Local girl comes up with children's swimwear line

For her foray into the business world, Bao Bao Foo has dipped her toes into producing swimwear for children that comes with specially designed protective suits.

The Ipoh lass is attempting to make a splash in the industry with her newly “hatched” Cheekaaboo, a playful label that’s also inspired by her moniker Bobo, the name that family and friends know her by.

“Cheekaaboo is a fun, cheeky, cheerful name that relates to children,” the bubbly Bobo says, adding that its cute egg-like emblem represents the “tender but sheltered” little ones.

This enterprising 27-year-old may be a business neophyte but she is no chick or baby (Bao Bao means “baby” in Mandarin, by the way) when one considers her singleminded will to compete in a field led by very established players.

“While others focus more on adult wear with the children’s stuff being a sub-range, I’m starting out specifically with the kids in mind – a niche market to tap into,” says Bobo.

A hands-on person, she is directly involved in all levels of her venture – from conceptualising to execution. Working closely with a product designer and in consultation with swimming instructors, she developed her line of cheery, brightly-coloured and comfortable swimwear that targets children aged six months to eight years.

She emphasises that her products – designed locally but manufactured overseas – are made with quality neoprene, a versatile synthetic rubber used in wetsuits and products like laptop sleeves and orthopaedic braces.

“It’s a water-resistant material that offers UV protection. Basically, neoprene has insulating properties that help to trap water between the suit and the child’s skin to create a layer of insulation from cold, hence it can keep a child warm – in and out of the water – if worn snugly,” she explains.

Interestingly, Bobo got her business idea through her swim experience with her nephews and niece. “During a family holiday in Batu Ferringhi in Penang last year, I noticed how the kids could not enjoy themselves thoroughly in the pool when the water became too cold for their liking,” recalls Bobo, the youngest of five siblings.

Being an avid swimmer since age five, Bobo says she loves that swimming is a wonderful family activity that promotes bonding. Her close-knit family, says the single lady whose dad is a businessman and mum a homemaker, is supportive of her bold endeavour.

A chat with Bobo reveals an extremely driven, determined and focused individual, despite her relatively young age. Having studied actuarial science in the London School of Economics (but it “didn’t really connect with me”), she went on to do her Master’s of Management in Regent’s College London.

“Though I am good at maths, I am more a creative person,” she says.

Bobo returned to Malaysia from London in January last year after resigning from her job as sales adviser with Fabergé, the brand famed for its Russian jewelled eggs, where she worked for a year.

“I’ve always wanted to start my business and have my own brand,” says Bobo, who from young had admired international fashion labels such as Shanghai Tang, Polo Ralph Lauren and Burberry.

Perhaps it’s in the blood as the Perak native hails from a family of entrepreneurs, her dad and uncles included. So it makes sense for her to venture into business, she adds.

Fuelled by what she calls a passion for creativity, branding and innovation, Bobo set about building her Cheekaaboo project about a year ago.

“We went through all the quality control and testing of samples after the initial planning and designing before coming up with our range. We are particular about safety and comfort,” stresses Bobo.

Cheekaaboo has just hit the market with its debut Fun in the Sun collection, available in a number of shopping malls, retail outlets and swimming schools in Kuala Lumpur as well as in Petaling Jaya, Shah Alam and Subang Jaya in Selangor.

The swimwear – priced between RM110 and RM160 – includes babysuits, two-in-one baby onesies with built-in nappy, wraps, one-piece kiddy suits, separates for toddlers and children, and floatsy jackets that come with added buoyancy and adjustable bottom flap.

So, how did a beginner manage to secure shelf space at prominent shops for her fledgling brand?

“It took plenty of persistence and cold-calling before I got to show them my products. And they liked them,” says Bobo, who eyes diversification and increased market presence in time to come.

With her zest for creativity and business, this Malaysian may rule the pool with yet more innovative ideas.

For more information on Cheekaaboo and its availability, go to www.cheekaaboo.com.

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