Raising a child is never easy- there’s a good reason why people say that being a mother is the hardest job in the world. But what happens when not just one, but both of your children have severe eczema? Needless to say, this would mean a heavy toll on parents- and Yong Qiao Qing found herself in such a situation.
Before this, she had had a successful decade-long career in hospitality and customer service, but had decided to leave the corporate world in order to care for her children.
Not one to be daunted by challenges, Qiao Qing turned this challenge into an opportunity – and has created Little Warriors, a new brand of children’s clothing tailored to eczema children.
Fighting eczema – no elegant solution in Singapore
Eczema is quite common in Singapore – around one in every 10 adults suffer from the condition, and around 20 per cent of school-going children suffer from the condition. Many people at least know someone who suffers from the condition. And in children, it can be particularly challenging to deal with.
“We bought every brand of mittens and eczema remedy available, but none could fit our requirements. My younger daughter was still in pain all the time, scratching herself raw and covering herself in bloody wounds every day”, Qiao Qing shared with Vulcan Post when asked how the idea for Little Warriors was conceived.
On top of this, Qiao Qing cut out allergens from her diet, and controlled her childrens’ diets to ensure that they would only consume food that would not trigger the eczema rashes. She recalls that at times she had to dig food out of her younger daughter’s mouth when the she accidentally ate something that she was allergic to.
And her childrens’ battle with eczema was taking a toll on Qiao Qing as well. She often found herself in anguish over her children’s plight, and sleep deprived from caring for her two children and their medical condition.
“My mental health was in a very bad state before I started the company. I was crying all the time and I just could not snap out of it. I knew I needed a bigger purpose in life to pull me out from the trenches and Little Warriors turned out to be exactly what I needed.”
-Yong Qiao Qing, founder and Chief Warrior of Little Warriors
If nothing works, make something that works- and make it big
Having tried in vain to find products that would alleviate her children’s eczema, Qiao Qing finally decided that stronger action was needed- and she set out to create clothes that would stop her children from itching, and prevent them from scratching any itches that may arise.
Conventional clothes would not work for her children, and her children would pull off the mittens and use anything they could find to scratch themselves, leaving open wounds all over their bodies and faces.
And when she tried scratch sleeves, she found that the sleeves were not suitable for Singapore’s hot and humid climate.
Through rigorous trial and error, Qiao Qing finally found a solution that would work- bamboo fibre. The material was soft and breathable, making it suitable for Singapore’s climate, but was extremely delicate, and would not stand up to intense scratching. As such, she decided to reinforce the bamboo fabric with a layer of cotton.
“We made multiple prototypes with local and overseas tailors and garment suppliers. Each time, we would bring the prototype home to rub them vigorously across our face and limbs, in order to simulate the scratching that our babies perform and to test the protection of the different fabric types. With sensitive babies being our customers, we had no room for discrepancies in quality.”
-Yong Qiao Qing, founder and Chief Warrior of Little Warriors
Luckily for Qiao Qing, her husband was a regional salesperson who had experience working in many parts of Asia. He was resourceful, and managed to find the tailors, garment makers, and fabric suppliers that would make the product concept a reality.
Together, they leveraged Qiao Qing’s experience in sales and operations management, as well as her husband’s resourcefulness and business acumen to build Little Warriors.
And they have been quite successful, according to Qiao Qing. Having invested around S$10,000 into the business to procure the first batch of protective clothes, the business has already made a profit within its first year- with many customers returning to purchase more clothes after they realised that Little Warriors’ products were well designed and well suited.
As a testament to their success, Qiao Qing frequently represents the brand and participates in roadshows and baby fairs.
Work-life balance? Try work-life integration
Often times, one might think that with an additional focus of having a business to run on top of having to raise two children with eczema might mean a complete lack of work life balance, Qiao Qing begs to differ.
While it is true that childcare takes a significant portion of her day, she still manages to find time to work on Little Warriors whenever her children are asleep: during the day when her children take their daily naps, and then once her children sleep at 10pm at night.
Even beyond that, she has found a way to bond with her children through her business- her elder daughter Shan En helps with packing and fulfilling orders in the evenings, and the time spent working on Little Warriors has also become a time for family bonding for the family.
At the same time, Little Warriors has provided Qiao Qing with a purpose to dedicate herself to, and she finds the journey extremely fulfilling. The responses to her products have also been extremely encouraging, and she has found a community that can empathise with her struggle and support her business.
Currently, the company offers protective sleeves and pants for children anywhere from six months to six years old, and there are plans to expand the company’s range of products to cater for older children.
“I love that I can involve my children in this business, whether it is modelling for photoshoots, creating social media content or packing orders. My children know that Mama spends her time helping other families who are struggling in the same difficult journey as us and we are heartened to know that we are not alone.”
Featured Image Credit: Little Warriors