Business Name and what it does
Stephanie Ng Design is a multi-award-winning lighting design studio located in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Our core philosophy is to create beautiful and functional lighting and furniture pieces that improve people’s lives and evoke emotion whilst allowing them to express their sense of style and personality.
We love working with colour, form, texture and unique tactile materials with a focus on versatility to create innovative, yet artisanal products. Stephanie Ng Design was set-up in 2013, while still in Australia and since then has become well-known worldwide for its exclusive designs capturing the attention of architectural firms for projects like Renaissance Hotel (U.S.), McDonald’s (U.S.), Nando’s (U.S., Australia & Malaysia), Aruba Networks (U.S.) and many more.
Stephanie Ng Design is your Total Lighting Specialist that can manage your Architectural and Decorative Lighting needs for any Projects, whether Commercial or Residential, large and small. As a Lighting Specialist, we offer a wide range of Products to cater for both Mid to high-end Developments with a Design Consultancy service. For Decorative solutions, we carry our own Original Collection of minimalist, Design-for-Emotion Lighting Products that bring a sense or warmth and joy into interiors and create Bespoke Installations for the Spaces that require unique Designs and Custom Sizes.
We work with a Collection of different Clients that include Interior Designers & Architects, Developers and Hotel Owners from various countries starting with Malaysia, Australia, America and Europe. Some of our Clients are Nando’s Chickenland, San Francisco Coffee, Renaissance Hotel, Pavilion KL, IGB Corporation, WCT Holdings, Paramount Property, Malaya MNE Engineering, Linear Vista Architecture, Marco Van Ham Design Studio, to name a few.
Founder’s/Owner’s story and what motivated them to start the business
It was never in my mind that I would set up shop and create my own brand. I couldn’t think of a creative name to use and branding under my name felt pretentious- clearly, I was a nobody. However, as I build the brand- Stephanie Ng Design, I realised the goal was to create my reputation as a household Designer brand; much like my idol Tom Dixon.
Coming from a conservative background of Asian Heritage, I was extremely risk- adverse. I worked for over six years to save enough money to further my studies and put it towards my final year in Mebourne, Australia. The exchange rate at that time was AUD 1 to MYR 3.20, so with my hard-earned MYR 64,000, I managed to complete my final degree year for a Bachelor’s of Arts: Industrial Design with Swinburne University.
During my work experience, I found myself a kick-ass sales person (Top Sales two years running) selling media advertisement space and my monthly income surpassed most of my peers at my age. When my father learnt that I wanted to return to school, he strongly recommended, that I continued to expand my work experience instead.
Before taking the plunge and deciding this was a route I wanted – to leave home, to change industries, to go back to school after having a successful start to my career- I reached out to my peers from College and found most of them have not pursued a career in Design; it really was not that established in Malaysia. However, one who actually stay true to the path, had moved to Singapore and worked with a global brand. She said, ‘yes, you can make it in design- IF you are really good”. I remember being quite taken aback by that statement. So much so, that it was discouraging. And I thank my “can do” attitude to not heed that advice and strive for what felt right in my gut.
My mother had supported my desire to return to University, on one caveat that I apply in Australia. Despite having grown up in Vancouver, Canada – it was just too far to visit! During the application to University, I applied to both RMIT University and Swinburne University. RMIT did not recognise any of my previous credits (although the local course was affiliated with Swinburne University, Melbourne) and offered me a 4- year program, to start all over again! Mind you, I was 28 years old. I didn’t want to be a fresh graduate at 32 years of age. Swinburne however, wrote to me and requested to see a new portfolio. I replied to inform them that I didn’t get a chance to see through my career in Design and hence why I wanted to go back to school. It so happened that the official person in charge was on holidays and I was corresponding with an ex- Dean of my local College and he vaguely remembered me. He went out on a limb, and offered me a position to complete my final (one) year. And after 5 years of being an alumna, I was asked to speak at an event where I found that he was extremely glad that he took a chance on me.
After graduation (whilst still living in Melbourne), my peers and I decided to share an exhibition booth to showcase our designs and I had to quickly conceptualise something unique to exhibit. Since it was winter in Melbourne and with my newfound hobby of knitting, I practiced on little lamp cosies that would wrap around a lightbulb in colourful stripes and patterns. It was something warm, which evoked a sense of emotion when you’d see or touch, what is now known as Luna Lana- in Spanish means “Moon” and “Wool”. It was such an unexpected hit during the Australian International Furniture Fair, that retailers were enthusiastic to order and retail them. Suddenly, I had a business. Overnight, I had a website and within the week, I had two retailers placing orders.
The challenges the business/market is facing
With lighting, especially decorative we are last to be implemented and installed in Construction Projects. With Interior Designer’s grand plans, they understand how important lighting is used for play on illumination and creating ambience. However, most project run over budget and finally when it’s almost complete, there is a tendency to cut the budget on lighting. This usually means our contracts getting completely cancelled or reduced by 50%.
Construction projects can take years to complete and sometimes with significant delay. As if normal inflation wasn’t bad enough affecting profit margins, during the pandemic, many projects that we have quoted for and supposed to deliver were affected by inflated raw material prices, labour issues causing prices to go up and manufacturers being selective on projects that they would take on. Being in the bespoke business, it got increasingly difficult to produce one-offs causing cost prices to increase whilst client spending power fell dramatically.
Some Construction projects, we were awards have been delayed over two years since Covid pandemic started. It has caused issues with production schedules and storage. Some products were halfway through production and had to be completed, otherwise, metals could rust and become unusable. However, once components were plated and assembled, they became bulky and storage space was chargeable.
The opportunities the business/market is facing
We survived the pandemic. With that said, we continue to serve our customers and projects whilst other businesses closed down. More customers having to find new lighting businesses to serve their needs.
A pause in time has allowed many businesses to pause and to re-direct their focus. We have found prior to the pandemic that we focused mainly on commercial projects. Whilst, construction was put on hold, we now increased our services to mid-to-high end residential projects that value unique installations.
However, it’s also taught us the meaning of a lean team. Allowing everyone to step up and operate 10% more efficiently, we are able to keep all our teammates and produce the increased productivity.
Advice to others about business
1. Take action and show up! Designers- especially, emerging should participate in design competitions. If not, for the trophy but to practice competing, taking constructive criticism, public speaking and presenting. Gain work experience before setting up your own Design Studio. It really is a roller coaster ride and it helps with some work experience.
2. Keep your eyes and ears open- you can learn from anyone and anywhere. I realise the success of my design studio is the result that I’m an all-rounded designer and lots of it resulted from my career as a sales person. When I was young, I used to think sales was for people who didn’t know what they wanted to do with their lives- today, I believe its the most important skill set that I’ve picked up and apply everyday.
3.I am a designer at heart, although having set up my own studio, I now wear many hats and being creative – even though it’s usually no longer sketches on paper, is applied to all departments by practising out- of- the- box thinking.
4. You never stop learning. “I know” are the key words that lead you nowhere. I learnt early stages of my career to observe and shadow a role model. It will teach you how to carry yourself, speak the lingo, enhance your knowledge and follow suit.
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AWARDS AND ACCOLADES
PORTFOLIO AND PRODUCT OFFERINGS
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