“To be in your element is to feel happy because you’re doing what you like or can do best.”
In Her Element is a photo-series by Delegate featuring inspiring women in Singapore who excel in their various domains. For our latest issue, we sat down with Monica Anne Lie, founder of The Ordinary Co, at her home office.
Monica Lie launched The Ordinary Co. in 2014, offering an unparalleled selection of accessories. Her vision is to make trendy accessories accessible to Singaporeans and encourage them to make accessorising part of their lifestyles. With an eye for style, Monica curates simple yet sophisticated designs, perfect for easy wearability in every day life.
At the age of 15, Monica was already dabbling in the jewelry industry. Back then in 2006, when e-commerce was still a nascent business in Singapore, Monica launched her first online jewelry shop with a capital of $500 from her mother, of which she managed to earn back in 3 months. She took a break from her jewelry to focus on school, and eventually decided to enrol at Singapore Management University to major in Business to learn more about managing her own.
Although the e-commerce scene had seen great development since she first opened her jewelry shop, she still felt that there was a lack of stores selling affordable accessories. In her last year at SMU, she launched The Ordinary Co. to fulfil just that.
“When The Ordinary Co. first started out, the concept of micro-influencers really helped the brand grow,” Monica says. Reflecting the brand’s vision of incorporating accessories into every day lives, her series of collaborations with micro-influencers – who are seen as relatable, accessible and ordinary people – helped the brand to penetrate the market and capture the hearts of Singaporeans.
“Here, we believe jewelry is a necessity, not an after-thought.”
Today, The Ordinary Co. has amassed upwards of 25,000 followers on Instagram and has been featured in a number of pop-ups around Singapore and collaborations with brands such as diptyque and Clinique.
Monica’s success with The Ordinary Co., however, is not without its challenges. “The e-commerce scene here keeps shifting. At the start, people were not as willing to purchase jewelry online but now that people are more open to doing so, it also means that more competition is coming in.”, Monica says. She notes that brands have caught up as the e-commerce industry evolved, and it is always a challenge to find new ways to market the brand and keep it relevant.
However, she welcomes these challenges and enjoys working to build The Ordinary Co. Her favourite part about her job is growing the brand from the ground up and that as a business-owner, she is able to respond with more flexibility to any market changes.
Another part of her job that she enjoys is to be able to work on her own schedule and achieve her own targets. While most of her work is based in her home – where she gets to work in her PJs occasionally (we’re envious!) – she also has a workspace in WeWork. “It’s easy to get distracted when at home and being outside in a conducive workspace helps me get work done,” Monica says.
When it comes to hobbies, Monica cites her Instagram account (@luxmondi). She has always loved fashion and taking photos since she was young, and @luxmondi is an avenue for her to explore a perfect combination of both. Her feed is clean, minimalistic and features a lot of neutral colours, something which she tends to gravitate towards.
“I love anything with texture in it because it instantly elevates the piece, whether it’s a clothing item or furniture laminates.”
Her personal style is reflected not only in her fashion sense but also in her home decor. Reminiscent of the Muji aesthetic, the clean white walls in her home are balanced with the warmth and texture of wooden furnishings, creating a calm, comforting atmosphere.
“Choose a colour palette from the start and stick to it religiously. It makes every single decision much easier after and helps the house look cohesive,” Monica says, regarding home styling. She also recommends creating lots of storage spaces so that everything has a place and doesn’t clutter up the space.
And as for fashion, Monica’s top 3 closet must-haves are:
- A pair of pants that fit great
- Turtlenecks – they always instantly make you look chic
- Loose dresses with clean lines, made with beautiful materials
To de-stress, she enjoys chilling on the sofa with her husband and enjoying their home. “My husband is my greatest influence,” she says, “He’s very intelligent in both terms of knowledge and people skills and has helped me grow a lot as a person.”
Monica is a big believer in work-life balance. “I feel that it’s always a personal choice to exert that little extra energy after work to interact with the people around you or to meet friends and family,” she says. Time management is crucial, and she counts herself lucky for being able to manage her own time well.
For aspiring entrepreneurs, she advises that you should do it for the right reasons. “Start a business expecting to do the work and take nothing home for a while – don’t do it because you think it’s cool to own your own start-up or only like the idea of being your own boss, not willing to put the work in,” she says.
And for those who are still finding your element, Monica feels that it’s important to know yourself best – what triggers you, what your working style is. “The sooner you find the patterns the easier it is to find something that suits you,” she says.
One quote that Monica lives by is:
“If we do not find anything very pleasant, at least we shall find something new.” – Voltaire