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From RSAF aircraft engineer to spa owner: Sommar Beauty Spa’s Melinda Khor talks about the power of transformation

Jasmine Alimin
Jasmine Alimin • 9 min read
From RSAF aircraft engineer to spa owner: Sommar Beauty Spa’s Melinda Khor talks about the power of transformation
PHOTO: Albert Chua/The Edge Singapore
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One of the best and brightest in her graduating batch at Singapore Polytechnic’s Aeronautical Engineering course, Melinda Khor, was recruited into the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) as a part of the aircraft maintenance team that services F-16 fighter jets. 

Despite being in a predominantly male environment, she faced no intimidation from peers three times her age. Despite outsider assumptions, the workplace was free from discrimination or bullying. The camaraderie, cohesiveness and teamwork were pivotal reasons for her preference for a military career over other aviation companies.

The perfectionist found immense satisfaction in identifying and fixing aircraft defects, even working late into the early morning hours. “As all defects must be corrected before the F-16 can be deployed for any missions, it is critical to work closely with my fellow airmen and women, who specialise in different areas of aircraft servicing, to maintain the airworthiness of our aircraft. It is also incredibly fulfilling to know that our work keeps our aircrew and Singapore safe,” she once said in an interview.

Khor entered the RSAF as an assistant engineer with the rank of Military Expert 1 (equivalent to Sergeant). Showcasing her expertise, she independently ran aircraft servicing tests and took on greater responsibilities, guiding her juniors in their tasks. She loved her job tinkering around with planes, but the shift work and late nights wreaked havoc on her sleep quality and, ultimately, her hormones, which affected her menstrual cycles.

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The demanding pace and rotating shifts of RSAF life forced her to prioritise her mental and physical well-being. The Pilates enthusiast embraced a strict fitness routine and a healthy diet. However, after five years, she came to the realisation that her body could not fully recover due to the relentless demands of her job.

This revelation sparked a journey of self-discovery, leading her to stumble upon the Bojin technique (pronounced “buo-jing”). Rooted in traditional Chinese medicine, Bojin therapy focuses on unblocking the body’s energy channels and maintaining muscle elasticity and joint mobility. Specialised tools, including the unique horn tool, release knots in deep tissues, apply targeted pressure and promote overall well-being.

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“I would get massages to cope with my aches and fatigue, but they only gave me temporary relief. When I started Bojin on myself, I felt a huge difference. I slept better at night, my skin glowed and my period cramps were less painful,” she tells Options in a recent interview. “Bojin works deeper than regular massages. It unblocks and activates the Meridien points to reboot your body’s internal system.”

She witnessed the incredible transformation it brought to her mother’s skin and overall well-being by attending classes and practising on her loved ones. Fuelled by this personal experience, she began advising her family and friends. She eventually shared her newfound knowledge with her long-time boyfriend-now-husband, Derrick Wong, who wholeheartedly supported her career transition.

New pursuits

The real push happened during the pandemic, which Khor described as a semi-apocalyptic time. “The mood was very gloomy and people would find happiness getting out of their homes to exercise, which is what Derrick and I did. That made us re-evaluate what we wanted: To give back and focus on something that could improve well-being,” she adds.

With unwavering confidence and the support of her loved ones, Khor boldly decided to depart her stable military career and venture into the wellness industry. In 2021, she opened Sommar Beauty Spa at Fortune Centre on Middle Road. “Because of the pandemic, people invested more in their health and well-being, so we felt it was the perfect time to open the spa,” says the 28-year-old.

Alongside Wong, a former banker, Khor embarked on a mission to create a serene haven where the well-being of women takes. Their goal is to help customers rediscover the significance of wellness and offer tailored holistic services that cater to their unique body needs. 

Sommar Beauty Spa believes well-being is a holistic journey, encompassing physical health, mental balance and emotional harmony. Their specially crafted treatments promote overall wellness, unblock meridian channels, alleviate pain, enhance beauty and rejuvenate the mind and body.

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At the core of their philosophy lies creating a serene sanctuary where women can prioritise self-care. Furthermore, their commitment extends to educating and empowering individuals, urging them to prioritise wellness in their lives.

The couple says many of their regular customers are shift workers like nurses, air stewardesses and teachers. “We also have some customers who see specialists that recommend for them to do Bojin to complement their medical treatments,” adds Wong. They also recently relocated their flagship to Duo Galleria at Frasers Street and opened their second outlet at Pacific Plaza on Scotts Road. Designed to look fresh and modern and marketed as a wellness destination (rather than TCM practice), Sommar has attracted a multinational crowd of customers, including Singaporeans and foreigners from Japan, Korea, Thailand and Russia. “We try to market Bojin so that the layman can understand it. Instead of making it too TCM-oriented, we promote other beneficial aspects like muscle release, body contouring and lifting,” she says.

Commitment to well-being

Khor’s favourite treatment combination is the Pro-Revive Face Bojin and Pro-Slim+ Tummy Bojin. The latter helps rid the stomach of toxins, improves gut health and shapes the waistline, while the former helps with the signs of facial ageing and tension release in the head and front neck region.

She hopes that more women will embrace alternative therapies like Bojin and derive the same benefits she has. “Most of the ladies who come here for the first time tell us their bodies are breaking down, their energy levels are low and they have no more confidence. The transformation after that is unreal. You see tremendous differences in their mood, how they carry themselves and how much weight they have lost. When I hear all this positive feedback, I feel like, wow, the big switch I made two years ago was the right one,” says Khor.

Wong says: “Our mission is to elevate our customers’ knowledge in beauty and wellness to establish confidence in their bodies’ abilities for recovery and anti-ageing to take on challenges in their daily lives and drastically improve their beauty from within. If we can educate them on day-to-day stuff like eating healthier and drinking warm drinks, we can better impact their lives.”

Part of the spa’s success is also its therapists, who Khor and Wong agree are the heart and soul of the business. “We have excellent, experienced therapists who have been with us from the start. Their passion, hard work and wealth of knowledge constantly remind me that I need to improve myself, too. We make sure they’re well-fed, well-remunerated and enjoy their work. To create a cohesive work culture, we don’t make our therapists sell packages. Our number one focus is customer service,” adds Khor.

The recently married couple shares that while working together has its ups and downs, they handle everything that comes their way. While Khor handles operations like planning, staffing and rostering, you’ll find Wong handling the accounts, logistics and other business strategies in the back room. “It can be tough working together, but we remind ourselves that the focus is on the goal of the business. Just don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s lucky we didn’t start the business at the start of our relationship!” he laughs.

Feeling good inside and out

Khor’s transition from the RSAF to Sommar Beauty Spa goes beyond a career change; it is a testament to the strength of pursuing passion and prioritising wellness. Her journey underscores the courage to break free from societal norms, emphasising that personal happiness should never be compromised.

In another interview, she says: “My beauty and wellness philosophy would be prioritising the equilibrium of your output and input of physical and mental energy. The more we commit to the hustle and bustle of work and family, the more important it is to prioritise our physical and mental well-being and recovery.”

Beyond being a business, Sommar Beauty Spa symbolises a commitment to well-being — a sanctuary for those seeking balance in a hectic world. It is not just about treatments but about a lifestyle that celebrates the importance of feeling good inside and out. “Be passionate, be confident and believe in your efforts. If there’s a down, there’s an up. And if things don’t work out, I learned something and met some amazing women.”  

Beauty in Bojin

Under the umbrella of Traditional Chinese Medicine remedies, Bojin is a valuable treatment recognised for its ability to stimulate the meridian channels and acupoints, releasing stagnant “chi”, thus improving the flow of “xue”. In layman’s terms, one can expect a release of muscle tension, enhanced blood flow, improved lymphatic drainage and body contouring. 

Unlike gua sha, which leaves scary red marks on the skin, Bojin uses a variety of smooth instruments made from buffalo horns, which are gentler. The process itself is also different. While gua sha scrapes the skin, Bojin applies little zig-zags quickly down the length of your Meridien points. 

While sampling the Pro-Relief Back Bojin — designed to diminish knots and water retention and improve metabolism and energy flow — the pain was felt in the areas that needed the most attention: My neck, shoulder and upper arms.

My therapist, Katherine, worked fast and efficiently, making continuous zig-zag motions down my back, occasionally switching to a wider apparatus for contouring and drainage. I was hit with warming infrared light the entire time to help with circulation and skin toning.

Almost immediately after the 60-minute session, I felt my back heat up like a sun tan to indicate a boost in blood flow. Supposedly, one should see a slimmer back after one session. For me, I noticed my neck hump looked visibly smaller. That night, I slept extremely well but woke up feeling bruised all over.

I also tried Pro-Slim + Tummy Bojin, aimed at detoxifying your insides and relieving issues like constipation, bloating and menstrual irregularities. This 60-minute treatment was less painful, but the constant rubbing on bony areas around the ribs and hip bone tested my endurance. I could not tell if my tummy shrunk after one session, but I did not suffer any bloating that night,and my bowels were smoother.

According to Katherine, monthly or bi-monthly visits are a good form of maintenance. I continue to eat healthy and drink warm water; some weight loss is a bonus. We shall see. 

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