Chi Mai is the founder and creative director of S-kin Studio Jewelry, a Melbourne based ethical fine jewellery label.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I am the founder and creative director of S-kin Studio Jewelry, a Melbourne based ethical fine jewellery label that focuses on high-quality everyday jewelry that does not hurt or irritate your skin.
Prior to starting S-kin in 2018 I was studying Commerce but while completing my degree I realised that I was striving for a job (in Management Consulting) that would be stressful, require long hours and constant travel.
Deep down I knew this wasn’t what I really wanted for my life so I decided to follow my creative roots, over the corporate path and start my own brand instead.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
My workday starts with a hearty breakfast and a walk around the block with my two dogs. Then I get ready for work and come to the office where I usually go through emails, catch up on customer service, and prep our orders for the day.
We then work on projects during the day, and my role varies a lot! From the supply chain to merchandising new goods for the store, it keeps me busy! I usually take my two dogs to work and it helps bring the office together and break up hectic days.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
I recently adopted a new puppy that required a lot of my attention! I work flexibly in the way that I’m able to hop across the street to the park at lunch for a walk with the dogs or work from home if the store isn’t open.
I don’t work weekends and turn off my notifications on the weekend. For me, my work is only a vehicle, not an absolute for fulfilment and happiness in my life. I love my work but don’t live to work if that makes sense – balance is such an important part of my life.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
Work-life balance to me means being able to love your work while doing it but being able to distance yourself from work in other ways to enrich your life, i.e. family, social and self-care.
I used to mix work and my personal life, but now have a very clear distinction to train my brain to turn off. I moved into an office (outside of my home), I work only set hours during the week, take weekends off, and try to let myself know it’s okay to not want to work all the time (which is hard for small business owners I know!)
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
Absolutely! During lockdown it was tough to get up and have the motivation to have a productive day.
Thanks to my husband who has been lucky enough to be working all throughout lockdown in VIC, I stuck to my routine of getting up early every day, having breakfast with him and going for a walk with my dog to kick start my day. As I’m the most productive first thing in the morning this really helped with maintaining my productivity.
Now that I have moved into a commercial studio my routine is sort of the same, but different in the way that I’m able to turn off when I come home from work. It’s a great feeling!
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
Oh that’s a hard one! I’m a sucker for a good romance book and went through so many during lockdown. I would recommend the Bronze Horseman series or Outlander series for a romance mini-brain getaway.
Business-wise – podcasts are my favourite and I love the Lady Startup stories and Seize the Yay episodes, they are so insightful and I love hearing stories about other startups like mine.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
Probably Instagram – it’s essential to my business. I also love Google Analytics and think it’s super underutilised by business owners. Anything that deep dives into data really – I’m a sucker for charts!
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
I would love to learn about other small business owners. I hear a lot from macro businesses but don’t hear often about the mum and pop shops like myself.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
I believe in meaningful, thoughtful work – and I think there is such an expectation today to ‘make it’ in so many areas of our lives, such as work, relationships, financial growth, etc.
It’s okay to slow down and enjoy your journey and be thoughtful in the way you spend your time. And that may mean you drop the ball on some things, but that is okay, you are allowed to ‘fail’ in the conquest of balance. It’s the journey that counts!
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