom spoils to their parents.