Social media personalities, or ‘influencers’, have been getting a bad rep.
A fair number of people see them as individuals who’re in the business just to go for free events and get free stuff – and all they need is to be photogenic and have a penchant for taking #OOTD shots.
But many tend to miss out the fact that for those who take their jobs (and followers) seriously, there’s a lot of actual work (briefs, meetings, countless drafts) that go into each and every post.
It’s not just capturing the perfect angles – it’s also crafting snappy captions that not just sell the products, but them as a personality as well.
Christabel Chua, better known by her moniker @bellywellyjelly, is more than just another ‘influencer’.
Take a look through her social media feeds, and you’ll find a young lady who’s not just sharing photogenic snippets of her personal life – you’ll also see very well-executed and carefully-curated collaborations with prestigious brands.
And now, she’s now a budding entrepreneur as well.
kāi, Inspired By Moments Of Happiness
If you’re a follower of her Instagram account (like myself), you would have spotted her friends and herself carrying über cute fruit-shaped pouches.
Initially thinking that it was a branded post, I soon realised that they were actually designed and created by Christabel herself.
Bright, cheery, and fresh, I found that pouches a perfect reflection of the image she had worked so hard to build up over the years.
Called kāi, the name is actually derived from the Chinese character 开 (kai), which translates to ‘open’. It’s also used in the word 开心 (kai xin), which means ‘happy/happiness’.
“kāi is inspired by moments of happiness, and the idea of being fearlessly free,” states Christabel in her blog.
But handling her usual sponsored posts and a new e-commerce venture no easy feat – how does she manage to wring the most out of every minute, and still maintain her infectious enthusiasm and energy?
I got in touch with her to find out more about her new venture, and the story behind kai.
A Childhood Dream Turned Into Reality
Creating her own brand was actually a dream that followed Christabel since childhood, but she admits that it “took [her] a long while to figure out what [she was] passionate about and what [she] actually wanted to create”.
Inspiration struck, however, when she was shopping in Australia.
“I saw this really, really nice good quality pouch, but it was really expensive. And I thought to myself, it would be so great if we could have good quality pouches at an affordable price, with more variety than what I can find in the market.”
“If I wanted quirky pouches I would think of Kate Spade but that is usually in a more expensive range.”
Inspired by the watermelon pouch that she saw in Australia, she starting thinking about the type of fruit pouches that she wanted to see in the market.
“I realised there isn’t much of an avocado pouch in the market so I was like “Alright let’s create an avocado pouch!”. We decided to add 3 other fruits into the family and there you have it, our debut collection.”
But more than just peddling cute-looking pouches, Christabel reveals that she actually wants to “spread joy to anyone who is carrying kai pouches”.
“I think our message is all encompass in these 2 words: Vitamin H(appy).”
“We want to produce lifestyle items that you can use on a daily basis, and when you look at them you feel inspired, happy, and carefree” – which is very much like how one feels going through her photos and videos on social media.
A plan 2 years in the making, a bulk of the time went into finding the right materials and the right manufacturer to produce the pouches.
“On top of that, we have to draft out how we wanted the brand to be, how I wanted it to touch the lives of others through our pouches.”
One Of The Biggest Challenges: Finding The Right Manufacturer
A frequent traveller for her assignments, Christabel gets to travel to countries far and wide, and this helped in her search for the perfect material and manufacturer.
“For the material I didn’t want leather, so we went for PU leather, in other words bicast/vegan leather. This was why it took me quite a while to nail down the right manufacturer who get our sewing done really well and produce good quality pouches.”
True to her bubbly, optimistic image, she states that she got through all the challenges because of how excited she was to bring the brand to life.
“You just have to keep going and remember not to put too much pressure on yourself. I overcome most of my challenges by reminding myself that I’m doing this because I love it and I’m excited about the fun it can bring, even though it can get quite stressful sometimes.”
“I guess kāi being a very fun brand to work on actually helps me a lot.”
Sold Out In 5 Days
Owning an Instagram account with over 147k followers is no mean feat, and Christabel admits that her experience had helped in the ideation process greatly.
“I’ve been working in this media industry for about 4 to 5 years now, and I’ve seen many brands start up and push out new products. Every single marketing campaign is different so I had to tailor my marketing campaign based on the branding of my brand, as well as the vibe and message I wanted it to send out.”
And this proved to be successful – as her debut collection sold out in just 5 days.
“We were very surprised! […] The comments we have gotten so far is that kāi is more than just a pouch, it’s a lifestyle. People are buying into this very cheery lifestyle, owning a product that reminds you to be happy and cheerful based on the bright colour scheme in our pouches.”
“They love the stickers that comes along with every pouch purchase as well, it further emphasised the message we want to send out; be kind, be fearless, and dream big.”
The Future of kāi
After a very successful debut, the budding entrepreneur reveals that she’s currently thinking about future marketing campaigns of how to push out more pouches.
This doesn’t mean, however, that she’s looking to mass produce her creations.
“Right now, we are just focusing on creating limited quantity for each collection, so everyone that owns a kāi pouch will feel special because they are the few in the world who has them.”
When asked about future products we could expect to come from kāi, Christabel remains tight-lipped, but teases with the promise of “little knickknacks” and “switching up [the] collections”.
The world is her playground, and when asked about advice she could give those looking to launch their own brands as well, she states, “You should take calculated risks, always remember why you started it, and the message you want to bring through your brand or products.”
Check out kāi here!
Featured Image Credit: @faithcheryl for @bellywellyjelly