Want to give your little one’s party that personalised, special touch? Kaye Dong from Poppy’s Trunk is here to help!
This Aussie Sassy Mama started off working in the corporate world, which gave her plenty of travel opportunities, eventually leading to a life in Hong Kong. Today, Kaye is a mama of two, and along with two other mamas, the brainchild of kids party design company, Poppy’s Trunk. Kaye shares the story behind her career transition, tips for a top kids party, and at the heart of it all, her family values, and why she and husband decided to become a foster family.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your career background?
Born and educated in Australia, I worked in several different corporate settings straight after university, gaining much needed work and travel experience. But it was the birth of my second daughter, Skyla, in 2010, that motivated me to take the leap and start my own business. I have always loved design and love children so it was only natural that one of my first business ventures was a party design company with two of my best friends here in Hong Kong, Poppy’s Trunk.
How did Poppy’s Trunk begin?
Poppy’s Trunk literally started over a coffee in Wan Chai one afternoon with my two friends and now business partners, Bev and Kate. Amongst the three of us, we have six children. Between us, we’ve attended and hosted a fair share of parties in our time as mothers. Poppy’s Trunk was born out of the idea that there is a need for bespoke and quality party solutions that leave a lasting memory.
We first started designing party papery, such as invitations and cards and have since evolved into a party design company, not only limited to birthday parties but also weddings, corporate events and many other special occasions.
What do you think makes Poppy’s Trunk different from other party brands?
I would definitely say it’s our personalised and very attentive customer service. Every client, every event is different for us, even if it is based on the same theme. Our clients definitely remember us for our attention to detail and dedication to quality.
What’s your best-selling product at Poppy’s Trunk? And your favourite?
That’s easy! Definitely our candy bars. We love putting together candy tables as they are always the highlight of any room. We have designed hundreds of candy bars since we founded Poppy’s Trunk. Whilst the princess and superhero themes are always popular, our design portfolio showcases some really original and beautiful designs such as Vintage Garden Party, Under The Sea and even Lego!
You founded Poppy’s Trunk with two other Hong Kong mums – Kate and Bev. What are your top three tips for working successfully as a team?
- Be honest always and address issues immediately. Communication is key.
- Identify and respect each other’s strengths and weaknesses and define roles very clearly.
- Ensure that everyone in the partnership is aligned with the short term and long term goals. It is also imperative that you share the same core values.
Can you tell us a bit about your family?
My husband and I have been married for over 15 years. We have two daughters, aged 12 and 6 and we have recently opened up our home to become a foster family through Mother’s Choice’s Project Bridge. We are currently taking care of a little baby boy and giving him lots of love and care until he is matched with an adoptive family. This is an especially important and meaningful time in our lives.
We love to travel as a family. The best learning experiences for my children happen when we explore new places and cultures together.
How do you balance work and mama life?
Some people may think that achieving work life balance is about better time management, but I think that it is about making choices and enjoying those choices. Ultimately, the only way I can run a business as well as a family is because I have a really fantastic support network; my husband, my business partners, my friends and my family. I couldn’t do it without them.
Three favourite spots for a kid’s party in Hong Kong?
It really depends on the celebrant’s interest, but here are some of our recent favourite party spots:
- Beach Party at St. Stephen’s Beach
- Picnic Party at Cyberport
- Jump Party at Bounce or Ryze
Read more: The Ultimate Party Planning Guide
What about your go-to family-friendly activities?
- Cycling and picnic at Inspiration Lake
- Hiking at Dragon’s Back
- Island Day Out at Lamma Island or Cheung Chau
Top five tips for a successful kid’s birthday party?
- Confirm your venue early and if your venue is outdoors, consider a back up plan in case of bad weather.
- Send out personalised invitations at least 3- 4 weeks ahead of time.
- Order food appropriate to the time of the party and the age group. If adults are welcome at the party, it is always nice to have some grown up snacks and drinks. You may also want to ask if any children have allergies.
- Plan games and activities – you may wish to host the games yourself or hire a professional.
- Hire a party designer or planner if you wish to take the stress out of hosting a party
This one’s for the mamas: Top spots for a party for mums?
- Spa Party! Gather a few girlfriends and just relax… No phones, no husbands, no kids. We need one of these parties once in a while! My favourite spa at the moment is the Landmark Mandarin Oriental.
- Afternoon tea at Café Grey, The Upper House. Beautiful views, excellent food, great service. Just the mid-day recharge mums need.
How do you save time? Can you share any organisational tips and tricks?
You can’t save time. You can only the most of the time you have.
But my top organisational tip is to make very good use of your calendar. I cannot live without my planner (one that I can scribble in and jot down my daily to-do lists) and my online calendar (where I can set up shared calendars with my PA, my business partners, my husband, my daughter, etc)
I put aside an hour every Sunday night to plan for the week ahead. In order to be able to fit everything in, I plan to the minute. Some people look at my calendar and think that I am crazy. It resembles a Tetris board! But, this is my way of ensuring that I don’t waste any time and I don’t find a full calendar stressful. I actually find it therapeutic!
I also find that I am less stressed in the morning, if I have everything ready the night before, including, picking out my outfit and shoes, packing my gym bag, and charging up my battery packs (I am always running out of battery!).
What do you do to get in that “me” time?
My “ME” time is when all the kids are in bed, the house is dead quiet and I turn on Netflix, grab a can of coke and a packet of chips. Bliss!
What do you find to be the most challenging part of parenting?
I think the most challenging part of parenting is facing criticism and judgement. I don’t let it affect me too much anymore. I trust that I am doing my best and the people who love me know that. That’s all that matters. There are a million and one things people could be critical and judgemental about. If I took all to heart, I would be a very miserable person.
What we all need is a bit more kindness and encouragement.
Favourite family holiday spot?
Our family holiday spot is Koh Samui. We love the food, the people and the warm weather. Since it’s only a 2.5 hour flight, we don’t lose much time travelling at all. We leave the house at 7am and we are in Koh Samui in time for lunch. It’s really great.
What are your favourite spots to eat at with your family in Hong Kong?
One of our favourite restaurants in Hong Kong is Palco Ristorante in Wan Chai. The kids love watching Chef Ken cook his famous cheese pasta right in front of our table. It’s exciting every time!
Can you tell us about how your career was pre-baby as compared to post-baby?
Post-baby has inspired me to pursue my dreams and start my own businesses. Having a family, flexibility and freedom were two very important considerations for me. I wanted to be able to attend my girls’ school performances and I wanted to be able to go on holidays with my family at my leisure.
What’s the best advice you’ve received as a parent?
Our role as parents is not to ensure our kids are happy… Rather it’s to prepare them to find their own happiness.
That you should not smother your babies with too much love as it makes them very attached and clingy. I think this is one of those really weird Chinese traditional parenting tips. In my view, kids grow up too fast. I think it is much more important that they know how loved they are than to learn how to be independent. They have a whole lifetime ahead of them for that.
Something that you wish someone had told you about motherhood?
That there is no such thing as balance, so stop trying to achieve it.
Read more: Keeping up with Kat: The Balancing Act
What has been your most humbling moment as a mum?
My most humbling moment as a mum was when I truly accepted that I cannot design or control my child’s destiny. I have learned to let go of my expectations for them and to allow them to grow freely into their own unique identities, even if at times, I don’t resonate with them. I did not bring them into this world to live my dreams. My role as a mum is to support them to chase their own and be their biggest fan.
How do you keep the romance between you and your husband alive with such a busy work and family life?
Having hectic work schedules as well as two young kids at home, romance as husband and wife can often take a back seat, but we make an effort to go on a couples holiday once a year, as well as date night once or twice a month. Date night usually involves a quick dinner followed by a 2 hour massage!
Favorite date spot in Hong Kong?
We don’t really have a favourite date spot in Hong Kong. But as mentioned above, we do like our spas. So, every now and then, we will book ourselves in for a 2-3 hour couples spa session.
As a mama, I wish I were better at…
Cooking. I wish I had the patience and skill for it. Sometimes I feel like I am not “mama” enough because I don’t cook. I am sure that if I put my mind to it, I could whip up a decent enough meal for my family and friends, but, unlike most people who find the cooking process enjoyable and even relaxing, I find it extremely stressful and messy. Thankfully, I have a household of many talented cooks, one of which is my husband (although sadly for us, his work schedule doesn’t allow him to cook for us every night!).
I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about…
I am, by nature, a very light sleeper. So, if something is on my mind, such as an important deadline or a sick child, I generally do not sleep very well.
Bedtime is always smoother when…
Bedtime is always smoother for me when I have picked out my outfit and packed everything I need for the next day.
My favourite moment of the day is…
Sunset. There is something very romantic and beautiful about that time of the day. It is the time to slow down and give thanks for our amazing life.