What’s in your wallet? Various celebrities in Capital One commercials keep asking us this question. The truth for most of us is, a lot of stuff we don’t really need: Old receipts, expired gift cards, random business cards.
Sunchea Phou is tired of the clutter. She’s tired of the multiple pockets and zippers that adorn most wallets, and frankly, she’s tired of their boring, uninspired designs. Despite an arduous search, she couldn’t find any wallets that made her want to say, “YAY!” So she made her own.
Here, OEN sits down with Sunchea to talk about her own entrepreneurial journey, starting with her childhood in a Cambodian refugee camp, as well as the birth of YaY Wallet and her dream of using her business to effect social change.
What was the spark that inspired the birth of YaY Wallet?
Business has been always my passion, but I want to do something that I love, which is creating fun and functional products. I want to do something that can make our lives easier.
It started with my busy life style—I needed a slim way of carrying my money and plastic without having to use a traditional bulky, fat wallet. Having been in the fashion industry for 20 years, when I did find something that might have worked, the quality didn’t meet my standard and was very plain. I decided to create a good quality wallet that represents my personal style. The YaY Wallet 1.0 was born!
What problem does your business solve?
Our business will help solve the problem that everyone has with the traditional bulky wallet. For men, carrying a heavy wallet is neither practical nor very stylish. For women, having an ultra slim wallet allows more flexibility, whether they want to take a smaller purse or clutch, or just carry the wallet. It also makes for easy access and less clutter. With the wide variety of graphic prints, women can finally use their wallet as a fashion accessory, mixing and matching as their style changes day to day. The YaY Wallet 1.0 gives us all a slim wallet that reflects our personal taste.
How did you come up with the name?
To find a happy balance in life, I always ask questions and usually they start with the “WHY.” It’s a habit for me to ask questions when I feel stressed out or I want to do something new. I’ve already explained the first “WHY”; the second “WHY” is that I have always been focused on giving back to the community. The YaY Wallet Company partners with non-profits, selling wallets with their logo and donating 50% of the retail sales to their cause.
What’s the best thing about being an entrepreneur?
There are so many things that are wonderful about being an entrepreneur. I believe in being honest and transparent in my business practices. I believe in standing up for business ethics. Being an entrepreneur means the opportunity to create my own destiny doing what I love. It means being my own boss, working with people I believe in, and solving problems in a collaborative way.
What has been the biggest surprise in your entrepreneurial experience to date?
I think the biggest surprise is the overwhelming support from friends, family and past co-workers I have received. It’s helped me realize that we all want each other to succeed in life, and that we are willing to cheer each other on in our endeavors.
As an entrepreneur, what keeps you up at night?
As a small business owner, I am always worried about how we will generate new sales, I worry about expenses eating into our profits, managing my time and our employees/contractors, keeping our existing customers happy, and whether we are growing fast enough.
What is your #1 piece of advice for a budding entrepreneur?
Be willing to commit to hard work and long hours. Maintain your strong determination through the obstacles and rough times.
What song best describes your entrepreneurial journey?
Journey – Don’t Stop Believin’
Imagine your venture becomes wildly successful. What does that look like?
YaY Wallet 1.0 becomes the go-to slim wallet that consumers embrace because of its design, durability and affordable price point. That success launches YaY Wallet as a brand, and we are able to bring new, fun and exciting products to the marketplace that people feel good about purchasing as we increase our involvement in giving back, both to local communities and children in the third world through our various non-profit organization partners.
Can you describe your typical day?
I spend 80% of my time managing projects, responding to time-sensitive deadlines, and working with the rest of the YaY Wallet team. The other 20% is for overseeing production.
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I was born during the Cambodian Civil War and tragically lost my father and brother at the age of one. I was very lucky to survive the Cambodian holocaust. At age 7, I fled the country to a refugee camp and grew up there for almost five years. I’ve seen and experienced suffering at a very young age and wish to grow up to be someone that could make the difference in the life of the people in need. I hope my dream comes true with the YaY Wallet.
Do you think Oregon is a good place to start a business? How has it helped you, and what challenges has it posed?
Yes, Oregon has been known for a place that is very supportive to small businesses and start-ups. It is a great community of people who are passionate about their craft. Launching on local crowd funding site, CrowdSupply is an exciting opportunity for us and we are looking forward to growing our company and brand, with a focus on local first.