Let’s talk about life today.
Have you ever thought about blasting back to the past to change certain things? Life may be jolly good thus far, but I can't say it has never crossed my mind to zip back to the past to give my younger self a little heads up. If I could, I would tell my younger self to always wear sunscreen, to never settle for anything and everything, and to cut down on my ridiculous junk food intake.
Admittedly, I wish I made more sensible decisions when I was a teenage because I am definitely reaping whatever seeds I sown - some more dreadful than the other. But surely everything happens for a reason and I am who I am today because of the paths I chose.
If you had it your way, what exactly would you tell your 13 year old self? Here’s what Jia and I would say.
Dear younger Min...
Many influences of the world will make you feel small, worthless and unaccepted all throughout the course of your life. Life’s greatest struggle is never about fitting in with the crowd, but rather choosing to be happy knowing that you have been made different from everyone else. One day, you will come to love your big hair, chubby body and your awkward sense of humour - because that’s what defines you.
Dear younger Min...
Never stop reading. Some people will mock you for being a bookworm and whatnot, but there’s no shame in reading! The greatest shame is to deny knowledge.
Dear younger Jia...
There will be a point in your life in a few years time when you will get caught up in unnecessary hurtful drama caused by fair weathered friends. Your mood and life will spiral into darkness for a bit, but don't worry. Old friends will return for good and bad friends will make a complete exit from your life. Things will work out for the best and life will just go up up up from there on. The love of your life is just around the corner. Pssst, look up.
Dear younger Jia...
Your brother is right. Pride comes before the fall. You can't navigate through life on your own. You are not an island. Pull your loved ones closer to you and learn to depend on them. They will be a source of strength and encouragement when you least expect it. You are so blessed!
How were you like when you were 13? Did you follow any advice that was given to you? :)
The previous Real Talk posts in May and June seemed a little too serious and we thought of changing things up a little bit this month. Lest you think of us as nothing more than boring, sensible and responsible grown-ups. I can assure you, we are not.
After years of exaggerating, we decided to put an end to my endless food brags, i.e. "Jia, I can totally eat an entire cow", "Jia, I think I can eat 5kg worth of porridge", and "Jia, I feel like today's the day I eat 1000 wantons". Well, Jia has had it with my constant exaggerations and I was dying to be a competitive eater for a day.
This crazy exaggeration started when I was 9 and totally obsessed with wanton dumplings. I insisted that I could easily eat 20 wanton dumplings for every meal. Thankfully, my mum is the true sensible grown-up in my life and prevented the wanton tragedy from happening. Recently, I chanced upon Kinoshita Yuka's YouTube channel and I was in awe of how a petite Japanese lady can stomach so much food. If she can eat so much, I can surely eat as much, right?
Filled with inspiration and determination, I told Jia that we should challenge ourselves to eating 1000 wantons. And... she shot me down immediately. What a sport, I tell you. I was not going to give up just like that! After guilt-tripping her for having 4fingers without me, I insisted that we challenge ourselves to a fried chicken challenge. And so, we went down to the nearest 4fingers outlet with my dream of conquering at least 32 pieces each, with fries, rice boxes and salads. The aim was to wipe out the menu.
After Jia's persistent vetoing of the inclusion of fries in our challenge (seriously, what a sport, I tell you), we settled on sharing 18 pieces of drumlets and wings, 1 seafood rice box, 1 tofu and mushroom salad and 2 large iced teas as a warm-up exercise.
We have included the original running record of the whole experience below. The conversations, photographs and experience shared are 100% authentic, accurate and a true reflection of us.
Warning: Ridiculousness and Singlish conversations below.
The creative community is a very small one. Recently, there have been stirrings amongst our designer/creative friends about the growing number of copycats within the community. There is a fine line between being inspired and taking someone's ideas as yours.
With an increase of creatives in the field these days and paired with the abundance of gorgeous designs throughout history, it is pretty difficult to come up with a completely 100% original idea. That is why it is very important to be able to infuse your own personality and style into your work as it makes the work you do truly yours.
After conversations with our friends about imitators and the possibilities of someone copying us and in turn, us copying someone unintentionally, we decided to reflect on our business and design voices. How do we stay true to ourselves, and most importantly, how does it reflect in our work?
