Q&A WITH REX KUO
Tell us the story of your business – was there a particular moment, person, or need that inspired it?
In 2012, Charles was training for a half-marathon run and he hated the sound of jingling keys in his pocket during morning runs. Sick of having to detach the house key from his keyrings every single time, he made a quick prototype using simple bolt and nut to stop the keys from jingling. When he showed me the design I got excited and explained my own frustration of keys scratching his phone and wallet whenever I put them in my pocket or bag together. This was when we decided to take the idea further and the Orbitkey Key Organiser was introduced to the Kickstarter community in 2013.
How did you come up with your business name?
The name 'Orbit'key originally came about when we thought about the movement of keys around this central pivot point. With our company growing, we’ve also grown to love the name even more as it symbolises the idea of our products orbiting the daily lives of a lot of people.
What first steps did you take to turn your business idea into a reality? Was it difficult, or did everything come naturally?
It was a natural and somewhat easy decision for us. Back then, Kickstarter was becoming increasingly popular for start-ups and individuals with little to no capital to launch ideas. Having worked on the idea for so long, naturally we grew fond of our design. However, we didn’t know if others would like it too. This was also a driving factor in us deciding to launch the idea on Kickstarter. In a way, It allowed us to test the market.
It was not all smooth-sailing. There were quite a few challenges in the design, especially when designing a screw-mechanism that is secure and will not loosen over time. Fast forward 9 months later – after many long nights and more than 10 different design iterations – we had refined the idea further into something we really believe in.
Tell us three things that make your product stand out.
Being a product design-led brand, it is very important that we have products that are uniquely Orbitkey. In essence, our products aim to have the perfect balance of quality, aesthetic and function. They feature very clean aesthetic with minimal branding, resulting in understated elegance that you can carry everywhere confidently. We blend traditional craft with a modern production process, to create something that’s uniquely elegant and functional. At the same time, when we design our products, we always aim to be conscious of what to include / take out. The last thing we want to create is a product packed with features that no one actually appreciates or needs.
Describe how you felt when you started to get your first customers. How has your relationship with your customers grown or changed since then?
When we launched the product on Kickstarter, there were a lot of high-fives to start with, then the nerves started to kick in. Our hard work was starting to become a reality and we knew that in order to make it a long term success, we needed to make sure we deliver on quality also. Our focus hasn’t changed – we want to bring out high quality, beautiful products which are also functional. Having access to our larger customer base now, we try to involve them even more in the process. We conduct various surveys and research throughout the year to ensure that we’re bringing products that actually solve problems our customers are facing.
Describe the kind of person who buys your products. Why do you think they love your business? How do they benefit from your products?
Our customers are discerning, positive, thoughtful and have an appreciation for quality and design. What we always aim to do is to offer enough values that our customers relate to us on a deeper level than a single transaction. We take great care and pride in what we do and we want our customers to feel the same way using our product. At the core, we’re here to help our customers get more organised so that they could achieve their goals easier.
Tell us three things that excite you about doing what you do.
Being design led, we are always excited about coming up with a unique solution to a problem. It’s hard work but the excitement when we finally land to a solution and seeing it in real life – it’s a feeling that gets us, everytime!
Creating things that impact someone’s lives positively, even in the smallest way possible – and hearing this from that person, first hand through emails, social media or public events like a design market. It’s an amazing thing that inspires us to do even better.
We’re also lucky to have a great team onboard. Being able to work with people you enjoy being around with is a bonus!
How do you keep your business fresh and exciting? Do you have any new, upcoming products in the works that you can tell us about?
Having pushed the idea of the Key Organiser for a few years now, we start to realise that at the core, what we offer as a brand is a way to get your life more organised. We believe that when your life is more organised, it is easier and better. It’s the little changes can make the biggest difference. In short, our vision is to help our community improve through clever organisation!
In terms of specifics, unfortunately we can’t tell you exactly just yet but there’s a few things we are launching later this year. You’ll have to follow us @orbitkey to find out!
What energises and inspires you, generally?
Just to list a few – learning new things by reading, listening to audio books and also sharing experiences with other business owners/designers. Seeing cleverly designed products that solve real problems – especially those widely-accepted problems which no one thought could be solved.
Who is your biggest inspiration, and why?
Following the previous questions, we look up to other businesses focussed on design and innovation to create well-designed products that solve real problems. Mainly because we know how tough it is and seeing it done well makes it seem a little bit more achievable
Where do you think your area of design is headed in 2020? Are there any design/business trends that you’ve identified? Have they affected the direction of your business?
Having pushed the idea of the Key Organiser for a few years now, we started to realise that at the core, what we offer as a brand is a way to get your life more organised. We believe that when your life is more organised, it is easier and better. Hopefully, in the next few years, Orbitkey will turn into a brand that people trust for any organisation needs.
It’s also great to see more businesses promoting ethical business practices through the use of sustainable materials and also their contribution to non-profit projects / organisations around the world. This is something we’d definitely look to incorporate into how we do business in the next few years. Although, it would even be better if all businesses go a layer deeper and promote the idea of making less things, especially things that don’t add much value to what’s already out there. This has always been our approach.
What advice would you give to someone who has a creative business idea?
Don’t be shy to ask for advice. We do not think that we have one particular mentor but we definitely have a number of people whom we go to for advice. Each and every one of them have expertise in different areas, and it is amazing to see how much they are willing to share their experience with everyone.
Create something that you would use, and adds value. There’s a big difference between coming up with an idea and actually making it work – especially for the end users. We spent many months trialling different designs and refining them until we came up with something we were truly happy with. It’s a lot easier when you believe in the product or service you are selling.
Walk in your customers’ shoes. Most importantly, try to think from the customer’s perspective and aim to make their experience the best it could be.