Constantly on-the-go and always on the hunt for the next big fashion and beauty idea, 176 Avenue co-founder, Jean Ng, says that the thought of starting something from scratch is what really gets her going. She took some time out of her busy schedule to speak with MissMafia about her journey and why she says there’s more to beauty than just looks.
Prior to starting your own business, you were in the F&B industry. How did you end up opening 176 Avenue?
My partners, Jolyna, Jady and I are very much women-on-the-go and we’re perpetually pressed for time. We’ve gone for many pedicures and have visited enough salons to know that each service is very time consuming and more often than not, you need to visit multiple places. So, we thought why not come up with a single venue where ladies can get all their beauty needs done in one convenient location in the quickest amount of time. That’s how 176 Avenue started.
Jolyna and Jady are more than your business partners – the three of you are, first and foremost, friends. Is it difficult running a business with your friends?
One of the perks of working with friends is that it’s easier to understand each other because you know the other person so well. You’re never going to be 100 percent agreeable all of the time, but I think what’s important is to keep communicating to better understand each other’s different working styles. We each have individual strengths which we definitely play off of and that has benefited us in running our company. Most importantly though, we have a lot of fun together.
Have any of your past experiences influenced you in terms of how you handle yourself professionally?
Most definitely. When I was working in F&B, I was in charge of coming up with the menu, the look and feel of the space and what not. Similarly, with 176 Avenue I took on a creative role and came up with the overall concept. But yeah, it did help having that experience because it also relates to service. Although it’s a different type of product that we’re selling, at the end of the day it all comes down to the quality of service and customer satisfaction.
When you first launched your brand, the concept of a one-stop solution to all your beauty needs was a fairly new one. What were some of the challenges you faced when trying to market the concept of 176 Avenue?
The first challenge was that people were confused with our concept and they were not very clear about what we were doing because from the outside, our outlet looks almost like just a hair salon. What people didn’t understand was that we are actually a top-to-toe service. People also assumed that we were very expensive because of our location and building façade. But in actuality, we categorise ourselves as affordable luxury. But it’s been getting better over time and we’re also quite active on social media so that helps as well.
You’ve mentioned before that you work very closely with your team and that you send them abroad to learn the latest in beauty techniques and trends. What are some of the other things you do to ensure 176 Avenue remains relevant?
I would say that it’s the team itself. We call ourselves the 176 family and we work very hard to constantly bring our family together. This just helps keep everyone focused on the direction and growth of the brand. For instance, our hairstylists don’t just advise on hair but can introduce customers to new eyelash extension trends and techniques. Having our team aware of what the other person is doing definitely helps in promoting that 176 Avenue story and to ensure there’s constant noise surrounding our brand. It is a constant collaborative effort.
Collaboration seems to be at the heart of a lot of what you do. Would you say that it plays a big role in your overall marketing strategy?
Yes, absolutely. It definitely helps to create the noise and impact for all of our campaigns. We work very hard to ensure that our campaigns are always a little bit different from the last, not just in terms of theme but also in who we collaborate with. We don’t believe in just working by ourselves but also the synergy of working with others as well. For example, for our second anniversary this October we’ll be collaborating with the Breast Cancer Association and setting up a mobile clinic. We’re also working with other corporate companies whereby they can purchase packages for their staff and a percentage of those proceeds will be donated to the foundation itself. We’ll also be hosting a whole-day pampering session for breast cancer survivors as well. We’re very excited about this event because at the end of the day, we’re still a women’s business and we want to empower and help other women. And what better way to do that than with breast cancer awareness.
You’ve often said that beauty can be very empowering. But it can be argued that the beauty industry itself is built on women’s insecurities. What are your thoughts on that?
When you feel good, you naturally look good. For us, there’s more to beauty than just physical appearance but rather it’s a feeling. For example, a lot of our customers who get eyelash extensions give us feedback that they don’t need to put on a tonne of makeup on to make themselves feel confident, they feel great even when they’ve just woken up! It’s little things like that that can really make a difference in how you feel about yourself. For 176 Avenue, we pamper you from head to toe so you leave the salon feeling good. And when you feel good, that’s when you naturally exude confidence and by extension, that’s when you really look good on the outside.
What motivates you to keep going and why?
My friends will tell you that “Jean can never sit still and she’s always on her feet thinking about what to do next”, but I’m very passionate about creating things. Whether it’s designing a new clothing collection, creating event concepts or even putting together a marketing plan, the idea of starting something from scratch really excites me. So, I guess anything that revolves around getting my creative juices flowing is what really drives me. Also, being able to work with my friends is very motivating. We really push each other to achieve our dreams.
What has running your own business thought you about yourself?
I’ve definitely learnt a lot over the years but the main thing is to have perseverance and to never give up despite how difficult the situation can be.
Bonus question! If you could liken yourself to a music genre, what would it be and why?
This is tricky because I live for music! But if I really had to pick one, it would be electronic music. There’s just something about the beat that really gets me going and I like how there’s no fixed beat and it’s just really groovy.
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