From modelling to motherhood, Mehroo has embraced and enjoyed every stage of her life!
Stepping away from the glamour world after a successful run as a model and international beauty pageant contestant, Mehroo Turel (nee Mistry) chose a more grounded approach to life. She married her childhood sweetheart (literally the boy-next-door!), had children and gave up her high-powered corporate career in sales and marketing to pursue her new role as a full-time mum. In time, she has gradually built a brand, SUMMER, selling clothes that reflect her own style of smart casualness. We find out more about her interesting journey.
Tell us how you came to live in Hong Kong?
I was born and brought up in Mumbai, India. After my Masters in Business Administration, I worked there for six years before I decided to quit to become a full-time mother to my then two-year-old son. The transfer to Hong Kong through my husband’s job happened then. My youngest son was born here in the Matilda Hospital. We moved to London soon after he turned one, lived there for about two years and as luck would have it, my husband then got transferred back to Hong Kong.
You started your career as a model. Do you miss the glamour world?
Modelling helped me gain a certain confidence in myself, learning how to talk, walk and interact with complete strangers. I was just 16 and it did not come naturally, but I learnt the ropes as I went along. The Miss India beauty pageant was a natural step from modelling. I was never serious about competing, but I was excited when I got into the final round of selection.
Modelling was fun and paid good money, but I knew it wouldn’t become my career. I needed something more challenging that exercised my mind. And so, I took up an MBA and modelling slowed down as studies took over. I don’t miss any of it, though I did enjoy it while it lasted.
What parts of your life and journey have you most enjoyed?
I believe that life is short and we have to enjoy the opportunities it gives. So, I did just that. Fell in love truly, madly, deeply, got married and had kids!
Honestly, I wasn’t a baby person and preferred animals. All that changed when I became a mum. Suddenly I was at the command of one tiny human being and it was an overwhelming feeling. From being level-headed and practical, suddenly I was an emotional wreck! It was as if I had opened up a new part in my heart that never existed; it was demanding, fun and exhilarating! All my hard work climbing the corporate ladder didn’t seem to matter anymore and that’s why I finally decided to resign.
You seem proud of your Indian heritage and community. How do you stay in touch with your roots in Hong Kong?
At school in India, I always took part in the Independence day march every year! Even today when I hear our National Anthem, I stand up and feel proud of my nation. Recently I started a Facebook group called “Indian Mums in HK” to bring Indian mums in the city together and to support each other.
My family belongs to the world’s oldest mono atheistic religion – Zoroastrianism. Our ancestors were from Persia (of which modern day Iran is a part) who sought refuge in Western India where they came to be known as Parsis. This is an interesting story (that I’ve heard countless times from my grandfather!) – when these strange looking refugees first arrived in a small town in India, they asked the ruler for a glass of milk filled to the brim and some sugar. They then added the sugar to the milk to demonstrate how they would be like sugar in milk, adding sweetness but never causing disruption.
Parsis are proud of their contribution to society and their philanthropic activities. In fact, in Hong Kong too, from founding the Star Ferry to the Ruttonjee Hospital, from contributing to the University of Hong Kong and co-founding HSBC, Parsis have played a significant role in the city’s progress. So yes, I am proud of our community and our roots and both my husband and I have always encouraged our sons to learn more about our culture.
What’s the most fun and challenging part of being a mum to two highly opinionated boys? (I believe you had to get their permission before this piece!)
I loved the young mum phase. As they are growing older, the challenges are new and very different. I work from home and don’t have a full-time helper, so I have always been around for them. I find it hard to let go and yet I know that it’s time to do just that. We have raised them to be independent, responsible individuals, part of which is giving them a voice for their opinions.
Whom do your boys take after?
Personality wise, the elder one is a mix of both of us – reserved, hard-working and happy in his own company. The younger one is very different – feisty, full of energy and passion –the loudest baby crying in the hospital!
What are your favourite things to do with your sons?
A few years ago, it was taking them to the park, zoo, beach, playground…anywhere outdoors! Now it’s very different. Hong Kong Cricket Club (HKCC) is our favourite go-to place as a family. We also like going to the movies and doing family movie nights with popcorn, chips, cheese, wine (for my husband and I!), and, of course, a Netflix movie.
What would you say the most rewarding thing about being a mum is?
Watching them grow into little men, having their own personality and listening to their views about things. I started writing a personal blog 6 years ago. I called it “From Miss India to Motherhood” to cover the journey of my life from then to now, from now till the future. Some of the most rewarding times with my kids have been documented there.
What do you like about Hong Kong, personally and professionally?
I love the mix of nature with city life. One can cross the road and take off for a hike into the hills and leave the madness behind in a few minutes. I love the old parts of Hong Kong. I enjoy languages and took up the challenge of learning Cantonese when I moved here. I can get away with a few phrases and can do quite well at a wet market if I have to.
Also, though it’s very transient and we do lose old friends, new friends are easy to make! I love the nightlife and food too. Professionally, HK is very encouraging to start a new business. With low investment and a small city to cover, it isn’t very difficult to make a start.
Tell us more about SUMMER and Mums@PLAY.
SUMMER started a few years ago when friends used to praise my casual cotton clothes and I started bringing in a few for them. I realised that running a business worked well with managing a family and home, so I put in some investment and time and built up the brand. I used to do small home events while the kids were younger, but as they grew older I started doing external bazaars. I started meeting other “mumtrepreneurs” and realised that we were all facing the same issues. I set up Mums@PLAY to help build this community by offering an opportunity for mums like myself to showcase their products and services. That is how the first Mums@PLAY Bazaar was launched at El Charro in Cyberport. We received lots of support and have had many more bazaars since.
Mums@PLAY also organises workshops to support these mums with experts talking to us about topics related to small businesses; accountancy, Facebook marketing, designing on Canva, selling through Shopify, etc.
What’s next for SUMMER and Mums@PLAY?
I am trying to become more accessible to my customers. Besides the regular bazaars and pop-ups that I organise and participate in, I have set up an online shop with free delivery anywhere in the city. Besides this, SUMMER is now available at retail outlets in Ozzie Cozzie (Central), the HKCC club shop and the Parkview clubhouse.
With Mums@PLAY, I aim to bring in more events. I’m scouting for new venues to keep the cost low for price-sensitive small business owners while planning marketing activities to attract a bigger crowd.
What would be your top tips to other mums who might be looking to start a new business?
Go with your passion! Starting up here is easy but sustaining it after a year or two is where the problem lies. During those tough times, if you have a product that you truly believe in, then you will continue to persevere despite all odds.
How do you balance running a successful small business, with being a mum?
Planning! I plan out my calendar a week or two in advance so I know exactly what to schedule in and when and how to do my household chores. I carry my laptop and work when I go to my younger son’s activities.
Of course, I’m not superhuman, so friends help out a lot. My boys are supportive too and understand that mummy can’t be at home sometimes and manage all duties by themselves. My younger son loves my business and is also my favourite photographer for my SUMMER photo shoots! But most of all I couldn’t have done it without the love and support of my husband, who bears the brunt of all my work frustrations, is my financial backup and advisor, my logistics manager and someone I can absolutely lean on. He looks after the boys, cooks and cleans when I am gone for my bazaars and manages the house like a pro!
After a long day, what’s your favourite way to unwind?
With a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, on my couch and my boys beside me (all three!) while watching a family-favourite movie.