The career of self-described “Lifestyle Product Designer” and brand consultant Charlie Kayi has taken some unexpected turns since she graduated from HKDI-LWL’s Timepiece Design and Branding Program in 2008. After some initial false starts, and a “dark period” where she almost turned her back on design altogether, Charlie has found, or rather created, a lucrative and original niche for herself. In this interview, Janice and Waily return to Radio 708 to learn about Charlie’s unique line of products, as well as her journey from student to successful entrepreneur.
Charlie’s flagship product is “Jungle in a Bottle” — one of those ideas that is so simple but so immediately appealing that its success seems inevitable. However, such accomplishments were not always so assured. After turning down an offer to continue studies at University, and some time as a Product Development Manager at Guy-LaRoche, Charlie found herself the victim of weak economy. Unemployed and unsure of her future, she pieced together enough freelance work to pay her bills. Eventually, against the advice of many people, she took a leap and began her own company, Delication.
Turning away from her background in timepiece and fine jewelry design, Charlie returned to her roots, so to speak. As a child growing up in bucolic Sai Kung, Charlie and her brother would catch insects to keep as pets. Sadly, these small friends would often “give up the ghost” after just a brief stay. Using lessons from her science class, however, Charlie experimented with building small ecosystems that could sustain life. As the name suggests, “Jungle in a Bottle” is a more evolved version of these early trials. It allows anyone to keep a miniature, self-contained natural world right in their own home. While the inclusion of bugs has proven less than welcome among Hong Kong consumers, the principle of finding and maintaining a delicate, symbiotic balance remains at the very heart of the “Jungle in a Bottle” concept.
Although her current work is not directly related to the subject she studied at HKDI-LWL, Charlie believes the experience she acquired here has served her very well. Because she gained a broad understanding of how the different facets of a design company must cooperate in order to create a quality product, she is comfortable being a “bridge” between departments, making her an excellent manager. She is able to oversee everything from product design, to marketing, to branding, and as a result “Delication” is vertically integrated and able to maintain consistent standards.
With all her success, Charlie refuses to rest on her laurels. As she embarks on exciting new directions, such as incorporating bio-technology (get ready for plants that tweet when they are thirsty), she continues to make environmental awareness personal and interactive, helping us city-dwellers forge anew our connection to the natural world. Few projects could be considered more timely.
We extend our appreciation to Charlie for making the time to come and chat with us. All of us at Radio 708, and at HKDI-LWL, wish Charlie continued success. Of course, many thanks again to Janice and Waily for their great work in preparing and conducting this interview.
Listen to the interview below.