Creating a bond with her nieces through making handmade scrunchies, Amal Radzuan unexpectedly created a business out of it when the scrunchies caught people’s attention online, leading to the birth of The Chouchou Co in July 2020.
The 22-year-old student has a keen interest in sewing and produced various items not limited to hair ties which are practical and pocket-friendly but also everyday accessories.
“The preference for scrunchies is understandable to me personally since they’re arguably better for hair than rubber hair bands and a little more sustainable,” said the youth, adding that the handmade items were at first meant for her nieces before her friends and relatives requested for some too.
At the time, she recalled, there were not many businesses selling handmade scrunchies.
“Not only does this business act as a way for me to channel my creative side, but it’s also a way for me as a student to start being more financially independent,” said Amal.
Apart from the support she received from her friends and family, she was also encouraged and inspired by her former bosses during her time at a florist shop. They provided her with the opportunity and resources to embrace and have confidence in her crafty side whilst training her eyes and learning the basics of running a business.
The creative thinker named her business The Chouchou Co because she wanted a catchy name related to scrunchies as well as other products. She later on landed with the name ‘chouchou’, the French word for scrunchies but also a term of endearment for one’s loved ones.
What The Chouchou Co. offers is daily-wear accessories including bags as she loves making things from scratch, giving her the excitement of transforming ideas to life.
Amal believes that compared to large businesses with factories producing their items, the local brand’s products are crafted to existence by the same pair of hands that sketched, jotted down the ideas and carefully picked and tested out perfect materials to fit the order.
“So, you know that each piece is handmade with love. That is usually the case when you buy from small handmade business owners,” shared the 22-year-old.
The design, colour story and customisability of the products are what makes this business unique such as the design for one of their pieces, the Clearly bag, which was purely designed from A – Z by herself.
Apart from that, each release has also been carefully curated with its own colour stories which not only make each aesthetically pleasing but are made to fit together.
“For example, for our Candy Hearts, the small heart buttons on each bag are complementary colours that tie the two colourways in the collection together – perfect as a pair of best friends,” said the third-year student.
The brand is also mainly on a made-to-order basis which means that they can cater to the adjustments of their client’s requests such as needing a bigger elastic to accommodate thicker hair or shorter straps on bags for better comfort.
Although the pandemic has set some challenges for the brand and entrepreneur, it also gave new opportunities for her as a designer such as when accessing public premises nowadays where people had to fumble with their bags to search for their identity cards when scanning the BruHealth app prior entry.
Seeing the hassle, it gave her the idea to brainstorm for a solution – the Clearly bag.
“My family and I threw around ideas for a pouch or a bag design, which led to the creation of our Clearly bags. It is made with clear vinyl and specially fitted pockets for one’s IC and vaccination booklet, which would be easier to locate each item,” said the business owner.
With Instagram being popular in Brunei, most of their sales are done through the social media platform as it allows them to network with other businesses and reaches targetted customers.
“Somehow even without the sponsored feature on Instagram, our products have caught the eye of some Sweden and UK-based Instagram users. However, until we figure out a way to ship internationally with more reasonable pricing, we can only accept local orders for now,” said the designer.
For Amal, there were also some difficulties she faced in the business and the toughest one was keeping the fire alive. This was because she had to balance orders and also university, and she is grateful for both, but it has landed her restless.
Due to this, there were also some injuries and the entrepreneur found out that it was possible to sleep-sew despite the loud noise coming from the machines and at times, affected her mentally.
On top of that, there were also times when she felt competitive and compared her business with others, creating self-doubt. However, she sees it as a drive to power through and improves to be better.
“The journey has brought me many ups and downs, but I have had something new to learn at every turn. Having a successful sewing project and seeing people enjoy them makes dealing with adversity easier,” she said, adding that she has more in the pipeline for her bag and scrunchies collection as well as other accessories.
The 22-year-old hopes that more youths would take up sewing skills, whether it be for a business or just a hobby because it is a useful and fun skill to have.
The products are priced in everyone’s best interest as Amal tries to make it affordable and accessible for everyone. The scrunchies are from $2 to $5 each and the bags range from $15 to $22.
Find out more about this designer’s handmade products by heading over to their Instagram @thechouchouco and see the fun items that she curated.
This article was first published on 02 April 2022 in our Weekly Epaper issue 187 | More stories here
THE BRUNEIAN | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN