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Second-gen Carmen Ow of Clydesbuilt Group starts a passion project

Whether she is working for her family’s property development business or on her new personal care brand, Carmen Ow is all about people.

After graduating from Monash University with an arts degree several years ago, Carmen Ow could have joined her family’s property development company. But instead of making a beeline for the Clydesbuilt Group, started by her dad Victor Ow in 1983, she decided to work as a sales assistant at a friend’s boutique.

Explaining why she took up a job in fashion retail then, the affable and chatty 32-year-old says, “I like working with people and helping them pick out things that I think they might like. That job gave me a broader perspective on life and reinforced my belief that you should treat people like you’d like them to treat you, whether you’re a salesperson or a customer.”

The year-long stint also stood her in good stead as a director at Clydesbuilt, where she has focused on the rental side of the business since joining it in 2014. The residential projects developed by the company include Clydes Residence at Mergui Road and Clydesview at Jervois Lane, as well as cluster housing development Lornie 18. Completed in 2014, the cluster housing development Eleven @ Holland was the company’s most recent project.

Typically, her job involves scheduling and attending viewings with potential tenants and attending to existing ones. “Before Covid, I used to go for viewings and engage with the tenants, which is similar to how a sales assistant might help someone pick out clothes. I’d explain everything and answer any questions they might have. It’s nice when people truly love a place and get excited about it.”

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When the pandemic began, she feared that many of the company’s properties would be left vacant. Fortunately, things turned out to be the opposite. With almost full tenancy, the extra time she had to herself led her to embark on a new business venture with her best friend Wynnie Tay.

Since frequent hand-washing has become part of our new normal, Ow – who has a penchant for perfumes and experimenting with skincare – sought to create personal care products that were effective without being harsh, looked good on a bathroom shelf or in a purse, and were reasonably priced. The brand will kick off with a hand sanitiser, two handwashes and two body washes that contain pure essential oils and other “gentle, mostly plant-derived ingredients”.

If everything goes according to plan, Ow hopes the launch will take place by June – after numerous prototype samples and some 10 months since the idea first came to her. While her business partner takes care of operations, she handles the conceptualisation of products and works on formulations with the manufacturer.

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“I like working with people and helping them pick out things that I think they might like. That job gave me a broader perspective on life and reinforced my belief that you should treat people like you’d like them to treat you, whether you’re a salesperson or a customer.”

Carmen Ow on her stint in retail sales

Eschewing overused and often misused labels such as “green” and “clean”, Ow says, “We try to be as clean, natural and green as possible but there are no set rules about what those terms mean. So, what we strive to do is to give you the best quality that we can for the price you pay.”

Even though she reckons there are pricier products on the market that cost the same or less to produce, she is adamant about not charging more. “We’ve been told that it would help us to make more money and break even faster, but that would go against the reason we started this – to give people more affordable alternatives.”