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Business is Booming: Bonbonwhims' Clare Ngai

This May, in honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we are highlighting and interviewing AAPI-owned business owners we admire. We’re excited to introduce you to Clare Ngai in our newest editorial series, Business is Booming. Clare is a Founder and CEO of Bonbonwhims, a nostalgia-inspired jewelry and accessories Y2K-inspired brand beloved by everyone from Olivia Rodrigo to Megan Thee Stallion. 

What's your morning routine?

Admittedly, I'm a night owl. I am not really a morning person. I wake up around 9ish and I kind of take my sweet time. I usually love to have a cup of coffee with my two dogs on the couch and just sort of have a moment of peace and silence. Usually around 11 or so, my team comes in and we start working. Right now, I'm working from home.

What was your first job?

Working at a creative PR agency. It was back in 2013 and that's when social media just started taking form. I was doing social media for CoverGirl at the agency.It was really funny because at the time it wasn't a serious thing. I would take pictures off my lips and just post it!  I would take a lot of flat-lay pictures on the CoverGirl products. I realized that I actually have I have an eye for visual content.

Where do you look for inspiration?

I go back to my childhood a lot. Growing up in Hong Kong and having had the opportunity to travel around Asia with my parents, going to Japan at a very young age seeing all the Kawaii stuff...I still have these scrapbooks that I made throughout middle school and high school. I brought them with me from Hong Kong to the US when I came here for college. So occasionally I go back to my scrapbooks and look through the stuff.

 

 

Is there anyone in your industry that you really admire right now?

I really like what Emi Jay is doing. It's also Asian-owned and I know that she started it when she was really young and the ability to create a product that is so specific and creating a whole market for it... I think that's really amazing.

 

 

What's your favorite way to celebrate success?

I love to go out to eat. Being In New York, there are so many amazing restaurants. I always feel very happy when I have a really good meal.

What's your pump-up song?

Kiss Me More by Doja Cat.

What career would you want in your next life?

I feel like what I'm doing right now is pretty damn close. I would love to have my own shop in a beach town.

Are you reading anything right now?

I am actually reading this horror novel. It's called The Black Phone. It's a collection of horror stories by this contemporary novelist named Joe Hill. It's really creepy stuff, but I love thrillers. And the cover is really scary so I love bringing it to the pool and people are always freaked out.

What outfit do you feel most confident in?

I love to put on a blazer. I feel like it really dresses up any outfit. Even if I'm wearing something a little bit sexy or need to wear a tank top with shorts, if I throw on a blazer, I feel more empowered.

What makes you feel optimistic?

The future. We've had a weird couple of years collectively and I think that we are starting to come out of it. I'm making plans to see my family hopefully early next year. I think just having something to look forward to that is actually doable. We are not in lockdown anymore. That makes me feel hopeful and optimistic.

Is there a charity or an organization that you're really excited about right now?

Apex for Youth is a charity that empowers immigrant Asian-American kids in New York City. Years ago, I was a volunteer for them and they reached out to me recently to see how Bonbonwhims can be part of the mentor program.  I feel like that's really important for me because I'm also an immigrant...Just connecting with young immigrant kids and being that role model for them.

What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?

You know The Fantastic Beasts? It's not like I was given this advice, but it was said by the main character in the movie. It just kind of stuck with me and it was about something like, "If something bad happens, I try not to think about it too much. Otherwise, you suffer it twice."  So when an obstacle happens, I try not to dwell in the moment.

You can shop Bonbonwhims here and follow Clare on Instagram here.

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