About honey&gazelle Design Studio's business voice
Min: Rome was not built in a day. Before honey&gazelle Design Studio became reality, Jia and I were deep in our knees in the corporate world. I was managing a school and Jia was in marketing and corporate communications. We were both climbing fast and furious on the corporate ladder but eventually gave it up to chase our dreams and follow the path that God had planned for us. Truth be told, it was definitely not an easy decision to make. We would not have started our studio without God being the centre of our friendship and business. With Him in control, we know we are in the best care.
One good reason for success, other than pure hard work, is to have the ability to see to the needs of a growing company. Though leading companies boast of their successful business strategies and models, there is no cookie cutter business model. Reading business related books and articles have taught us a lot but creating a structure that is truly unique to our company was our main goal.
We planned for an steady and organic growth for honey&gazelle Design Studio simply because we are not keen on creating an explosive business boom that is merely here today and gone tomorrow. We are here for the long haul and we are not going to pit ourselves against others just to prove a point. The past year has taught us a lot and we are determined to stay true to our beliefs while we work towards moulding honey&gazelle Design Studio to be a complete dream come true.
About honey&gazelle Design Studio's design voice
Jia: Min and I have very different personal styles when it comes to design. She loves the refined, clean, and sleek aesthetic while I am obsessive over details and textures, and sometimes my taste borders on bombastic and tacky. Min would be totally overjoyed with a simple minuscule zen dot on a huge white blank space but I would be dying to splash some paint all over it. And maybe bomb the canvas with glitter and feathers. What can I say? It is always a party with me! If you ever meet us in person, just look at our nails. The designs on our nails say it all.
Deciding on the style of honey&gazelle Design Studio’s products took a pretty long and difficult time. It was, and still is a challenge to blend two differing views and personalities into a seamless piece of work that authentically felt like us. But, we did it, love it, and are proud of our work. On a whole, our designs are generally pretty clean and flanked with meticulous details. It is a perfect blend of Min and I.
With that being said, our design preferences are always evolving because we actively learn, read, and explore. We believe in experimenting and taking a leap out of our comfort zone. If we were to stick to one style forever, we would just become a one-trick pony and that would not do at all. If you are currently confused over which direction to take or are overly influenced by trends or your favourite designer, I would urge you to research and explore beyond the popular. You will find your own personal voice eventually!
Do you think it is important to stand out from the crowd?
With Love, Min+Jia.
Time flies when you are having fun... or when you are intensely busy. In a blink of an eye, we are now just a couple of days away from honey&gazelle Design Studio's first year anniversary! Yes, we are turning one! It is so crazy that a childhood dream has bloomed into an actual business and we are not in the red. Haha!
We can hardly believe that it has been a year. A whole year of being unemployed in the professional corporate world and a whole year of waddling in the deep but cool waters of self-employment. It hasn't been the smoothest ride but it has been an extremely fun rollercoaster of firsts and a fruitful exploration of faith and trust.
As we ready ourselves with new strategies and plans for the second year of operation, we want to take some time to reflect on the most important things we have learnt in the past 12 months. Wouldn't it be enlightening to re-visit this post next year to see how far we have come?
1. It is important to know and trust your partner.
Min: We have all heard it before. Running a business with a friend or your significant other can make or break relationships. I love Jia - we have known each other since we were 9 - and after a year as business partners, I can’t think of anyone else I would do this with.
It is crucial to remember that your business partner should be someone who shares similar values and goals with you, and someone who will choose you over money. I value our friendship more than any other alluring thing in the world. Fun fact: we actually made a pact that we would both walk away from the business if we notice that it is tearing us apart.
2. It is about complementing, accommodating, and loving each other.
Min: We know personally that we are not the easiest to work with but in the past year, Jia and I have learned to work alongside each other. We are both very opinionated and strong-headed. She’s hardworking and I’m lazy. I’m neat, she’s neater. It has taken a lot of compromising to make this work. And all these can’t happen without God being in the centre of our friendship and business.
