Anthea shares her tips on how to combine motherhood with running a successful small business.
For Anthea Cooper, her love affair with jewellery started at a very young age and has grown and blossomed ever since. After taking two years to think about and design her own line, she launched Anthea Cooper Jewellery in 2018. In less than two years, she has earned herself a formidable reputation and a loyal fan following. She’s managed to build her business at the same time as raising two lovely and energetic children, who know just how to keep her on her toes, so we asked Anthea to share her mama and work-life tips with us.
Tell us a little bit about your journey – where you were born, brought up and how you ended up in Hong Kong.
I was born in Dubai to Anglo-Indian (mixed British & Indian ancestry) parents, but moved to Australia when I was six years old. I have a younger brother and have fond memories of growing up with him and our 10 cousins. All my Dad’s family moved from India to Australia so not only did I have a strong Australian influence growing up, I had an Anglo-Indian one too. I left Australia in 2008 to follow my now-husband around the world for his career. Hong Kong is the 4th country we’ve lived in together outside of Australia.
Are your kids multicultural and multilingual? Do they feel a connection with their home country?
We just got back from a long vacation in Australia and try to go back home once or twice a year. It is important to us for our children to be connected with our family back home. Our kids are definitely multicultural with the travel we do, the food we eat, friends we spend time with and being in an international school. This year I plan to start some Mandarin lessons for them and every Christmas we make a traditional Anglo-Indian sweet (kulkul) together, which I used to make with my mum as a child.
How and where did you start your business? How easy has it been?
I launched Anthea Cooper here in Hong Kong in May 2018 after two years of research and development. Hong Kong has been great for starting a business, not only are there many jewellery shows, but there are also a lot of opportunities to connect with other women in business. The hardest part at the start was finding the confidence to launch, the right manufacturers and deciding what kind of jewellery I wanted to design and be known for.
Have you always been interested in jewellery and jewellery design? Is this your professional qualification as well?
I’ve always been interested in jewellery as I grew up with my mum, grandma and aunts sharing and gifting their jewellery with me. My mum had such a big collection and I loved to rummage through it all. I always made sure I was wearing a piece of jewellery before leaving the house (and still do)! I loved that my ears were pierced when I was a baby – an Indian tradition. My dream was to be a designer of some kind, but I studied business marketing instead for many reasons. It wasn’t until Jordan was born that I did a jewellery design course at Gemlab in the Philippines, a jewellery and gemology training centre. I loved it and decided I wanted to start designing my own pieces.
What’s on the cards next for the business?
This year I’ll be focusing on the online side of the business and looking at possibilities for some retail outlets. My Floral Escape collection is doing really well at the Four Seasons Spa in Hong Kong and I’d like to expand that. I also have a new collection coming out in March, which is quite different from my last collection, so I’m very excited about that! It takes a good six months to develop a new collection.
Where did you meet your husband?
We met in a bar 13.5 years ago in Melbourne. An interesting fact – he proposed to me in Kew Gardens in London, when we were living there. Then, as a surprise, flew me to New York that very same day for a long weekend to pick out my ring from a designer I loved called Cathy Waterman (you can see I love my jewellery!).
With two kids under 7, how do you manage to maintain a work-life balance?
It’s definitely not easy and, at times, I find I’m not present enough or feel guilty I’m not doing enough (sometimes staying up late to get things done!). This year, I’ve been working on changing my routine, including waking up earlier, so I can achieve more in the day and be more present when I’m not working.
How is your support system here? Not just for your work, but also parenting.
It’s been great here in Hong Kong. When I first arrived, I attended a couple of playgroups promoted on Sassy Mama and met some lovely women who I’m still friends with today! My building also has a great supportive group and the kids’ schools, of course. For work, there are lots of networking groups, workshops and events to attend that have helped me connect with other entrepreneurs.
What do you most enjoy about living here?
I think I’d have to say the expat community and how easy it’s been to meet people and make those important connections. It’s really helped me and the family settle in more easily.
Who has most influenced your parenting style?
I have to say, mostly my friends. When my children were babies I followed the Save our Sleep book by Tizzie Hall, which was given to me by a friend. This really worked for me and I highly recommend it if you are into establishing a routine. Another good friend recommended I check out Janet Lansbury’s No Bad Kids, when I was struggling with Jordan as a toddler, which helped a lot.
How similar or different are your children?
They are both energetic, creative and adventurous and I can see them being best friends. Jordan is also very good at convincing his sister to do what he wants. Over Christmas, I decided we would all get matching PJs and went to Peter Alexander, a well-known pyjama store in Australia. Out of all the options there, Jordan really wanted the Grinch ones. Sienna didn’t like any of the options (she’s very picky at the moment, even right down to her socks!) so I decided we would have to keep looking. Jordan spent a day convincing her about the Grinch ones, telling her there is a rainbow unicorn inside him and he turns into an elf at night time. In the end he managed to convince her, so we all got some and wore them in the lead up to Christmas and on Christmas day!
What do you enjoy about bringing up your kids in HK? Is there anything you miss when you compare it to your childhood?
Hong Kong can be great for kids as it has a mix of things to see and do. We love the parks, beaches, sight-seeing, ferry and tram rides, child-friendly restaurants and having a pool in our building.
I do miss having a backyard, because that’s where I used to spend a lot of my childhood, and would love that for my kids. I try to keep them active and connected to nature as much as possible. We are often at playgrounds and parks, when the weather allows.
What do you enjoy most about being a mum?
Being able to be a child again where I can be silly and playful, and dance like no one is watching. I also learn a lot from them and have grown into a much more mindful and calmer person.
What is most challenging about being a mum?
Finding the time and energy at times to just play! My kids get disappointed when I’m not up for it. I want to see them always happy and it’s hard to not feel guilty when I don’t have the time.
After a long day, what’s your favourite way to unwind?
I have to say my vice is Netflix! I get hooked on a series and love a good movie. My other favourite way to unwind is Yoga, but I often do this to start the day or before lunch for a break, rather than at the end of a long day.
What are your top three tips for mum-entrepreneurs in the city?
- Believe in yourself. If you are passionate about what you are doing other people will see that too. Don’t be afraid of failure, it’s what makes you stronger. There will be challenges but you won’t always know them in advance, just take it one step at a time.
- Ask for advice and get the help you need from people who have the connections and experience in areas you don’t. I also love to attend short workshops, listen to podcasts and have found some short online courses to help with things I’m not familiar with.
- Connect with other women in business and find a support network. It’s important to get outside your head and talk out loud about your ideas, to network and have fun as well! My husband and friends in business have been great. I joined Female Entrepreneurs Worldwide, where I have met some lovely women and made good friends and I also recently joined Tribe Hong Kong.