Cover Michelle Ong shares her secrets of success

In this week’s edition of Tatler’s Secrets of Success series—the all-access pass to the city’s most notable business magnates and entrepreneurs—jewellery designer and philanthropist Michelle Ong reveals what gets her creative juices flowing and what it takes to make it onto her team

Michelle Ong is a powerhouse. Her invite-only galas for the First Initiative Foundation (FIF) bring out the city’s most respected business minds and creative individuals every year. For the last decade, FIF has raised funds for the arts and education, and promoted Hong Kong culture to the rest of the world. Between organising these star-studded events, which last year brought in rare paintings from the Uffizi Galleries in Florence, and Ong’s work as creative head of Carnet Jewellery, she rarely ever gets any downtime.

She chats to Tatler about why there is no substitute for hard work and what it means to design accessories for the contemporary woman.

See also: Secrets Of Success with Kevin Poon, CEO Of All Things Cool

Describe what you do in one sentence?

I am a visual storyteller. I tell tales by setting them in stone. Carnet is a narration of my artistic journey, while the First Initiative Foundation is my way of supporting deserving artists in Hong Kong.

How does your business make a difference?

I have one brand philosophy: to do my best in whatever I do. No compromises. No excuses. I ensure that my work is an embodiment of my creative expression. My pursuit for perfection is what makes a difference, and it guides me and my business through every endeavour.

What do you put your success down to?

Success is an outcome of sheer perseverance and hard work. If you believe you can do it, you will.

What are the top three ingredients for a successful business?

· There is no substitute for passion. It’s a game-changer.

· Never say never. I believe in getting the work done.

· Appreciate the people who work with you and for you, and they will stand by you.

Do you have any mentors? If so, who are they and what is the best piece of advice that they have given you?

I’m inspired by art forms, artefacts, nature, my surroundings, traditions, and cultural symbols. I’m a great admirer of [US jeweller and founder of fine jewellery brand Jar] Joel Arthur Rosenthal. His work is remarkable, both in terms of design and craftsmanship. I am fortunate to have some of his pieces and also to call him my friend.

What qualities do you look for in a potential employee?

I look for people who can vibe with my energy, think on their feet and make things happen.

What has been your biggest career obstacle to date? How did you overcome it?

Dealing with people who give up easily. Whenever that happens, I stay put and ensure my vision manifests itself.


How do you plan to develop your business over the next five years?

My jewellery is made for the contemporary woman, who is confident, unfettered and unapologetically feminine. My clientele are women who are aware of their unique personality. They know how to own their style. And my vision is to design one-of-a-kind jewels that complement these inimitable personas. Creating these jewels cannot be boxed into a five-year plan. It is now, in the present, and evolving every day. The more I let my artistic expression soar, the more my business grows. I’m always visualising, designing and creating. That’s the only plan I know, and I will continue to pursue just that.

What is one surprising thing about you that most people don’t know?

I keep my creative thoughts and inspirations in a small notebook that I carry. It’s very low tech, but it works because creativity is most often ‘in the moment’. I can refer back and expand upon my ideas. Many people don’t know that my habit is reflected in the name Carnet, which translates to “small notebook” in French.

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