3. Find a routine that works and stick to it.
Jia: "You are self-employed? That is so cool! You get to wake up whenever you want!" and other variations of an easy breezy work life are things that we often hear from others. There are some definite truths in those statements for sure, as I don't have a boss breathing down my neck. However, if I woke up late all the time, go out for long lunches and early dinners, and work a few hours every day, I am pretty sure our studio will be in the dumps.
When I first started working full-time in the studio - Min only joined us full-time a few months later - I would sleep in until whatever time I wanted and started work at whatever time I felt like I was inspired. Initially, I felt refreshed at the breeziness of this work arrangement. However, as a creature of habit, I started feeling antsy at the lack of routine and also noticed that my productivity level was terrible. I was turning into a sloth and that will not do! Now, Min and I have created a routine (it is pretty similar to regular jobs) that we feel mostly comfortable in and the results clearly shows. There are still some tweaks and room for improvement in our schedule but we are getting there!
4. It ain't easy being your own boss.
Min: honey&gazelle Design Studio is my first business venture, my baby. The past year was all about firsts and making mistakes, and there were definitely times when I doubted myself. honey&gazelle has grounded me in many ways. Being my own boss is crazy difficult. I have to be responsible for my actions, deeds, thoughts, and constantly check if my personal values and company’s values are still aligned to each other.
5. All work and no play gives you a backache.
Jia: We created the above art print as an inside joke at first but soon realised that the quote was something that resonated well with so many people. It really is true, isn't it? Min and I are always complaining about body aches and would often fall sick after a particularly stressful and busy period. Running your own business and being accountable for everything (including yourself and your business partner) puts a toll on you. I often feel like I have to work until 4am daily because there is just an endless amount of things that can and should be done.
Although it is good to be hardworking, it is also very important to learn to take a break. This is something we are trying our best to do through various methods like setting aside some time during the day to motivate ourselves, sing badly and hilariously at the top of our lungs and also stretch our muscles by going out for a short walk. We have also heavily implemented regular working hours and we try our best not to work overtime excessively. More often than not, the work can wait!
6. The selfless support from family and friends is rejuvenating.
Jia: Starting a business is a really difficult journey. The hours are long and the direction murky at times. You know exactly where your destination is but it just seems so difficult to get there. You know what will bring you down even more? Naysayers and haters.
Thankfully, Min and I are so blessed to have amazing families and friends who have been with us every step of the way. Obviously, we are grateful for the big gestures but it is also the little little things they do that we cherish endlessly. A little bit of support goes a very long way and can really lift us up when we are feeling down.
7. You are always a work in progress.
Min: Well… I am still learning how to survive in this crazy, crazy world. There are plenty of talented designers and perfect business models out there. But I am still learning. honey&gazelle Design Studio has taught me to accept my flaws and work on my weaknesses. I’m glad to have met many likeminded crafters and designers along the way. Just like everyone else, I’m trying to grow and nurture what I love. My biggest takeaway? Patience. Like our art print says, anything worth growing takes time and dedication.
8. It is okay to march to the beat of your own drum.
Jia: I have always felt that it is okay to be yourself even though you may not fit into society's mold. It is perfectly fine. Being a design studio, we often have to make changes to our initial creative concepts to suit our client's taste. The client will always want to change the work and even though we think that the changes are unwarranted, we will still do it as it is our job to do the best we can for our clients. However, we need an outlet to express ourselves and create happiness!
This is where our retail line comes in. All we want to do is to create 'paper with personality' and products that will inspire, motivate, and put a smile on your face. We know that not everyone likes wordsearch puzzles for example, but we do! Not everyone needs to get us but we are so glad to have reached out to form a community with the ones who do.
9. In every situation, choose to be genuine, grateful and kind.
Jia: Min and I decided right from the start that the business will be a reflection of who we are in order to truly embody our slogan - happiness by design. In our path of choosing happiness, we have also made it a conscious effort to be genuine and personable in our interactions with people, be it through our designs, website, social media, or in person; to always remain grateful for all the things given to us; and to always react in kindness. Of course, there were many instances within the past year that we felt like lashing out at the situations we were placed in, but we always took a second (or like, 10 minutes) to calm down and react with love. Kindness begets kindness, and for us to spread happiness, we need to be happy and kind first!
