Founder Tiffany Ju launched Chunks in 2019 as a response to the lack of cute hair clips on the market, partnering with a manufacturer in Jinhua, China, to bring her audience a reinvented classic. Checkerboards, neons, pastels, it's got it all – and almost 100,000 followers on Instagram along for the ride. Tiffany has cornered a market and got a huge audience listening to her story.
After quitting her labor-intensive first business making hand-dyed tights in 2018, Tiffany was looking for a new business idea and started to look into hair clips. ‘I saw Y2K and nineties nostalgia coming back, and hair clips were an accessory from that era that we forgot about,’ says Tiffany. What was out there was unappealing – relegated to the drugstore. She started small, taking out a micro loan and designing a handful of clips, teaming up with a manufacturer in Jinhua, China. It's important to Tiffany to be transparent and proud about where her hair clips are made. ‘There's so much stigma about things being made in China,’ she says. ‘I really like working with [our manufacturers] and it's not something I want to hide. That's a big part of our ethos and our values, as well as responsible manufacturing,’ she says.
Tiffany's approach to creating content
With her previous ventures, Tiffany had shied away from social media. With Chunks, her mindset shifted. ‘It became a matter of remembering to document what we were already doing and then just go online, make friends and see it as a new community,’ she says. She started slow, leaning into social media in 2020. Now, Tiffany has a social media manager and assistant content creator to help her maintain Chunks' playful tone of voice. ‘Social media is evolving so quickly all the time. We're a small team so we can be really nimble, and I don't ever want our social media to start feeling stiff,’ she says. Her team tries to stay spontaneous with just enough planning to keep themselves sane while maintaining a passionate energy. While they do organize and analyze their social media, Tiffany is careful not to make it too rehearsed. ‘People feel like things need to be polished and I always try to convince them that that's not the case. Audiences want what's authentic.’
Why Chunks resonates so much with its customers
Tiffany's voice permeates Chunks' branding, from its website through to its social media platforms. It's playful, endearing and personal, without feeling too try-hard – a tough sweet spot to hit. Being as candid as possible has helped: ‘When I started getting traction in 2020, I was just showing up and telling my story,’ she says. ‘People resonate with and find inspiration in founders and the people who make the brand. I was open about sharing that.’ Chunks also tries to show the team's faces, adding to that ethos of transparency. Above all, Tiffany frames her business around the ‘why’. ‘Why is community important? Why is responsible manufacturing important? Why do we talk about Chinese manufacturing? Why does our brand exist? Why am I getting up in the morning to make hair clips?’ Through social media marketing, she tries to answer those questions.
Five things Tiffany has learned
1. Be your own greatest brand ambassador
‘I always advise people not to outsource their marketing: no one can talk about your product as well as you do and no one cares more than you do. Especially in those early days, I think it's so important for company owners and founders to talk about their product.’
2. Study the art of team-building
‘[Building] a team has been a really interesting and rewarding journey for me, because I went from totally doing everything myself [to] a team of 13. I've always been interested in why people are the way they are and what gets people motivated, and the dynamics of the team.’
3. Be open to not knowing
‘The most important thing when you start a business is to be OK with the fact that you don't know something, [being] willing to learn one thing at a time and being able to maintain that perspective. Business ownership is all about jumping into the void and feeling OK with that.’
4. Don't over-stretch
‘You don't have to do everything. You can just do a couple of things really well and fully. I apply that to so many things, particularly social media, but also my products. Sometimes when people do too many products or are on too many social media platforms, it dilutes the brand. You have to nurture the customer.’
5. Cultivate a community
‘You need to build your own community. When I had my first business, I was in this mentality of trying to hide behind my brand and thinking I could do it all by myself. I did a lot of therapy and realized that comes from deep-seated shame and being scared of putting yourself out there. You can't do anything alone.’
This article was first published in How to Start a Business 2023. To purchase a copy or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.