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S’wakian makeup artist of 13 years diversifies by handmaking intricate hair adornments

As the saying goes, do what you love, you’ll never have to work a day in your life. Having many friends in the creative line, I find that the quote is particularly true for those in the arts. Entrepreneurs also fall into this category; their passion for something is often so great that they can dedicate all their time, energy, and money to it.

Joanne Tang is someone who embodies the description above. She’s been a freelance makeup artist for 13 years, specialising in bridal makeup and creating backdrops for photoshoots.

“I am someone who has been very passionate about arts and crafts since I was a little girl, so going into the makeup industry was a no-brainer as it has allowed me to flourish and thrive under a creative environment,” Joanne shared in our interview. 

Styling and creating different looks on each client was where she derived enjoyment. To her, it felt like drawing on a blank canvas each time. In 2019, Joanne decided to take her craft one step further, and launched a hair accessories brand named Orna.Company (Orna.Co), short for ornaments.

A delicate craft

All the way from Sarawak, Orna.Co retails handmade trinkets in the form of hair accessories that are fitting for special events or an everyday adornment. On the brand’s Instagram and Shopee store, you’ll find hand-sewn headbands with floral or feathery designs, elegant flower crowns, and delicate hair pins.

Joanne started Orna.Co in her home along with 2 relatives as their side hustle, since they each have to balance full-time jobs.

To manage higher volume orders, the accessories are made in advance in a studio they’ve moved into, ahead of product launches to ensure that customers can purchase ready-made stocks. As for custom orders, the accessories require at least a month’s notice, depending on the design. 

From art to craft / Image Credit: Orna Company

The self-taught crafter shared that her main challenge in creating these pieces was sourcing her materials, which are imported from around the world. Looking to nature for inspiration, each item is designed and handmade from scratch.

Mastering the tricky technique of putting pieces together was her other stumbling block, as they consist of very delicate materials.

Overall, it takes the team 4-5 hours to make each piece. “Depending on the design; we can produce about 8 pieces a day, and depending on the season, we sell around 50-80 pieces a month,” added Joanne.

Priced between RM158-RM258 for the headbands and RM135-RM195 for hairpins, I found the products rather costly. But seeing that some of the accessories include materials like rhinestones and crystals that take up to 5 hours to put together, the cost seemed to add up.

Joanne confirmed this, and reiterated that she sources the highest quality materials from various countries. “We do, however, try to price it as fairly as possible so that our products are able to reach a wider audience,” she stated.

Feeling pretty, even at home

The pieces sit so elegantly / Image Credit: Orna Company

According to the product descriptions on Orna.Co’s Shopee page, the accessories are heavily marketed towards customers looking for adornments to wear during bridal, maternity, and event photoshoots.

On top of that, Joanne’s also catering to the mass market of women. So far, she reported that her customers have been in line with these projected groups.

“Most of our custom-made wedding hair pieces are ordered by younger brides (aged between 23-40 years old), while our mass market product caters to women of all ages,” Joanne shared, adding that there’s been a 50:50 ratio of buyers from each group. 

“We would love to get more younger ladies on board and are excited to share more with them.”

Due to the pandemic and its effect on events, there seems to have been a rise in home weddings, with brides opting to go the less elaborate route in terms of decor, attire, etc. So, I asked Joanne if she saw this trend cause a drop or rise to sales too.

She replied that Orna.Co’s sales did drop slightly for its wedding pieces, and the team focused more heavily on pushing the sales for their mass-market products. “[This includes] our Wildflowers and Ballerina series, where our customers can don headbands and feel pretty even at home,” explained Joanne.

The headbands can be worn anytime / Image Credit: Orna Company

Similarly, Joanne’s makeup work also came to a halt during the MCO, but she saw it as a blessing in disguise as she got to focus more heavily on building Orna.Co during this time.

More variety for more people

As a small startup, Orna.Co has mostly been relying on social media marketing and ads to acquire more customers at lower cost.

Brand collaborations and influencer sponsorship can also be one way for small businesses online to gain attention. Although Orna.Co is open to the idea of them, Joanne shared that the team has yet to make any plans or engagements.

Because Orna.Co is a side hustle, this makes sense, as the team of 3 may not have the resources or time to engage with such methods. Joanne even shared that marketing and creating content on social media is one of the team’s biggest challenges.

If growing the brand’s presence is a goal for the team, perhaps it would be necessary for Orna.Co to hire a dedicated branding or social media manager to handle these tasks. 

But in the meantime, Joanne told us that they will be focusing on diversifying their product range to have different variations of accessories including earrings too.

  • You can find out more about Orna Company here.
  • You can read more Malaysian startups here.

Featured Image Credit: Joanne Tang, owner and founder of Orna Company

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