10. Liberation and happiness are priceless.
Min: That’s right. After all the gutsy talk, this is my utmost truth. I get a lot of satisfaction and inner peace doing what I do. I am no longer working meaninglessly at a desk job that drives me up the wall, and I am finally doing something that means more than just being a name on a company’s payroll. I may not be racking in big money but I truly am very happy and contented where I am right now.
That was a lengthy post and if you are still reading this, we just want to thank you for your support throughout this past year (: You have made such a difference in our lives and we hope to do the same in yours too!
Tell us - what do you wish to see from us in the coming year?
With Love, Min+Jia.
We talk a lot when we cut stickers. Though our conversations can be quite incoherent at times, we noticed that we always ask each other weird and hypothetical questions. Questions like, "would you rather eat only 1 kind of meat or go vegetarian your whole life?" and "would you rather be pretty but stupid or smart but below-average looking?" would keep us entertained for a really long time.
As it has been a while since our last Real Talk post, we thought we would bring back the column in our new blog with a bit of fun and lightheartedness! And so, we have decided to share some of our excitement and lame humour with you. Here are some ridiculous 'Would You Rather' questions that led us to challenge our worst fears. We didn't consult each other on the questions asked and that turned out to be an excellent move, as we tackled some pretty tough questions that may seem like child's play to you but involves serious thought from us.
Min: Would you rather eat a bowl of red bean paste with mochi balls OR a giant red bean ice cream cone?
Jia: What a brutal question. You know I hate red beans! Sigh, I would pick the giant red bean ice cream cone because I am guessing that the flavour of the red beans would not be as intense when it is cold. *sad face tho*
Min: Would you rather take part in a '1000 squats challenge' OR '100 burpees challenge'?
Jia: Definitely '1000 squats challenge'! I am terrible at burpees! You may need to pick me off the floor when I am done with the 1000 squats though...
Min: Would you rather have an untameable afro and eyebrows OR a hairy body?
Jia: I would rather have the untameable afro and eyebrows because I think I would be able to rock the look somehow. *gulp*
Min: Would you rather be stuck in a room filled with snakes OR swim in a pool filled with crocodiles?
Jia: Omg. This is another brutal question with two scenarios that are like nightmares to me! I am not the best swimmer around by far, so, you know that you are basically asking me to be croco-bait! I think I would rather be stuck in a room filled with snakes. If I keep very very still, I would probably make it out alive, right?
Min: Would you rather tattoo your eyebrows and lips OR have the same nail design and colour on your fingers and toes for the rest of your life?
Jia: Haha! This is a pretty easy pick. I would definitely rather have the same nail design and colour on my fingernails and toenails for the rest of my life. Red nails will never go out of style!
Jia: Would you rather have a huge rose tattoo on your lower back OR a tiny shooting star tattoo on your face?
Min: I'd choose a huge rose tattoo on my lower back. As long as I cover it up with clothes and never ever head to the beach in a bikini, no one will ever know... right?
Jia: Would you rather be in slippers OR leather boots for the rest of your life?
Min: Slippers! Any time, any day.
Jia: Would you rather eat unsalted french fries OR salted potato chips for the rest of your life?
Min: Urgh! I can't make up my mind because both are my greatest loves in life. Ahhhhh, I'm going to say salted potato chips, just because they are so crispy, salty and full of greatness. (Psst, I still love you, unsalted fries. I really do.)
Jia: Would you rather live without your mobile phone for the rest of your life OR give up coffee forever?
Min: Okay, so, this may not be as tough as I imagined it to be. I'll choose to give up my mobile phone for the rest of my life. I don't have to be connected to the world, but just one day without coffee will be the start of the zombie-Min apocalypse.
Jia: Would you rather be supermodel tall but with a bad posture OR very petite with perfect posture?
Min: Coming from someone who is short, I will choose to be supermodel tall with a bad posture. I'd like to see how great it is to be tall for once, and hey, I can always do something about my bad posture!
Have you asked your friends some ridiculous 'Would You Rather' questions before? Share them with us!
With Love, Min+Jia
The humans behind honey&gazelle Design Studio. When we are not frantically working, we share our mishmash of thoughts on design, life, and love here. Grab a cuppa and stay for a bit!