“We wanted to remind people of God, but didn’t imagine it would speak so powerfully”: Accessories brand Jacob Rachel
by Gemma Koh // December 9, 2022, 11:50 am
Unable to find modern, meaningful Christian gifts for friends, Edwin Teo, Rachel Ang (centre), and Adelyn Yew started the Jacob Rachel brand of accessories that also tells stories of Christ. All photos courtesy of Jacob Rachel.
When Rachel Ang was going through the valley of heartbreak and betrayal, her then-boss came alongside to journey with her.
The motherly figure taught Rachel to pray and gave her an easy-to-read devotional, I Declare: 31 Promises to Speak Over Your Life, by Joel Osteen.
“Even though I was not a Christian, the devotional book encouraged me greatly and filled me with hope again.”
“Even though I was not a Christian, the book encouraged me greatly and filled me with hope again,” Rachel, now 37, told Salt&Light.
“The daily devotions contained declarations I needed to speak over my life.”
Day 7 was especially powerful. It read: “I declare that God has a great plan for my life. He is directing my steps. And even though I may not always understand how, I know my situation is not a surprise to God. He will work out every detail to my advantage. In His perfect timing, everything will turn out right. This is my declaration.”
Said Rachel: “When life is smooth, you think don’t need God.”
But in her darkest hours, she gave her life to Jesus.
Mending the broken pieces
“Eventually, I surrendered to God and told Him He can mend the broken pieces in my life and use me to have a direct impact on other people’s lives. And to bring glory to His name,” said Rachel.
“I’m a risk-averse person … To do something out of my usual element was really a leap of faith.”
“I wanted to find purpose in my next step,” said Rachel who thought that He would lead her into becoming an early childhood teacher or a therapist.
“But God worked in His own way. God started dropping words and seeds into my life.”
These seeds included Bible verses such as Romans 8:28 on the assurance that “… for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose”.
Little did Rachel – or her boss – expect that six years later in early 2018, God would lead Rachel to leave her comfort zone in finance and go on to co-found a business selling Christian wearable accessories.
“I’m a risk-averse person. I was happy to stay in the CBD and get regular pay every month. To do something like that out of my usual element was really a leap of faith,” said Rachel, who held fast to another verse she was given: “For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:13)
It was as if God was saying: “Just do it one step at a time. I will provide resources, ideas, creativity, wisdom as you go along.”
Crowns and crosses
God planted the seed to start a business in September 2017 in the heart of Edwin Teo, a corporate real estate manager who would become Rachel’s husband.
Edwin, now 43, asked Rachel to bring in a former colleague into the conversation about the business.
Adelyn Yew, now 38, and Rachel were colleagues at a bank – their first jobs – for four years. After Rachel left the bank, they continued to meet for lunch every Thursday at Raffles Place. As a young Christian, Rachel often turned to Adelyn – a Sunday school teacher since the age of 14 – to talk about the Bible.
“At that time, Edwin and I were young Christians,” said Rachel. “We wanted to buy gifts for our friends’ baptisms and other special occasions, but the Christian gifts available were quite old-school,” said Rachel.
“When I read Genesis, I saw how God was using the broken.”
The trio saw a gap in the market for modern, meaningful Christian gifts.
“We wanted to create accessories that people could wear daily that would remind them of their journey with God, or how God had helped them,” Adelyn told Salt&Light.
After reading about the Bible character Jacob in the book of Genesis, they decided to name their business Jacob Rachel (JR for short) after the love story of Jacob and Rachel.
“It’s got nothing to do with my name,” said Rachel.
“Jacob wasn’t the best character in the Bible, right?” said Rachel. “He was a supplanter, grabber and deceiver.
“It shook me. But when I read Genesis, I saw how God was using the broken, the unqualified.”
Struggles and defeat
In January 2018, the trio incorporated the business. They only had the brand name, but no supplier and little else. The business partners started flying overseas on alternate months to visit potential suppliers.
The quality of samples that came were disappointing, even after several rounds of refinement.
“I saw that God is a God of our struggles and defeat too.”
After half a year of futile searching, the trio was discouraged.
On July 8, 2018, a visiting pastor came to Edwin and Rachel’s church to preach.
“His sermon series was on Jacob,” said Rachel. “It affirmed me that we are on the right track. I saw that God is a God of our struggles and defeat too, and the parts that we don’t want people to see or know.
