From The Straits Times    |

Credit: Joy Wang

Do you like your job? Or wonder what it would be like if you’d gone against your parents’ advice and pursued your dream career? Her World’s Career Confessions column spotlights the professional journeys of its subjects and reveals how each individual’s career path and the choices they have made can have an impact on their personal finances, psychological health, and interpersonal relationships.

On a mental health break after working at one startup then another in Singapore, Canadian-Chinese Joy (@theshbang and @boneandgrey on Instagram) was using the time to pursue creative passions such as freelance acting and teaching yoga, when her husband suggested that she sign up for season two of the reality show “The Apprentice: ONE Championship Edition”. 

The decision to take a break was catalysed by her grandmother’s passing, which was a sobering wake up call for Joy to explore what she had always wanted to. 

“My husband is a huge martial arts fan, and he came across the call for signups on LinkedIn,” said Joy, who was born in China, grew up in Canada and currently lives in Singapore. “I was hesitant at first because I knew nothing about [being on] reality TV, but I admired what ONE was doing for the community and had watched the first season, so I thought I would give it a shot.”

“I liked Irina and Monica from the first season because you could see that they’re [genuine] and hardworking,” said Joy of how she hoped to be portrayed onscreen. 

The show consisted of business and physical challenges, and the prize was a US$250,000 job offer to work directly under ONE Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodting for one year.

When Joy’s time on the show ended, she admits to having found it unjust as teammates turned on her (you’d know it if you watch the show), although she recognizes that in the name of entertainment, there is value in having drama. 

What Joy learned about herself from being on the show though is that she is a generalist. “I have an eye for photography, designing and branding, and I’ve gained work experience in launching products from 0 to 1, growth marketing and the numbers-driven analytical side of running a business,” she said. Feeling as if she had more to give and fueled by a sense of injustice, she wanted to channel all her interests and skills into something she loved. Rather than join a company where she’d only focus on one thing, she decided to launch her bridal brand: Bone and Grey.

Name: Joy Q. Wang
Highest Education: Bachelor of Science (Major in , Cell Biology and Anatomy, Minor in Biotechnology) at McGill University
Job Title & Industry: Entrepreneur, bridal
Years of Work Experience: 10
Salary: Currently doesn’t draw a salary, and invested $30,000 of her personal savings to start a business

Even before joining the reality competition, Joy was exploring the idea of launching a bridal brand. “During my break from work, my grandpa in China had a stroke, so I rushed back to spend time with him. It affected the lower part of his body, but thankfully, he recovered quickly. At the same time, I was planning my wedding,” said Joy. Having heard from relatives that Suzhou was known for its wedding industry and rich history in silk production, she decided to look into manufacturers who could make wedding gowns. 

“I designed my gown in China and found it to have been a seamless process,” she says. She wanted something minimalist, modern, and of good quality without breaking the bank. Yet she could not find anything she liked in the Singapore and Canada studios she visited.

She ruminated on the idea and decided to start a waitlist for brides to see if there were more brides like her with an appetite for such gowns. “Something I learned from working in startups such as Style Theory and Hoolah was not to make something without a demand for it,” she said. 

She pressed pause on the idea when she joined the Netflix show, but once her time on it came to an end, she went back to building that waitlist and conducting market research. “I was running ads on Instagram and Facebook across Canada, the U.S., and Singapore,” she recalls, and she discovered there were brides interested in the idea. “It gave me a lot of encouragement, and I started designing samples and finding test brides who could tell me if the gowns were up to their standard and something they would pay money for. 

She didn’t want funding because having worked in VC-backed startups, she knew she didn’t want someone else calling the shots from above. “I wanted to build a sustainable business from the get-go so that I wouldn’t always be burning cash,” said Joy. “I spent less than $30,000 to start with but I still do incur costs as time goes on. Renting an office has been the biggest overhead but it does push me to make more money every month.

A good portion of money is also spent running ads to build awareness of the new brand, and I’m currently a one-person operation but I have friends helping me take behind-the-scenes photos for photo shoots, which I can use to create content with later.” Not paying herself a salary, every dollar and cent made goes back to the business. 

Product creation took the longest. “I work with small studios, some of which are family-owned, and I like that we’re in the same boat trying to help each other grow.” Having known only basic sewing techniques from high school, Joy enrolled in a few courses to learn about textiles and the apparel process, including drafting. For instance, how a shirt could be made up of three pieces, depending on where the seams are. This has enabled her to be more informed about the production process. 

Speaking from personal experience, Joy knows making a big purchase for your special day can be daunting, which is why Bone and Grey offers free shipping with tracking included. Exchanges and return shipping costs are also on the company. With Bone and Grey an e-commerce business, the idea is that brides can try on their dresses in the comfort of their own homes. 

To date, Joy has launched a ready-to-wear collection of gowns in standard sizing that can be shipped quickly for customers to try at home and made-to-order gowns which are more complex in design and might require more time to make. She has also launched an accessories collection. Some of the pieces are original designs by Joy while others had been modified from existing clothing pieces.

Building trust as a new brand 

Joy is still testing things out but she has already been getting requests from brides in North America and the US. Since officially launching in September 2023, she has helped over 20 brides find their dream gown. 

Credit: Joy Wang

Her priority right now is building trust with her customers and potential customers so that they trust she will do a good job on their big day. “I think showing my face helps and I talk to my brides a lot. I check on sizing to avoid returns and ensure my brides get what they want. Some have even changed styles based on my recommendations and still love the dress they get.” Even if she hires a team someday, she reckons that good customer service will remain important. 

As a solo act, it can get quite lonely working alone, which is why a 2024 goal is to meet more like-minded entrepreneurs. “I’ve joined Launchpad by Honeycombers in Singapore and Genie Friends in Hong Kong.” 

Joy says she has plenty of ideas on how to grow Bone and Grey, but for now, it’s encouraging to hear from brides how happy they are with their dresses and the positive response has been part of what keeps her going. 

“Even though I work much harder now than I did before, it’s more fulfilling to receive such positive feedback from brides, knowing what an important day it is for them. What keeps me going is also thinking about that Steve Jobs quote, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. [You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever].”