“You should become a Doctor, Lawyer or an Engineer.” The advice almost every Asian kid grew up hearing.
Why a Doctor, Lawyer or an Engineer you might ask?
I think it’s because these three careers are seen as stable and prestigious, which gives the family ‘face’. As immigrants of the country, our parents sacrificed too much for us to have a better future. So, I can totally relate to why they would want us to find something stable and for us to be the reason for all their sacrifice.
What if you are like me though and decided to take a completely different career path or a hobby that is seen as unconventional?
I’ve known Eliza Wong for over 3 years now. Eliza and I crossed paths when I was still working at UNSW Founders, the startup hub on campus and being a graduate of UNSW, Eliza could get access to our one on one mentoring services. From the moment we met, I knew there was something special about her. We would meet on a monthly basis either on campus or at a cafe in the city. Looking back, those were actually some of my fondest memories near the end of my time at UNSW Founders. Her smile would always brighten up my day and her enthusiasm about her startup, Flames of Dreamers was so infectious, you couldn’t help but to just keep listening.
After I left UNSW Founders, we kept in touch and became good friends so when I wanted to write a piece with this topic in mind, she was the first person I turned to.
Eliza’s interest in entrepreneurship started at a very young age. She found her business studies and textiles class fun in highschool. She was taught by her parents to value science and maths subjects more, so when she found something she naturally did well or enjoyed, it really intrigued her. That's when she thought she could perhaps have her own fashion business, however, like many other highschoolers, this wasn’t the only idea Eliza had of her future. She also wanted to become an archeologist or psychologist, so her thought process wasn’t very clear.
She decided to take the leap of faith into entrepreneurship when she started her first full time job and realised that she had all these ideas but not all of them could be done. She also wanted to stretch herself and see how far she could go with her own capabilities. She didn’t realise how difficult it is to build a business at the time, but she felt that being able to create something of your own, feeling boundless, was something that excited her.
After she quit her full time job, she took a family trip to China and that’s when she told her parents about her idea for Flames of Dreamers. Her parents had mixed feelings and freaked out here and there, worried about her future prospects, but now they’ve accepted the idea and the volatility that comes with entrepreneurship. She would constantly remind them that if she went broke she would just find a job. She believes her parents trust that she is mature enough to handle her own problems.
Flames of Dreamers is a handbag store Eliza started from scratch at home to provide glamorous, wanderlust women sustainable, ethical and accessible handbags (Relaunching with her sustainable collection in July 2020). Eliza only selects pieces that she believe not only match different outfits, but also allow the women to stand out and feel unique.
Eliza said“A Flames of Dreamers babe love to express themselves through fashion, love glamour and are at heart, dreamers.” - I absolutely love this!
She started Flames of Dreamers because she had trouble finding great quality, on trend handbags that were also affordable. Either they were affordable yet dull, or gorgeous but overpriced. All her pieces only use natural materials and excess fabrics from large brands that would have otherwise been in landfill. They’re also all handmade so every piece is created with love. With the growing awareness of fashion’s impact on Mother Nature, she didn’t want to create another fashion brand that harms the planet.
Over the past few years of her running Flames of Dreamers, Eliza finds it the most difficult to continually push herself to keep learning, picking herself back up everytime she screws up and not letting negativity, either from outside or internally, break her.
“When you rarely know anyone else going through the same journey, it’s easy to think you’re not pushing hard enough, that everything seems difficult, and you’re the only one having trouble figuring it out.” Eliza said.
As she began to meet more like-minded women, she realised all her frustrations were normal. It takes time to learn from mistakes in order to know the answers. To Eliza, the best quotes to explain this are “ I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work” and "Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time” Both are from Thomas Edison. My eyes are welling up while I write this, as I can connect with both statements on so many levels.
Above Photo: Eliza with a stunning leopard print maxi and a handbag from Flames of Dreamers
Ashleigh Ho is another Asian Australian woman redefining what roles we can play. Ashleigh got in touch with me through a post I made on facebook asking for video entries on ‘The Influence of My Asian Culture’. Ashleigh is currently studying her bachelors in PR and marketing and originally we were hoping she could help Soy & Spice Lingerie but due to the limited budget we have (startup life), we had to put this off for a while. SO SAD.
Growing up, although Ashleigh was not the only Asian in her class, she constantly tried to hide her ‘Asianness’ to fit in. She felt uncomfortable being Asian, because even though she looks Asian, she has never lived in an Asian country.
It wasn’t until she discovered theatre in High School, that she started to embrace her Asianness. She began to seek and understand her roots and appreciate her culture.
Being in theatre has given Ashleigh a huge boost in her self-confidence and she is now a part of the Diversity Arts of Australia, where she is pathing the way for other Asians going into arts and media.
I love Ashleigh’s story not only because she took the time to discover herself but because she is using her own journey to inspire others going into arts and media as it’s not normally something that we get involved in. Ashleigh is setting an example for others to try new things and not be afraid. Even if the path you are taking is unconventional and might seem scary, as long as you give it ago, you never know what opportunities lay ahead.
Above photo: Ashleigh with her adorable smile
I believe at the end of the day, our parents just want us to be happy. As long as you have an open conversation with them regarding what career path makes you happy, I think just like Eliza’s parents, they will understand and support you.
I, too, had a rocky period with my mum when I announced that I’m dropping my psychology career to pursue entrepreneurship instead. My mum actually thought I was crazy. However, after she noticed how happy I am running my own business, she learnt to accept it. Now, she brags to everyone about how proud she is with me- funny how things work out haha
The moral of the story is, don’t be afraid to try new things and push your boundaries. If Eliza, Ashleigh and I could do it, we are certain you can too.
This is what I want Soy & Spice Lingerie to symbolise. For you to give something new a go and to be completely okay with it. Whether that’s wearing lingerie for the first time, taking on that new hobby you’ve always wanted to try or pursuing a career that you’ve always dreamt about, as long as you take that first step, the doors that will open in front of you will be endless.
Note from the author:
Hi, its Mary here, the Founder of Soy & Spice Lingerie!
This is my second blog ever! I hope I can write faster so you can read more from us. I honestly admire those who can write weekly blogs, what is your secret? PLEASE tell me!
Anyways, hope you enjoyed this! Drop us a comment on other topics you want to explore.