“He is also the one who will rename you, like He renamed Jacob as Israel.”
The next week, during worship, Rachel “broke down and cried out to God for help”.
She told God: “You need to open the door for JR to work if it’s Your will. Otherwise I will have to return to the corporate world.”
Sunday prayer answered on Monday
The next day, Edwin received an email out of the blue from a supplier they did not know. A few days later, they flew out to meet this supplier.
Till today, they have no idea how the supplier found them.
“The boss told us, ‘We just made a sample recently. You might want to take a look to see if it’s something that you’re looking for’,” recalled Rachel.
It was a cuff engraved with the words: Everything happens for a reason. It had bevelled edges – exactly what the trio had been trying to make over the last several months.
“We knew that we could trust them to produce our products,” said Rachel.
“I prayed on Sunday, and God answered on Monday.”
There in the supplier’s office, God gave Edwin the idea for a cuff with the words “Child of God” on the outside, and “I am” engraved on the underside. So that the cuff reads “I am a Child of God”. “I am” is also significant in referring to the name of God.
Similar cuffs under the “I am” series – with declarations such as Deeply Loved, Full of Joy, and Fearless – that speak to different people in different seasons of their life would go on to be their best sellers.
As they sought God’s direction, the trio would see Him provide divine connections that would enable them to grow the business exponentially in 2019.
“God knew that we were tired and needed to move to a B2B level.”
In Singapore, JR was selling its products at pop-up stores and markets, which was physically demanding and draining. At one such market around Valentine’s Day, the JR team met people from the prophetic art ministry at Cornerstone Community Church who also had a booth there. Their new friends connected them with a bookstore located at Cornerstone.
Faithworks was the first Christian bookstore to take on JR products on consignment.
“It was previously very hard for us to get our foot in the door,” said Adelyn. “God has since been opening doors for us.”
“God knew that we were tired and needed to move to a B2B (business to business) level,” said Adelyn.
“Edwin quipped that God gave us our first B2B store in Faithworks. So faith works!” said Rachel.
Hope in heartbreak
Part of the JR display in Faithworks included a poster that read: “God said to Jacob: I will watch over you wherever you go.”
Said Adelyn: “The store manager had a friend from her cell who was expecting a baby. The couple had decided to name the baby Jacob. But shortly after, they were crying because the doctor diagnosed it with a severe medical condition.
“The store manager teared when she saw the poster. She took a photo of our frame and sent it to the couple. It was as if God was speaking to her to relay the message to the parents of Baby Jacob.
“That baby is now a few years old.”
The JR team also never imagined just how much their products would touch recipients.
“The friend received the cuff in tears. It reminded her that God’s presence and comfort were upon her.”
In one instance, the JR team blessed someone with a cross that is designed to be hung on the rearview mirror of a car.
“She felt prompted to give it to a friend’s mother who had late stage cancer.
“The friend’s mother loved it and kept holding on to it in the days before she passed on. It brought her comfort and peace.
“Even as they approach death, a cross can have so much meaning for people who are suffering.”
Another meaningful product is a cuff with Psalm 34:18 engraved on the outside, and “God heals” on the underside.
A friend of the team gifted such a cuff to a colleague who was grieving the sudden loss of a relative.
“The friend received it in tears. It spoke so much to her. It reminded her that God was with her, and His presence and comfort were upon her.
“God’s Word at an opportune time makes people feel loved and cared for,” said Adelyn.
“She felt so lonely and unloved, she got one to remind herself Who she belongs to.”
Then there was also a woman who insisted on buying the display sample of the Proverbs 3:5 cuff – the last piece available.
“She had just broken up with her boyfriend and just wanted to be reminded of being in God’s perfect timing,” said Adelyn of the popular gift for people at crossroads of their life.
Another bought the cuff “Deeply Loved” after seeing it on Instagram.
“She felt so lonely and unloved, she got one to remind herself Who she belongs to, and that her identity is in Christ,” said Adelyn.
“We wanted to remind people of God’s presence, but didn’t imagine it would speak so powerfully to individuals.”
Jacob Rachel is currently available at several Christian bookstores, department store Tangs, and online. It is also sold at the newly-launched For the One Gifts (KAP Mall, #01-70) which is currently running a Christmas market featuring local faith-based brands till December 25, 2022.
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