Neontrepreneur: Vilasinee Bunnag, Craft Tool Inventor & Founder of Loome
You guyssssss! Our Neontrepreneur series is BACK and we’re kicking things off with a super duper special guest, someone who has been hugely influential to me as my build my own crafty brand: Vilasinee Bunnag, inventor and founder of Loome craft tools!!
It’s been almost one whole year since our last Neontrepreneur interview while TNTP went through a rebrand and website redesign (and as I contemplated turning the series into a podcast, but ain’t nobody got time for that right now — maybe one day soon!) SO for now, we’re back to regularly scheduled programming with our beloved interview series!
Neontrepreneur (noun): A female business owner who is building a flourishing brand by chasing her own unique dream.
Vilasinee Bunnag is someone I look up to tremendously as an entrepreneur, is one of the most generous people I know, and of course, is a pom pom making wiz. Not to mention I credit her 5″ Robot Tool for my entire business’ success thus far. If you’ve ever taken a pom pom & tassel class with me, enrolled in our online pom pom & tassel course, purchased a Pom Pom & Tassel DIY Kit, or simply follow The Neon Tea Party on Instagram, you know that our go-to tools are from the Loome.
I met Vilasinee just one month after launching The Neon Tea Party (two years ago next month!) when she was selling her pom pom & tassel tool at Renegade Craft Fair in Manhattan. I was just diving into DIY content for the blog and her pom pom & tassel tool had me completely mesmerized. Being that I was already obsessed with pom poms and tassels and had tried my hand at making tassels in the past, I completely fell in love with the tool, purchased this one along with some fresh yarn from Michael’s, and have been a pom pom-making machine ever since.
Since launching Loome in 2015, Vilansinee has accomplished so much in such a relatively short time period. The Loome’s tools are patented, they’re carried in hundreds of stores around the world, the brand has a loyal following of thousands upon thousands of makers, and earlier this year Loome released a freaking craft book (!!) called Loome Party, which lives on my coffee table and is one of the best craft books I’ve ever known. Suffice it to say, I’m super excited to dive in and let Vilansinee share a bit about her entrepreneurial background and how she got to where she is today. Take it away, V!
Have you always had an entrepreneurial spirit? If so, can you share any early entrepreneurial endeavors?
I’ve always been enterprising, curious and creative. These are the things I have the strongest memories of from my childhood. My “playtime” was all about observing others, making something then trying to sell it. It’s so weird now that you’ve jogged my memory! I won’t take you back as far as my punk-rock Barbie redux days but my earliest business was starting a catering business when I was in college. I loved the process of creating a concept, doing all the work to make it happen (all those details are so fun to me) and finally, connecting with customers.
What drove you to launch your business? How did you know it was “the right time” (if there is such a thing)?
Loome is technically my third business. I’m not a methodical planner when it comes to starting a business. When an idea comes to me, I do a bit of research, see what kind of resources and money it will take, decide if it’s a good or bad idea then I go from there so in essence, I don’t think much about timing. For me, “the right time” is about the magic of luck and everything else is about the hustle and the people (your team, your customers, your champions, your support system). I also believe that “the right time” can also happen many times for a business or at different junctures. Take well-know brands like AirBnB, they had a hard time at the beginning or Warby Parker, they took off on day one and now, both are in good places.
What inspires you in regards to your business?
Hands down, the people – working with collaborators and Loomenaries (aka customers). People are so awesome and when you have a small business, you see it first hand. You see the immediate impact of the gestures of enthusiasm and generosity. Also, because Loome is a craft tool, many of our peeps are creative and crafty people so there are always inspiring ideas flying around.
Was there a moment when you felt like you’d “made it?” Or at least that you were truly onto something?
The Loome tool is a patented invention. No one had seen it before but I took it to two craft shows (Renegade and Crafty Bastards) and I nearly sold out. I’ve never had that experience before so I knew there was something about these tools, their functionality and they way they looked that piqued curiosity but also drew people in. It wasn’t hard to explain it and people got it right away, especially the creative types.
What are the best and hardest parts about owning your own business?
The best parts are the hustle, introducing people to your ideas and the creative challenge – they’re super exhilarating and energizing. The hardest parts are the hustle, the capital investment, inventory management and administrative work (eeeek!). One can never be truly prepared how quickly a business could do well and to be honest, I wasn’t prepared at all. I had no idea how fast Loome was going to be accepted and I wasn’t prepared. I made a lot of mistakes especially around things I didn’t know like manufacturing, distribution and so on. But you learn and you move on.
To what do you attribute your success thus far?
Ok, I’m going to list a ton of things because for me, it was the combination of these forces coming and working together: good people, design and sense of design, partners/collaborators, attorneys, timing and lastly, having some money or access to money (e.g. investors, generous family members, etc.) to support your growth when you need it.
What have been your most successful marketing strategies?
Focusing on Instagram. At the beginning, I didn’t have a lot of time or resources and I just thought, I’m going to focus on one platform and channel all my energy there. I knew that Instagram was going to be the best platform for us because of the visual nature of what we did and indeed it was. Over 80% of our wholesale business comes from the starting point of Instagram.
Which entrepreneurs do you look up to and why?
I love “How I Built This” podcast and four stood out to me: Kim Jordan (focus and honesty), Raegan Moya-Jones (manufacturing disaster), Sarah Blakely (patent and fun) and Howard Schultz (passion and the learning journey).
What is your dream project?
A giant pom pom installation that raises money for incredible causes around the world. It would be community fueled – I want people to donate their yarn, have a couple of artists collaborate and design a beautiful, unexpected installation and with the donated yarn, make it happen. Then, I would love to be able to divide up the installation and auction off pieces to raise money.
Where do you see your business in 3-5 years?
I’m really focused on selling the Loome patents now. My vision has always been that the Loome tools will become ubiquitous fiber craft tools like knitting needles. This will take someone with already a wide distribution. Then I’d like to focus all of my energy on collaborating on creative ideas with the Loome.
Based on your experience, what advice would you female entrepreneurs just starting out?
There’s always going to be a lot of noise and distractions, at the beginning, when you don’t have a lot of resources, focus on a few things and go big with them. I’m a big believer of discovering your voice and then with that, doing those few things really, really well. Know your lanes and go for it.
Favorite Color: Lightening Hot Pink
Favorite creative thing to do: Loome anything!
Favorite music genre: Currently, guilty pleasure pop
Three places you must visit in your lifetime: Anywhere in India, Japan and Italy (amazing craft cultures)
Describe your home in three words: Always incessantly neat (because all day, I’m in maker’s mess mode at the office, did some say “pom pom dust?”)
Humongous thanks to Vilansinee for taking the time to share her story with us! Be sure to check out theloome.com to peruse their extensive selection of tools, kits and book, Loome Party! You can follow Vilasinee and Loome on Instagram @theloome.
Find all our past Neontrepreneur interviews with incredible, ass-kicking female entrepreneurs here!
Peace, love & neon,