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Husband and wife entrepreneurs, Lel and Khai Ngo, are both event enthusiasts who enjoy celebrating life. The co-founders of The Kit Source want to take the hassle and stress out of celebration planning.
The duo source, curate and package bespoke, beautifully themed party supplies and deliver them directly to your door. Every theme is carefully styled and assembled. All the party organiser has to do is unpack and enjoy the party.
Lel shares their unique story of love and business:
#1. It’s about embracing change…
In mid-2013. we both lost a little motivation with our jobs and decided we needed a challenge. Khai was keen to study again and I planned to start a career as a freelance event consultant, so moving overseas would be the perfect way to get a new perspective and start afresh. We considered a few locations (even the Netherlands – I have a Dutch passport), but as we’d both traveled to the States before, and fallen in love with San Francisco, an international program at Berkeley – just outside San Francisco – fit the bill.
One afternoon in February 2014, after being in Berkeley for a month, I was completing an assignment and had to find classy, themed party ware for a few hypothetical events. I realised that I loved putting together colour and pattern combinations (mood boards) for these different themes, and before I knew it, I was off Googling whether Party Kits existed – all I could find were ‘packs’ with the exact same tacky image on each item – a lazy and tacky approach in my eyes.
#2. It’s about finding the gap….
That afternoon, when Khai walked in the door to our tiny, dingy college-town apartment, I told him about the apparent gap in the market and, without really thinking about it, joked that we should fill it by opening an online store that curates party supplies into kits. Khai, inspired by his Entrepreneurship subject, pulled out an article on writing a Lean Canvas and said they’d complete it the next day.
That next afternoon, they planned the entire business out in about four hours, and were so tired from all the idea generation that they couldn’t discuss it again for weeks!
Lel then began researching shopping cart platforms, suppliers and the market, and listened to hundreds of podcasts such as eCommerceFuel and My Wife Quit Her Job. Needless to say, the event consultant idea was forgotten about!
#3. It’s about inspiration…
At this point, the ‘Start-Up’ scene hadn’t quite hit Sydney to the level it has now – it was something that was born in the Bay Area (SF, Silicon Valley). Not only this, but we were exposed to SO MANY new ways of doing things, especially online or via App – Uber was already deeply ingrained in society, food delivery services were huge, Meetup groups were everywhere… we experienced a lot of new services that were completely different (and more efficient) than the things back home.
I decided to follow creative pursuits while setting up my consultancy – studying event and wedding design (online) and floristry at the San Francisco School of Floral Design. During these courses I realised that I desperately needed creativity to be at the core of my career, no matter how successful I was as an event coordinator. When the idea of an online store struck, it was like I found my calling! There was a lot of logistical and organisational tasks, but I could design the website, take all of the photos, and most importantly curate the Party Kits!
#4. It’s about excitement, suspense and passion…
Mostly beauty, fashion and food subscription boxes inspired us. It was the ‘unboxing’ of a curated collection of products that really inspired me. As a passionate online shopper, I find it so exciting and suspenseful opening up a box and pulling things out, item by item. I’ve grown up using Apple products, where packaging and unboxing is so well constructed and purposeful. One day I hope to recreate that sort of experience with our Kits.
#5. It’s about like-minded, positive people…
Khai’s Diploma was only for international students, so our friends were from Brazil, France, Spain, Japan, Germany, Argentina, India… they were all at a similar stage in their life – postgrad study to upskill and start something new. Almost every one of our friends had a business idea, or planned to stay in the US to work in a start up… we were surrounded by people who had such a passion for change; they were excited about business and life (sadly this wasn’t the case for a number of our friends back home). This meant that when we returned to Australia, our friendship circle changed; we’d realised that being around like-minded and passionate people would keep us motivated.
#6. It’s about learning who your target audience is and adapting…
When we started, I actually wanted to focus on the ‘young corporates with disposable income’ market – I was basically creating the product for myself. After some time on the market and seeing who our customers and followers were, we realised that this wasn’t really the market that needed our help – it was the mums who were time poor, that felt the pressure to live up to their fellow mum’s expectations. I really enjoy catering for the Mum’s market, they’re really grateful for all the assistance and time saving!
#7. It’s about being true to creativity and intuition…
I usually find one item that is the jumping off point for a kit – as much as I should research upcoming trends, I tend to come across things I love and ideas snowball from there. One of my favourite Kits, the Black and White Party Kit, was inspired by patterned carpet in a hotel we stayed at in 2009. My ideas truly come from anywhere, and I guess that makes it hard to imitate what we do. I’m more about creating timeless products than keeping up with whatever fleeting trend other stores might be pushing.
#8. It’s about collaboration…
Khai and I have very complimentary skill sets. To put it simply, I’m about form, and he’s about function. I love the design side of things, whereas he’s very analytical. He’s a very successful business manager – handling all of the financial, operational and logistical aspects that I simply don’t have an interest in. This isn’t to say he isn’t creative though, some of our most random (and successful) products or marketing efforts have come from his creativity in problem solving.
#9. It’s about quality and honesty…
My main benchmark for quality is “If I won’t use it myself, I won’t offer it to our customers”. Have you ever attended a party and tried to cut your food on a flimsy white plate with bendy cutlery? It’s awkward and frustrating – we even filmed a plate test to show how we focus on quality!
In addition to this, Khai and I have taken it upon ourselves to learn as much as we possibly can. Khai’s learnt the basics of html, css and SEO; I’ve upskilled in graphic design programs, photography. One day we’d like to outsource these sorts of things, but it’s best we learn what we can first so we don’t get ‘screwed over’ later (I’ve heard too many horror stories about entrepreneurs paying thousands in SEO a month, with no results!).
#10. It’s about celebrating life…
I was always on the fringe of the event industry, but when we began The Kit Source I became really involved and interested in what other party stores, stylists, cake makers, etc. we’re doing. It was then I realised that throwing parties should be simple. I was no longer just interested in coordinating party items and selling them in kits, I wanted to simplify party planning and show people that less is more. I vividly remember parties from my childhood, with home-made cakes and silly games – it wasn’t about expensive decorators or how much my parents invested, it was about the memories – it’s cliché but it’s true! If we can get people who are hesitant about throwing a party because of time restraints (or perceived lack of creativity), to grab a kit and celebrate, then we’ll be pretty happy no matter the occasion.
From Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak to John and Yoko, a strong partnership can make or break a business. We want to hear from couples or partners in business. Tell us your business story for a chance to feature on Kochie’s Business Builders.