Soon after graduating from university, Lyn Ng found a job in marketing. She realised she needed help when she worked from 9am to 3am for two weeks straight.
“I talked to my manager, who simply said, ‘If you have the passion for something, you will make sacrifices for it.’ It dawned on me then that I didn’t want a desk-bound job,” recalls the 29-year-old.
To prepare for her next career move, Lyn made a list of what she’d wanted to try. Two things stood out – take a gap year and live overseas, and pick up a new hobby from scratch.
“It was around then that I wanted to make a wooden headboard for my bed, but realised I didn’t know how to, so I began to explore woodworking.”
Determined to prove herself
With her savings of $20,000, Lyn left Singapore in 2017 for Taiwan, where she signed up with a woodworking school in Linkou, Taipei. Six months later, she returned home and landed an apprenticeship at a local carpentry studio.
The opportunity, she felt, would allow her to assess if woodworking was right for her. More importantly, she wanted to try making wood more accessible for women to work with. It was a throwback to her experiences, which involved “quite a bit of prejudice as a woman making wooden products”. “Many uncles told me this job doesn’t pay well and that a girl can’t survive in such a ‘chor lor’ [rough] industry,” she says.
In 2018, Lyn launched Studio Mu Yu, offering wooden jewellery and craft kits. She’s had to overcome some challenges. For one, she had to employ different methods to make a name for the brand, while trying to establish her footing in the saturated fashion industry.
On top of that, she needed to change the way people thought about wood. “People deem wood as a cheap material, hence they’re not willing to pay good money for our pieces.”
Finding her niche
Lyn soon hit upon the unique selling point of Studio Mu Yu: sustainability. She collects discarded wooden pieces from carpenters, and upcycles them into jewellery.
“Initially, I thought it was a waste that carpenters threw away so much wood. I simply wanted to help salvage the pieces and educate ‘older’ carpenters that we can turn waste into something even better. And we get to chip in and create a circular fashion ecosystem.”
To her, both a clear mindset and a long-term plan are crucial to running a business successfully.
“It’s not just about [perfecting the] marketing and design. You need to have a three- to five-year plan for the brand. Also, assess your finances and see how you can take on the responsibility for all aspects of the business.”
This story first appeared in the September 2021 issue of Her World.