Back in September, I visited Collabstore (a multi-label retail store empowering local designers) for its resort wear fashion show called “REHAT”. Quite a number of brands were on display then, including Angelique, Projet1826, and Bill Keith.
However, there was one name that stood out to me and that was Omok.co, a rather fresh Kuching-based polymer clay jewellery brand.
Prior to the show starting, Richard (the mastermind behind Collabstore) introduced me to Foong Ping, the founder of Omok.co. And it was then that I learnt of Foong Ping quitting her career as a retail pharmacist for the brand.
Intrigued, I reached out to Foong Ping through Instagram to learn more about her story, and how she came to join the multi-label retail store in KL just a few months into her business’s start.
From medicine to jewellery-making
In her own words, the 27-year-old shared that she started her career off in “the most typical Asian manner” possible—in the field of medicine.
After completing her Bachelor’s Degree in Pharmacy from Monash University Malaysia, she began working as a pharmacist and accumulated experience in both government hospitals and private pharmacies.
But deep down, Foong Ping always knew she wanted to run her own small business, so she sought inspiration by visiting the local arts markets in Kuching. And that’s when she came across polymer clay jewellery.
“Slowly the idea took hold. Mainly because of how versatile the material was and it was something I could start at home without a large upfront investment,” she said. And just like most of us, scrolling through Instagram further fuelled her interest in the craft.
So in July 2022, she bought her first box of beginner polymer clay. And shortly after, she started Omok.co as a side hustle that she spent time on when her professional working hours were over.
Taking a leap of faith
As her experience in jewellery-making grew, so did her desire to commit to the brand full-time. While there may be some people who think it was rash of her to quit her job, particularly after spending years studying medicine, Foong Ping was clear in her decision.
She shared that despite all the glam that came with being a pharmacist, she knew it was not the life for her. The hours were long, the work was at times unrewarding, and it left her not much time to pursue other interests.
“One day, when I was driving home from work at around 9.30PM, I was suddenly overcome with this feeling that I couldn’t do this anymore. I couldn’t picture myself working in a retail pharmacy for the next 40+ years,” Foong Ping confided.
Thus, she left. With the support of her family and friends, she resigned and has not looked back on her time as a retail pharmacist.
And she then became the full-time business owner of Omok.co in February 2023.
Focusing on our local biodiversity
Currently, you can find an assortment of accessories handcrafted by Foong Ping on the brand’s website. This includes earrings, necklaces, bracelets, rings, and even keychains.
Many of them have an element of flora, as the brand focuses on nature-inspired ideas stemming from her love for flowers.
Aside from that, there’s also an emphasis on Malaysian and Sarawakian icons, such as the hibiscus, Rajah Brooke butterfly, and the hornbill. These pieces specifically can also be found at the Borneo Cultures Museum in Kuching.
“Though my personal favourite is my latest flower series, the tulips,” she said. “I believe in adding beauty to this world and find it rewarding to share my passion. I hope that my customers will be able to appreciate this in my products and continue to support Omok.co.”
Each piece is priced between RM20 and RM120 depending on the design. There is a RM8 flat rate shipping fee to the whole of Malaysia, though you can get free shipping for orders above RM85.
Taking it all in good stride
Speaking candidly, Foong Ping shared, “Truthfully, it was a very daunting time. I did not have any experience yet I knew I wanted to follow my passion, to let my creative side thrive.”
It didn’t help that in her experience, polymer clay jewellery was still a rather new craft in Kuching. So she had to rely on good old-fashioned trial and error, as well as social media to learn the necessary skills.
And in her journey of building up the brand, her other capabilities improved too. This included the skillset to set up a website, manage social media accounts, craft promotions, and procure materials.
“There were many months of zero sales in the beginning and that was very disheartening,” she shared. But through perseverance and strategic business planning, things eventually began picking up.
Realising that she could currently only focus on one outlet at a time, Foong Ping opted not to stretch herself too thin. So while Omok.co does have a webstore, the founder focuses more on pop-up stores to gain face-to-face feedback on her products.
The birth of a new chapter
Not long after that, she heard about Collabstore from an acquaintance back in Kuching. Wanting to expand her reach through other stores, she contacted Richard and that sealed her first foray in KL. All this was within slightly over a year since the home-based Kuching business began.
This is quite a feat in itself as Richard had shared with us a few criteria for brands to qualify for Collabstore. One of it involves a designer’s ability to provide a minimum three months’ supply of stocks, for example.
But the fact that Foong Ping made the cut is proof of her resolve to make Omok.co work.
Yet, the 27-year-old entrepreneur is aware that she still has much to learn. “I am still far from mastering the craft; every day is still a learning process for me and a chance for me to grow.”
And with time and practice, she hopes to build a brand that Malaysians can be proud of, one that people look for when seeking a gift for themselves or a loved one. But to start off, she plans to expand Omok.co’s presence in other states by consigning to more stores.
So when you’re out and about next, you might spot her products in a local artisan shop. But if not, you can always shop through the brand’s online store.
Featured Image Credit: Omok.co