Sunglasses made from wood may sound odd, but the home-grown brand Yayokie offers designs that are really rather cool, reports ZIEMAN.
When Kenneth Goh and Sherrie Chai visited a store that sold wooden glasses in Osaka two years ago, little did they know that it would lead to them carving a future in business. The eco-friendly and handcrafted wooden-framed glasses they saw were so unique that they started to toy with the idea of starting online business selling wooden shades.
When they came home, an inspired Goh and Chai decided to learn everything they could on how to start a new business in the next few months. They did research on how to set up an online store, read up on sunglass designs, manufacturing and brand-building. Legwork done, they turned their idea into reality and started Yayokie, an online business, in 2014.
Currently, Yayokie is selling more than 50 pairs of wooden-framed sunglasses a day.
With a paid-up capital of just RM20,000, Chia and her husband got down to designing sunglasses with richly textured wood aimed at the young and young-at-heart, and then found the manufacturers to make them. According to Goh, the idea initially was to source for readily available wooden sunglasses rather than manufacturing them, but this didn’t prove viable.
“At first, we wanted to look for a better deal online, but it was too costly when you include shipping rate and the risk of parcel being lost. We finally decided to start own brand of wooden sunglasses, which would be affordable and of high quality,” says Goh.
When they could not find the right manufacturers locally, they visited the Hong Kong Optical Fair (HKTDC) where they found two reliable companies. As for the name of their business, Goh and Chai say they found “Yayokie” catchy and say it is from the words “Yay, Okay”.
“We fell in love with the wooden sunglasses (in Japan), but we could not afford them since they cost around RM600 per pair,” recalls Goh, an IT consultant.
Goh says sales started to pick up after he designed Yayokie’s website and promoted their merchandise on the social media through Zalora, Rakuten and Lazada. Within a month, they had garnered more than 2,000 Facebook fans.
People were curious to find out more about Yayokie sunglasses, and Goh and Chai soon found themselves ordering more and more from their suppliers in Hong Kong and China to meet the growing demand. At first, the manufacturer supplied them with five pairs every day, but soon Yayokie were ordering 10 pairs of glasses a day, and then more than 30 because of the rising demand.
When more than 100 orders came in during the first month, Chai had to shift her focus to designing new shades and marketing, while Goh looked into monitoring the production side in Hong Kong and China.
Goh hopes the business can grow to 10 times larger the current volume of production.
“If the demands remain high, we would be able to bring in more designs and explore different types of wood. Most wooden frames from Europe, Australia and Japan are quite costly, so I want Yayokie to be the opposite without compromising on the quality,” says Goh.
“There is ceratinly a demand for wooden sunglasses in this region. There are no such stores in this region, while the ones from USA, Europe, Japan and Australia are too expensive especially with the costly shipping rate and long waiting time,” says Goh.
Since Yayokie is the first store to offer wooden glasses in Malaysia, Goh says wants to make sure the merchandise they carry are unique and affordable so that more people would buy them.
Their online store currently carries 36 types of wooden frame glasses made from five types of wood, namely Zebrawood, ebony, rosewood, fire-burnt bamboo and white bamboo. Prices range from RM50 to RM209, with the ebony ones being the most expensive of the lot.
“We have always had this curious endeavour from the start. Our suppliers are excited when we told them we want to experiment with the endless possibilities of wooden sunglasses. But, at the same time, we try to keep the wood manipulation to a minimum so that only the natural grains of the woods and its unique splendour are highlighted,” says Goh.
Though the manufacturing process is done in China, Goh monitors every step of the process, from craftsmanship and veneering, to precision lens cutting, shaping and finishing of the product.
“We make sure Yayokie sunglasses are unique in appearance, comfortable, light and durable. The swirling grain of each type of wood is different while the dense lines and the grains make each pair truly outstanding. Furthermore, our shades are biodegradable and eco-friendly,” says Chai.
Yayokie has also found a unique way to ‘give back’ to Mother Nature through the Yayokie Plant A Tree project and partnership with recyclecharity.org, a division of Pertubuhan Amal Seri Sinar (Pass).
“The Yayokie Plant a Tree project gives you a chance to contribute to the environment. For every purchase, there will be a donation made to Pass, an environment activist in promoting a greener earth.
“Since wood is a renewable resource, the idea behind planting a tree with every purchase of Yayokie sunglasses is to try to keep things in balance. When trees are cut down to make wooden sunglasses and other products, new trees are planted,” Chai explains.
Yayokie wooden sunglasses are bio-degradable, while their polarised sunglasses help reduce the glare from reflected surfaces such as water, ice, snow or metal.
“They are perfect for driving and outdoor activities such as beach and fishing. With reduced glare, you can see further and more clearly,” says Goh.
Both wooden and plastic frame sunglasses are comparably strong, with weight also being roughly the same.
Another attractive part about Yayokie sunglasses is that each pair comes with a cute wooden case and foldable casing.
“My aim is to create a brand under Yayokie by selling wooden sunglasses first, and eventually branch off with T-shirts, bags, clothing and other merchandise items. We are still searching for a product that works,” says Goh.