Interview: Chunks

I think my favorite thing about a lot of current trends is that they really just promote having FUN with style. Maybe it's partly just getting older and caring less about what people think, but I really do believe that many trends right now are encouraging us all to play with color and bring out that inner child. One of those trends is the comeback of hair accessories, and no one is having more fun with it than Tiffany Ju, the founder of Chunks.

Chunks has an amazing selection of colorful hair accessories, and it's all due to Tiffany's eye for design. She has a past life creating ombre tights (you know you've repinned her items on Pinterest), and she took her experience from that business to create Chunks, which offers hair clips, barrettes, and sunglasses. Each piece is vibrant and unique looking, and they're the kind of pieces you can see throwing on with a T-shirt for a relaxed day or as an added bit of flavor to stylish ensemble for a day out (you know, when days out get to happen again). Chunks' hair clips feel especially necessary right now as so many people sit in quarantine looking for any excuse to look good from their top halves for Zoom calls or just a way to deal with hair that's going on sixth straight day of being unwashed.

I loved learning more about how Tiffany has taken her experience as an entrepreneur over the years to grow this brand. We also discuss how she is having her pieces manufactured in China as she works to put an end to the stigma against Chinese manufacturing and proving that it's possible to do responsibly. She has so many insightful thoughts on creating a business, and I hope you'll get as much out of it as I did!

My pick: You just can't go wrong with the DON'T TOUCH barrettes.

Q: Let’s start from the beginning. Can you tell me a little bit about the process of starting your business? What made you want to do this and how did you turn your idea into a reality?

A: I started Chunks at the beginning of 2019 because my previous business was coming to a close. I saw insane success with my ombre tights (they went super viral on Pinterest and Tumblr in 2012-2013) and I built that business until 2018. I basically learned all my skills and made all my mistakes in running that business, so basically I already had the foundation laid. I saw that hair accessories would be a big trend in 2019 so I started out with a few styles. But the more I got into it, the more hooked I became!

Q: Was there a moment when you felt like this was something that was going to take off and become a success for you?

A: About 6 months after I started Chunks, Urban Outfitters approached me to carry Chunks! It was definitely a confidence boost and a sign that I was catching eyes, even after such a short time. Obviously, being picked up by Urban Outfitters is not a be-all, end-all but I’ve had enough experience doing this that I know I can take this as far as I want.

Q: What were your friends and family’s reactions to you starting this as a career or a business? Were you nervous to share it?

A: Absolutely! “I’m selling hair clips” gets a lot of reactions like, “oh, that’s...nice…!” I probably played it pretty close to my chest until I had things looking good enough for me to share it proudly. I’m also a big believer of ‘actions speak louder than words. You don’t have to say you’re going to do anything. Just do it.

Q: Is this your full-time job? If so, how long did it take you to transition into full-time?

A: It is! I was lucky enough that even with my first business, it exploded so quickly that I was able to make this my full time business from the start. However, running a business full-time definitely doesn’t mean it's successful. Entrepreneurship is often a financial rollercoaster. What was a game changer for me though was therapy, funny enough. It took me on this unintended journey of understanding my relationship with money and getting a hold of my finances. Financial trauma is real, folks.

Q: Can you tell me a little bit more about your commitment to responsible manufacturing and the decision to have your items produced in China?

A: Chinese manufacturing makes up 30% of worldwide manufacturing and I understand why. They are brilliant at what they do and will continue to be at the top for a long time. They’re so competitive and work hard for their customers. If designers can create a demand for more responsible practices, I believe that they will listen and adapt. China is where we can make the biggest impact and really move the needle towards responsible manufacturing. I am playing the long game though and this is really going to be a lifelong journey of learning and discovering what responsible manufacturing actually means and making those changes incrementally.

Q: Obviously, we’re in strange times right now so I have to ask everyone I talk to - how has COVID-19 affected your business and what are you doing to keep everything going during this time? What can people do to support you and others during all of this?

A: Well, my wholesale business dropped off 100% for about a month but I see wholesale orders trickling back in. I’m thrilled to see how some retailers have really adapted to this new landscape and made it work for them. However, I did see an increase in my online business! It was honestly a surprise to me but I think people are doing a lot of small business shopping which is amazing. I think we’re all actually doing an amazing job supporting small businesses and each other. In a time where we can’t see each other in person, I think we crave to connect with each other in different ways and I have definitely felt that in my engagements online and through social media.

Q: Is there something you wish you had known about running a small business when you first started?

A: I could write a book about that. I think for me personally, I had to figure out why I was doing it. I was really going through a quarter life crisis and wondering why I was doing anything. And I think I was in that hole for the entire time I ran that business. It’s so hard to make good decisions in your business if you don’t have anything to filter it through.

Q: Favorite item in your shop currently?

A: I always wear my hair up so I love a good claw! I just released these new Jumbo Claws that hold a ton of hair and are super cute. I probably use the mini claws the most though. I use a few of them to hold up my top bun.

Q: What goals do you have for your business going forward?

A: I really want to visit China when we’re able to travel again. It’s really hard to make real movement on improving practices without seeing the whole operation in person. I would like to keep my business small and maybe add a small team over time and just continue to serve up delightful things to people!

Q: Lastly, let’s spread the love. What are a few of your favorite small shops owned by women that you personally shop from?

A: Hmmm...the last things I bought from women-owned businesses that I love: Earrings from While Odin Sleeps, glassware from Asp & Hand, rings from Tyler McGillivary and clutches from Primecut Bags.

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