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Q&A: Founders Coco Chan and Valerie Ho on new spiritual wellness portal OMSA

Ask someone how they’re doing in Hong Kong, and the natural answer is almost always, “I’ve been so busy!” Let’s face it: Most of us are addicted to our non-stop work and social schedules. But have you ever stopped to think of why that is? New inner wellness portal OMSA questions whether this mindset of oversubscribing to incessant stress and workaholic norms is really sustainable. Created as an e-commerce and service portal, the company aims to change the status quo and bring greater awareness to inner wellness.

Named for the spiritual ‘Ohm’ sound linked to meditation and yoga, OMSA started this summer selling goods from candles to crystals, rose quartz face rollers to smudge sticks — sacred herb bundles meant to be burned to ‘cleanse’ spaces of stale or negative energy. Beyond shopping, OMSA aims to be an inclusive community with events, workshops, and a directory of spiritual and wellness practitioners who can support individuals interested in furthering their wellness journey.

OMSA is founded by Coco Chan, serial entrepreneur and co-founder of Voltage PR, and Valerie Ho, an asset management executive in business development. We sat down with the duo to learn more about their launch story and inspiration.

Omsa founders Valerie Ho and Coco Chan.
How did the idea to launch OMSA together come about?

Valerie Ho: We first met through an energy master class by Corie Chu, a Reiki practitioner. Through the many meals and discussions we had, Coco and I shared a vision of supplying wellness and spirituality items to Hong Kong and playing an active part in growing the spiritual community through e-commerce. OMSA was nine months in the making, and here we are with our baby.

Coco Chan: For many years, yoga has been the craze in Hong Kong. Once people started getting into yoga, getting healthier and more conscious, it shifted to meditation. And since then, the words wellness and spirituality have been thrown around so much. At OMSA, we want to be at the forefront of the next wave in wellness, which is redefining spirituality. What we’re trying to do is asking people to really pause, look within and nurture that relationship with yourself through self care, whether it be meditation or yoga or simply just pausing and creating space for yourself. This is the 21st century meaning of spirituality.

What pushed you both to seek wellness and spirituality? How did you both come to the decision to start something and share that with others?

CC: About six or seven years ago I was diagnosed with chronic anxiety. My body started raising red flags which forced me to slow down from my hectic life in PR and take care of my mental and physical health. Doctors asked me to go on long term prescribed medicine like valium, and I didn’t want to go on that. So I searched high and low for alternative options. Nothing really worked for me except for essential oils.

The Coco back then would have kind of just laughed in your face and said, ‘I’m not going to try this hippie stuff!’ But I had no more options. I thought to myself, ‘you know, what’s the worst that could happen? It doesn’t work.’ So I tried it, and after a week I saw such huge changes. It changed the dynamic of my personal relationships at home with my family, with my partner. It changed my whole overall personality, character and attitude at work. I was just a happier person. I’m a very curious person so I dove really deep into aromatherapy, and today I am a certified aromatherapist and work with clients dealing with anxiety, stress, insomnia, and other mental health issues. 

Once you dip your toe into that wellness pond, you kind of open up Pandora’s box and then you want to learn a little bit of everything.

Coco Chan, co-founder of Omsa

Other practitioners will probably say similar things: Once you dip your toe into that wellness pond, you kind of open up Pandora’s box and then you kind of want to learn a little bit of everything. So that’s when I started my spiritual journey.

VH: Spirituality, as well as beauty and wellness, has always been a very prominent theme in my life, but I’ve never had an opportunity to really play an active role in it rather than a passive participant. I lost a lot of time for my hobbies as I’ve worked constantly in a desk job to further my career in finance. I definitely succumbed to this constant ‘work hard and play hard’ hamster wheel prevalent in major cities such as Hong Kong, and I started to feel that there’s something missing: I was living to work rather than working to live. I came across Reiki healing through a trial class with Corie Chu and this opened up a whole new world for me. I never looked back!

Can you describe the ideal type of person that OMSA serves?

CC: We welcome everyone to OMSA. It doesn’t matter whether you are looking for nice scented candles or if you’re looking to do some self healing through the energy of the moon. You don’t have to do a week in Peru or Sedona to find healing, everything is kind of bite-sized. You can purchase a product or you can simply go on our Instagram and learn what to do at home during a Full Moon Ritual. Or even to just get a reminder to breathe — because people don’t even breathe correctly in the 21st century anymore (we’re always using our chest breath instead of our diaphragm breath). Simple things like that.

VH: That this is a platform for everyone — you can wear a suit, you can work in an office, you can be religious or identify as atheist, and you can still be part of this community and enjoy what we’re trying to offer. 

Is there one clear path to a spiritual transformation? How would you guide someone who wants help but hasn’t found success in the types of wellness support or at-home products you use?

CC: If there was only a how-to guide to spiritual transformation! I think it’s really coming to our platform and trying a little bit of everything to see what sticks and resonates with you, and to really nurture that relationship with yourself. It’s a soft journey and we’re just here to offer a massive toolbox for everyone to mix and match and see which formula works best for you.

VH: I think the transformation actually comes from the community. I had a hard time practising on my own, but encouragement from our group sending positive affirmations to each other was the magic factor for me. The community’s really important because it’s the intention that matters — crystals, candles, essential oils can only go so far, your heart and mind has to be willing to make the change! At OMSA, we aim to provide a support system through online and offline spaces, to create a movement of wellness that is accessible, inclusive, and to help people feel empowered.

LSA: Just from your current inventory, would you recommend any special products for people who might be new to this?

VH: We have over 145 products and we’re gonna add eight new products on the eighth of every month at 8am. That’s intentional: 888. Currently, my recommendations are:

1. Lapis Lazuli. I have a lot of other jewellery made of Lapis Lazuli, so this is a gemstone that is really special for me. It’s this electric blue colour and often used in connection with your third eye and your throat chakra. It’s a stone that you use to communicate better and to seek the truth in any situation.

2. Mala beads — Radraksha mala beads are thought to be the oldest prayer beads in the world. They are worn to increase clarity, memory and awareness and provide a sense of peace to its owner. The more you use them, the more the beads mesh with your energy and manifest your thinking and your desires.

3. We have a large range of hand-selected essential oils on the platform. My favorite is the Anatomé series. I stumbled upon this brand while wandering around London and I was immediately drawn to its scientific approach to aromatherapy. My favourite is the Balance and Stability oil, which helps me stay grounded throughout the day and relax after a long work week.

CC: I think for beginners, probably the easiest items to check out are the candles and bath salts. But for me personally, I have three favourite products:

1. I’m a crystal geek and beauty addict, so I love the rose quartz eyeshadow palette by Aether Beauty. It’s got rose quartz crystal infused into the eyeshadow, so I’m looking fabulous and high vibing through the day.

2. The second thing is Labradorite — it’s this ash grey stone with little stripes of metallic blue and yellow on it. It’s often referred to as the Magician’s Stone and it’s really great for transformation. It protects the aura and it’s super powerful for strengthening your intuition and grounds you spiritually. So I use this crystal for a self healing and I also use it with my private clients a lot. Crystals can be placed in your home, work place or held as you meditate — no special instructions required.

3. My third favourite is the Rainbow Moonstone because of its calming energy and effect. It’s also called the stone of New Beginnings, which helps us accept and embrace change. It’s great to work with, especially living in such an energetically edgy place like Hong Kong, it’s important to stay grounded and not be swept up in all the chaos around you. I like sitting with the stone, holding it in my hand. I like putting it at my work desk or sometimes I even put it in my purse and bring it out.

What do you think will be the next big change in the wellness scene?

CC: First, yoga was the big trend and right now it’s mindfulness and meditation. Going forward, instead of going out and drinking hard to escape the stress, the new cool is going to be actually just taking care of yourself and going home and being able to say no to late night binges (and the hangover the next day!). Self care doesn’t mean that you’re selfish — that’s part of an old belief systems that I think globally we’re trying to break out of.

It’s about making healthy boundaries for yourself. Working five days a week, I just have two days to myself to be out with my family, stay healthy and do the things that I love. You know, if you can balance it out to three days and still accomplish all we need to do in a work week, why not? Who says that working constantly is normal? And when people really truly embrace that, I think it’s going to be so beautiful.

Q&A: Founders Coco Chan and Valerie Ho on new spiritual wellness portal OMSA

Evelyn Lok

Managing Editor

When not trying out the latest beauty and wellness trends, Evelyn is likely enjoying a perfectly balanced negroni or exploring some of Hong Kong's best new places to eat and drink. At Lifestyle Asia she covers everything from the biggest events in town to interviews with Hong Kong specialists, with topics spanning art, food and drink, health, tech, and travel.

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