Words like ‘sage’ and ‘healers’ often conjure up associations of a bygone era, the kind of hippie-dippie therapies that are for a pre-tech age. But OMSA World gives alternative wellness a modern spin, with a light and bright online platform that blends old-school holistic healing with the kind of on-demand eCommerce offerings that suit our tech-centric lifestyles. Founded in 2019 by PR guru and wellness warrior Coco Chan, and financier and Reiki-enthusiast Valerie Ho, the online platform offers alternative wellness products, information and a community for newcomers and wellness veterans alike. Compare Retreats Chief Content Officer Rebecca Cairns sat down with Coco and Valerie to chat about crystal healing, mental health, and how the platform will continue to evolve in 2020.
Tell us a little bit about your own wellness journeys. How did you get here?
Coco: About 10 years ago, I had a massive anxiety breakdown—so I think that’s what started my whole journey. So then I kind of searched high and low, and that’s when I got into aromatherapy oils. Once I hap dipped my toe into the essential oils world, it opened up everything: I learnt about energy healing and shamanism, there’s all this other stuff. I started sharing my experiences, which has been a really great opportunity to reach out to more people because they can relate to that, especially in Hong Kong, when like nine out of ten people are stressed out.
Valerie: Coco and I met very serendipitously through a Reiki master healing class early last year. I work in finance and I came to Hong Kong back in 2008 and I spent a lot of time in my early 20s in this really high-pressure job in finance. I did that for 10 years and I started to feel burned out. It was just goal, after goal, after goal, and when you’re in that environment, you also have no time to develop any hobbies. I realised I spent all my time thinking about work, so in the New Year, my resolution was to learn a new skill. I happened across a Reiki healing class at the Garden Gathering, and I met Corie Chu: after one session I just felt so calmed and centred.
How did OMSA get started?
Coco: As Valerie said, we met through Reiki, and then we met up for a few coffees. We were kind of sharing our plans for the future and realised we had similar visions of creating a platform, so we thought, why don’t we do it together? It kind of just divinely fell into place. We’ve really been in the flow I think—you know me, I always plan everything out, its the first ever that I’ve never done that. We complement each other a lot because we’re from different backgrounds, but we’re connected through that same appreciation and love for spiritual healing.
Growing up in Hong Kong, I always pass by those crystals stores and the price tags on them are catastrophic, and I always used to think, ‘It shouldn’t be this expensive.’ We’re trying to make it accessible and our price ranges are very affordable.Coco Chan
What motivated you to build the OMSA platform?
Valerie: I realised through my own journey, I wanted to marry the business side of things and this alternative healing world. There’s a lot of people in this traditional corporate world who are actually the people who need these kinds of alternative modalities the most. They’re super stressed out, working super hard, under very high-pressure environment. And you know, another thing about Hong Kong, people like to workout really hard, run marathons, do boxing and intense competitions—to relax.
Coco: We always constantly look for exterior happiness, and that’s just not sustainable. If you want to find happiness and balance in life, you need to start with yourself. And so OMSA is an all-inclusive platform, we welcome all walks of life. What we mean by spirituality doesn’t mean like religion—its the relationship with self and how you can further nurture that. We basically created a platform dedicated to nurturing the relationship to the self through spiritual wellbeing, health care and self-love.
You’ve just launched the shop. What else are you planning for the OMSA World platform in 2020 and beyond?
Valerie: Right now when you see on the website is the first pillar of three. The first step is all the tools, whether you’re looking for crystals, sage, a candle, it’s a kind of toolkit for anybody who is looking for an easy first step. But the eCommerce part is just one aspect of what we are working on. Pillar two, which is coming in spring next year, is going to be healers and practitioners directory: tried-and-tested healers from all over the world, where we have had personal experience with them and create a place where we can connect those people to the people who need it. Then the third pillar, which is going to combine offline and online events is kind of the heart of it. For example, after I did the Reiki healing, I was like, “Oh this is great,” for like a month, and then you have to go home and practice and study yourself… I started having other thoughts, getting distracted, but because we have this group of girls who always text each other and share their experiences with wellness and spirituality, it helps keep you focused. I think the community aspect is what is really going to differentiate the platform.
There’s a lot of people in this traditional corporate world who are actually the people who need these kinds of alternative modalities the most.Valerie Ho
Tell us a bit more about the community. What goes into building a community?
Coco: I think it’s being really honest and genuine, and taking the time to really speak about things that maybe people are a little bit afraid to speak about. I mean, I just did a body dysmorphia post on Instagram, and I got so many direct messages because people don’t feel that they can talk about this thing. Valerie and I were speaking about this earlier on in the year, when you talk about spirituality, it’s kind of like taboo and people get scared about it. So we’re trying to like peel that and break that mould. We’re not trying to shove anything down anyone’s throat, it’s really just a platform and a toolbox for you to kind of cherry-pick what feels right for you. And if it doesn’t, that’s okay too. There are different elements of it in which you can participate and integrate into your daily life, whether if it’s just setting an intention and lighting a candle, or taking a salt bath to chill out because you have a crazy workday.
There’s been a resurgence in alternative therapies, and renewed interest in traditional wellness modalities. What do you think is driving that?
Valerie: I think as the global consciousness rises people are more and more aware. We’re right on that trend, it’s upward moving. People are starting to wake up and just say, no, I don’t want to work until I die just for money. I think that is a model of the old ages—having no life outside of work is out the window. There’s room for work-life balance, people are looking for flexible working, working from home, enjoying life while they work.
Coco: People don’t want to have a breakdown or meltdown point and then have to resort in, you know, that blue pill or red pill because that they know it’s not sustainable anymore. And there are so many studies about it, so many people sharing their stories about it and alternative healing is really kind of a preventative type of healthcare. We always say this self-care is the best healthcare. Taking care of yourself, whether it through spirituality, a good diet, it’s actually the key to balanced mental health.
Valerie: I think people are opening up to this idea of understanding finally that you know the illnesses in the body—like, your arm is sore—it’s often a derivative of mental state, something that has been percolating and similar a long time that has erupted into this like physical illness.
Do you have any favourite products?
Coco: Holiday season is around the corner—what I would give to my girlfriends is this really cool Australian brand called Aether Beauty that’s all-vegan, animal cruelty-free, and they donate back to the charity. They’ve created this eyeshadow palette and it’s using crystals and essential oils, which I think is super cool. So like instead of carrying a crystal around as a bra, you can wear it on your face.
Valerie: We have a brand on the platform called Anatome, it’s an English apothecary brand I found when I was in London travelling. They have really nice blends of essential oils, and there’s one called Recovery and Sleep: it’s a blend of English Lavender, which I love. I use it in the bathtub, every other day, and then I also put it up on my wrists before I sleep.
What we mean by spirituality doesn’t mean like religion—its the relationship with self and how you can further nurture that. We basically created a platform dedicated to nurturing the relationship to the self through spiritual wellbeing, health care and self-love.Coco Chan
Are there any destinations that you seek out for spiritual and energy healing products or experiences?
Coco: My parents live in California, so it’s really easy to stumble across a family-run store full of really cool brands. Personally, I really like the more traditional stuff. So like when I go to Bali or Thailand, there’s more nitty-gritty stuff that isn’t as fluffy.
Valerie: I think we can draw inspiration from everywhere, we have social media too have inspiration. I’ve always been very attracted to Bali, I did a microfinance project there when I was in college, so I spent like three weeks there: it has a really special place in my heart.
How do you fit in running OMSA around your full-time jobs and family?
Coco: I’m a natural multitasker and overachiever. I believe in making time for the things you love and the things that matter. The weekend is family time for me so I try to get as much done between Monday to Friday as possible, but Valerie is also really awesome and we work really well together. At the beginning of the project, we actually worked completely separately in our own spaces. Sometimes that doesn’t work for people that for us it worked really well. Personally, I dedicate at least one or two hours each morning to OMSA, while everyone else is sleeping, so I get two hours of quiet.
People are starting to wake up and just say, no, I don’t want to work until I die just for money. I think that is a model of the old ages—having no life outside of work is out the window. There’s room for work-life balance, people are looking for flexible working, working from home, enjoying life while they work.Valerie Ho
Valerie: I also work in the morning before work. I do most of the inventory, check in to see if there are any new orders. I also pack all the orders, every order is wrapped individually: we sage every one so that when it comes to you, it’s like a clean box, and then we also have these affirmation cards that we sent intuitively pick and incorporate into the package, so it’s like a little bit of self-care being sent to you. I do a lot on the weekends too, because it is something I really love to do. I mentioned Reiki earlier, and it is something that still really interests me but it’s not the modality I was supposed to use to connect to people; I feel with OMSA, sending out a package that lights up your day, that for me is… it doesn’t feel like work.
What sets OMSA apart?
Coco: Growing up in Hong Kong, I always pass by those crystals stores and the price tags on them are catastrophic, and I always used to think, ‘It shouldn’t be this expensive.’ We’re trying to make it accessible and our price ranges are very affordable. And so we’re hoping by keeping our margins low and being able to provide access to these tools, it makes it easier for people to experience and try it out as a first step.