The Singapore Slingers player was left without a job when the Hoops Factory store he worked at shuttered in July and he decided to start his own backpack company.
For plenty of athletes in Singapore, pursuing a career in sports is always doubled up with a career in another field – one that helped them to earn enough to sustain a living, particularly when there are no competitions happening.
For basketball star Tay Ding Loon, it’s no different. Apart from playing with the Singapore Slingers in the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL), he also worked at Hoops Factory, a basketball specialty store.
But when its parent company, home-grown sports retailer Sportslink, went into liquidation back in July, Hoops Factory folded and Ding Loon, 26, lost the job he’s had for the past four years. Coupled with the suspension and eventual cancellation of the ABL season due to COVID-19, Ding Loon essentially ‘lost’ his jobs, although he is still contracted under the Slingers.
Instead of moping around, the 1.83m-tall guard worked on creating his own backpack brand, MNWLKCO (pronounced as Moonwalk Co), which launched in October.
“I’ve always wanted to have a better backpack, but my previous sponsor Peak (from 2017 to 2019) didn’t really have a good one that suits me,” he told Youthopia.SG.
“I also wanted to start something that is more affordable for Singaporeans because I don’t think everybody is willing to spend $100 to $200 to buy a backpack from brands like Nike and Adidas. My aim is to help people around me or whoever wants to get bags at a cheaper price but of similar quality.”
“So that’s how the idea of starting MNWLKCO came about.”
Ding Loon roped in a business partner to set up MNWLKCO. The brand started with three types of backpacks (two coloured designs and a plain black design), each weighing about 670g and retailing at $69 each.
It is waterproof and it can be carried in four different ways – as a backpack, crossbody bag, shoulder sling bag or as a duffel bag.
“We decided to go for something which is not too big in size, but not too small either,” he explained.
“For example, if you want to go to the gym, you might not want to carry something so bulky, but at the same time, you want something big enough to pack all essential stuff that you want to bring.”
So why the name MNWLKCO then?
Ding Loon explained that the idea behind the brand’s name is for people who are adventurous and like to travel around.
“My business partner used to be a dancer so we thought of ‘moonwalk’ – after all whenever you go, you will see the moon right?” he said.
The responsibilities are split equally – Ding Loon’s role is to handle the marketing side in regard to their website and Facebook page, while his partner is handling their Instagram account and seeking collaborations to promote the brand.
Revealing that they have sold near to 30 bags till date, Ding Loon is happy with the progress they have made and is looking to widen the range in the near future.
“We’re still in the ‘negative’ and that’s a given because you always start any investment with a loss,” he shared.
“Our target is to sell about 200 bags, hopefully we can hit that in the next few months and I’m already thinking of introducing more stuff – a different range of products perhaps – to benefit our customers.”
Ding Loon will certainly be able to focus on his business, considering the uncertainty on the status of the ABL. While the Slingers have been keeping up with their training, there’s talk that the ABL may only resume in 2022.
Having been with the Slingers since 2016, Ding Loon admits he misses the competitive side of the game and playing in front of their fans at the OCBC Arena.
“The Slingers experience is one that is very hard to find – it is something that you can never experience unless you’ve come to a Slingers game before,” said Ding Loon, who was once part of the Singapore national under-18 basketball team that clinched bronze in the 2016 SEABA Cup.
“It’s been a great learning journey for me these four years and I can still recall how tough it was to adapt initially when I joined the team just after finishing National Service. The fatigue of travelling and training twice a day was no joke at the start, but I got accustomed to it gradually and now I’m missing it!” he shared.
“I’m just going to do my own thing for now and hopefully we get some good news soon. I just hope the games come back soon and I would like to experience more playing time to improve myself further. As a team, we want to regain that spirit and cohesiveness that brought us to the final of the 2018/19 season.”
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