Four months ago, Raffy Marie Magbanua, a 27 year-old OFW in Thailand, was forced to close his language center in Nong Bua Lamphu because of the pandemic. With only 300 baht in his wallet, he purchased 10 meters of fabric and turned them into elegant scrunchie which he later sold to his Filipino friends.
“While browsing Tiktok to pass the time, I came across with a video of a “tiktokerist” promoting her scrunchie business. When I saw the process of how these accessories are made, I told myself, I can pull this off,” says Raffy, who now markets his personally crafted scrunchie to The Philippines, Canada, Dubai and Thailand.
No background in sewing
But Raffy has no background in sewing.
Prior to his arrival in Thailand in October 2018, he worked full-time as a marketing head for Sterling Company while teaching English online to Chinese students as a part-time job.
Although her grandmother and her mother are seamstresses, he never get to learn the craft of sewing.
“After I bought the fabric for my first scrunchie project, I asked my boyfriend’s mom to teach me how to use the sewing machine and how to sew,” he recalls.
That same day, he was able to make 30 pieces of scrunchie from the 10-meter piece of cloth that he bought for 300 baht.
Determined to improve his sewing skill to bring his concepts come to life, Raffy sought assistance from his family back in the Philippines.
“My grandmother is a seamstress in the Philippines so I called her. She told me everything about the types of fabrics and what other things to buy,” Raffy shares.
When the first 30 pieces of scrunchie were sold out, Raffy invested in a much more variety of colors. For this, he needed an additional capital that prompted him to borrow 1,500 baht from his Thai partner.
“The additional 1,500 baht capital started my 13-colour set of Baba Scrunchies,” he says.
After two months, Raffy launched Baba Scrunchie and posted his creations on Tiktok. That’s when more orders came pouring in.
“I was overwhelmed by the outpour of orders. Tiktok helped me reach a wider audience,” he claims.
From Tiktok, Raffy started sharing his scrunchies on Facebook which also gained followers. He began to receive bulk orders from his friends who are based in the Philippines, Canada and Dubai.
Naming the brand
With his products reaching overseas, Raffy needed to have a name that will catapult his product into a brand. He decided on Baba Scrunchie.
“The name was actually a coined nickname by my friends from Bacolod. They called me “Baba” because I have an elongated chin,” he shares.
“This has caused me so much insecurities in the past but I eventually accepted this part of me as an asset. So now, I am making this as the brand of my business as a way of owning it so that no one can mock me about it ever again,” he claims.
Baba Scrunchie is now in the Philippines through his business partner who runs a Shoppee extending to the provinces in Negros, IloIlo, Davao, Cavite, and Metro Manila.
“I have two investors coming from Canada and a reseller from Dubai who orders at least a thousand pieces per shipping,” says Raffy.
He claims that the number of his resellers in Thailand has increased as well.
“Mas madami ang resellers ko dito sa Thailand,” he says. “Yung iba pinopost din nila sa Tiktok and other social media platforms kaya mas nag expand pa ang market,” Raffy adds.
Nearing six-digit income
According to Raffy, he still finds it hard to imagine that what started with 300 baht capital is now hitting almost 6-digit income in just a span of four months.
“Thanks to Tiktok and thanks to my fellow Filipino tiktokers. I am very grateful that in this foreign land, I have the back of my ‘kababayans’ who help me achieve what I have now,” he says.
Positive out of the pandemic
Thousands of Filipino teachers all over Thailand felt the pinch of the pandemic because although they were still technically employed, many were hired under a “no work, no pay” status.
According to the study conducted by PinoyThaiyo last year, 81 percent of Filipinos in Thailand have been directly or indirectly affected by the Covid-19 situation.
Raffy is among the 81% directly affected by this pandemic that is now on its third wave in the kingdom.
For him, being on Tiktok was borne out of boredom but it turned out to be productive and profitable. Now that he shares his story on this platform, aside from gaining patrons, he also receive messages that they, too, were moved by his story.
“I shared those story on Tiktok during my most vulnerable moment,” Raffy claims. “And the reason I put it out there is not only to gain customers but to inspire others as well,” he adds.
The next big step
Raffy shares that he just invested in a 20,000 worth of fabric. With the increasing number of orders, he needs a bigger working space so the plan is to move from his room, which is at the same time his working station, to a bigger and more suitable one.
Aside from the shop, Raffy and his Thai partner also proposes to target more Thai clients by using social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Tiktok, where Baba Scrunchie credits its humble beginnings.
“This coming August, I will relaunch Baba Scrunchie to gain more Thai customers,” says Raffy. “Aside from exciting new designs, I will also introduce men’s accessories because many of my Tiktok friends are clamoring for it,” he excitedly adds.
Pieces of advise
To his fellow OFWs in Thailand, Raffy has this piece of advise:
If you want to do business, just keep on trying and wait for the perfect timing. In the past, I’ve ventured selling different products and I’ve experienced failures. My time has come and the timing is perfect. You’ll have yours too. Just don’t give up.
To know more about Raffy Magbanua and Baba Scrunchie, you may follow him at these social media platforms: