The managing director of the widely popular Danish furniture line, BoConcept, Joanne Chow sits down with Sassy Mama to chat about how she manages a full time job while spending time with her growing family…
This Sassy Mama was born and bred in Hong Kong and has always had that entrepreneur spirit running in her blood as her family has owned their own business for generations. Being brought up in a hard working, ambitious and driven environment has instilled quality work ethics that Joanne lives by today. Joanne shares about how she brought BoConcept to Hong Kong as well as how her growing family seems to correlate with each professional milestone she makes!
Can you talk us through your career pre- and post-babies?
I was born and raised in Hong Kong and went to school at HKIS. I furthered my studies in the States at Syracuse University in Public Relations and Policy Studies. Post formal studies, I moved to London and worked for media agencies before returning to Hong Kong to work for my family business, Aussco.
Aussco is a long established trading and knitwear manufacture founded by my grandfather, 50+ years ago. We focus on high-end and fast fashion European brands. My parents taught me everything about running a business, and most important, being a wife, a daughter, and a mother. They have helped shape my philosophy and have a huge impact on my beliefs.
Based on my personal experience trying to find furniture for my brother in Hong Kong (he also helps run the family business but is based in China most of the time), I realised there was a gap in mid-end furniture and started talking to BoConcept’s global and regional leadership about representing them in Hong Kong.
For me, many important milestones happened all at once when I decided to establish my own business four years ago. While I experienced many years of frustration trying to conceive, it happened when I decided to devote my time to my passion and work. In my case, I launched the BoConcept brand and HK flagship store around the time I had my first daughter, Gabrielle.
And, I’m grateful to say that while I have continued to scale the retail business, I have been blessed with the birth of my second child, Zachery. Zachary was born over half a year before the opening of our second store in Shatin.
While I have always wanted a large family, I didn’t expect things to happen all so quickly. My husband and I joke about it now. As we realise, the myth of taking time off and relaxing is not relevant to us.
Instead, the busier we got, the more fertile I became! I am due to have my third child in May, with three kids under the age of four, I am sure we are in for an amazing journey. Hopefully, with some luck and a lot of planning, the third store will open upon before the first birthday of our third child.
While it’s been incredibly difficult to grow both my business, my family’s business, and my family at the same time, I have only been able to do it with the support of my wonderful husband, family and friends.
How did you get back into the swing of things after having children?
With each of my babies, I’ve taken 2 – 3 months off to adjust to all of the changes and I see it as critical to my sanity. One month of 100% no calls, meetings or distractions: it’s just about me and my family. I’ll then ease back into work slowly and have an essential network of help to get me through the transition. Emotionally it’s hard for me to be away from the kids but I love my work and wouldn’t change a thing.
Can you tell us a bit about what you do at BoConcept?
BoConcept is one of Denmark’s most global retail furniture chain with more than 340 sales units in more than 50 countries around the world. BoConcept offers customised, coordinated and affordable design furniture and accessories. I am committed to develop and expand BoConcept in Hong Kong, which makes me responsible for strategic brand development & the business planning process. We aim to be one of the leading HK interiors brands in the next 2-3 years.
How did you get involved with BoConcept?
I negotiated the rights to BoConcept three years ago when I was looking for furniture on behalf of my brother, a bachelor moving into a new home for the first time. I have always been interested in partnering with reputable brands and this exciting and unusual opportunity has helped me appreciate lifestyle products in a different manner. I am a strong believer in brand integrity and authenticity so I spend a lot of time in developing the in-store experience as well as after sales service.
Favourite interior designer and why?
I love our in store stylist team. They are passionate and always eager to propose new solutions to our customers. I believe it takes time to accumulate maturity and understanding of what you want and the team is readily available to help. I also admire the work of many local designers but, as I represent a Scandinavian brand, I have converted to timeless pieces that stand the test of time.
Favourite place to find affordable art prints?
My sister is a huge art fan, she usually finds lots of great original art prints online.
What are some of your favourite must have pieces to complete a home?
It’s particularly important to find some downtime with a comfortable sofa or lounge chair. Everyone needs a space to just chill. I believe in spending money on essential pieces and then dress up the rest accordingly. In the bedroom, invest in a solid mattress and bed; in the dining room, a nice dining table and chairs with a nice side table; in the living room, it’s always about the best sofa and media unit. The one thing I find hard to complete a home is the lack of shoe cabinets! Perhaps it’s a female problem but ’til this day, I have yet to find a nice decent shoe cabinet.
What advice would you give parents who want to keep the aesthetic of their home a certain way while maintaining elements of fun for the kid’s bedrooms?
Build lots of storage to maintain some sanity in kid’s bedroom. Also find lots of their art and create great pieces to place around the house. They love to have their paintings on display.
Do you have a morning routine and if so how does it help you start your day on the right foot?
A good breakfast is always a great way to start the morning. I also like to spend half an hour clearing emails before my day gets hectic.
Do you have some favourite family-friendly restaurants in Hong Kong?
We’re not very creative when it comes to dining options. As we are in Pok Fu Lam with little ones, we often frequent Aberdeen Marina Club, where I have been a member since I was a teenager. It’s probably the most family friendly club around although it can be a little crazy on weekends. For non-club restaurants, the kids like to go with us everywhere from The Pawn to Lee Gardens.
Where do you love spending time with your family in Hong Kong that’s fun for everyone?
I often look for school fairs and fun art and craft events to take my kids on weekends. I have a bunch of great and friendly neighbours with kids around the same age that keep me in the loop of things around town. Having a community is essential to a work and life balance.
Favourite family-friendly holiday spots in Asia?
My husband and I love to golf so recently we ventured to Jeju and Danang with the family. Both of which offer direct flights as well as good facilities for kids.
What do you do when you need some ‘me’ time?
I am a fan of the occasional staycation and spa. We have checked into a few hotels previously. While I like to plan ahead for most holidays, I leave occasional last minute weekends to spend time with my husband. When I leave for business, I leave an extra day to spend some no-guilt ‘me’ time to indulge.
Favourite date night spots in Hong Kong?
We have been exploring a lot of new restaurants around Kennedy Town.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received as a parent?
Kids can teach you so much on a daily basis as they open up to what they are feeling. I have been particular inspired by the Dalton method.
My favourite moment of the day is…
Right before the kids go off to bed. The kid’s bedtime routine is great, watching them get ready, see them light up with fascination over simple stories, and seek comfort in our arms is the best moment of the day.
Joanne and her husband, along with their children, Gabrielle and Zachery welcomed a baby boy to their family on Tuesday, 3 May, 2016! Congratulations!