What inspired you to start Ao Jewellery?
It was simply the ocean. I love the ocean and fashion, so I wanted to express mother nature through fashion.
How did you go about launching your business?
In the beginning, I made earrings for myself and friends. I worked as a baker at the time, my boss and friends told me that I should start selling my earrings at the café I was working at. I had no brand name yet, but as I started getting lots of support I decided to finally launch my brand.
What has been one of the biggest challenges that you have faced since starting, and what have you learned from it?
The challenge has been making jewellery from recycled plastic. I needed a plastic shredder and melting machine, but these arrived late due to covid-19. Even after receiving these items, I continued to struggle to make jewellery parts from plastic. It was difficult finding a good colour ratio, as well as determining the strength and thickness of material. It's always difficult when you start something new and nothing really goes as expected, however I wanted to keep trying. I have learned many things along the way, two being very important. Firstly, I learned that if I have a clear idea, it's important to act on it, even if it seems quite silly to other people. We can refine these ideas along the way. Secondly, just believe the voice inside your head. If you feel something is good or exciting, don't neglect that feeling even if there is no logical or specific reasoning behind it.
How have you had to adapt as a business during COVID-19? If so, how?Yes, I have had to modify my business model rapidly and quite earlier than expected, transferring offline to online. I had planned to change it sooner or later, but the timing and procedure changed dramatically due to covid-19. It was quite challenging for me at the time, which is why it is lucky that I started a partnership with Neau Collective.
What make Ao Jewellery unique?
It is our mission to approach environmental issues via our business. Actually, ao has just made its first step towards our mission and will continue to do so. I am also trying to make jewellery that is fashionable in its simplicity.
What advice would you give others who are wanting to start a small business?
Please keep running towards your vision. Self management is also very important, we tend to keep running without interval because it's our own business. However, if we don't keep our mental health in check it's hard to keep up with our endeavors. As a result, we stop running. In my opinion, this is not good for business. Running a business is like swimming in a river against the flow, so we need constantly keep swimming in order to keep up. This is why I think taking care of yourself is very important. In addition to that though, JUST START WHAT YOU ARE EXCITED ABOUT PLEASE! This is the most important thing.
What are your favorite pieces from your collection?
I like the silver and the recycled plastic collection.
Why do you think it is important to support local businesses?
It is very important to help each other, because bigger companies have huge amounts of capital so it is relatively easy for them to occupy a majority of the market. If small businesses don't get enough support from people we will not be able to survive. Also there are heaps of talented people running amazing small businesses all around the world. If they can't survive it would be such a big loss. In my opinion, it is such an interesting experience for people to interact with characteristic small businesses.
What else would you like others to know about marine pollution and ways we can help?
There are lots of problems we should know about marine pollution, wildlife are largely affected and often die due to plastic waste. It is said that in 2050, the amount of plastic in the ocean is going to be greater than the number of marine creatures.
In my opinion, the best way to make our situation better is by thinking of better ways to spend our money, not just as individuals but companies too. I think money circulates all over the world without proper regard for our environment. Plastic products are a typical example, they are cheap and convenient material, so we consume and generate a lot of products using it, but this just causes marine pollution.
Unfortunately we can not stop our economic cycle, because money has always stimulated our desire and we enjoy too many benefits from it. Money makes our lives comfortable, convenient and easy. It is quite difficult for the majority of us to revert back to a simple life like 100 years ago. That's why we should really consider who and what we are giving our money to.
If the way we use money changes, the way we earn money will change along with it. If we start spending our money wisely, the money will circulate and have a better impact on the environment. Companies may also then change their products or structure so to help the environment because they will sell more products this way. If we can make an environmental economic cycle, we would be able to help this problem.