This month’s That Mama is Reyna Harilela, co-founder of luxury fashion and lifestyle PR and events agency Bonvivant & Bellavita Ltd. and mum to three gorgeous girls. We chat to Reyna about her favourite family-friendly places in Hong Kong, how to turn a hobby into a business and why bedtime is the best part of her day!
Can you tell us a little about yourself and your career?
I was born and brought up in Manila, Philippines. My father settled there when he was just a teenager and worked for his uncle in Zamboanga, South of the Philippines. He later married my mom in India and settled in Manila. I had 3 other siblings and we all went to Catholic schools. My life in Manila wasn’t so easy, we were from a middle class family and dad had a small import-export company trading in children’s clothing and Philippine products. The country was going through a revolution in 1986 and Ferdinand Marcos was ousted out of the Philippines. My dad’s business failed as the currency was no longer stable so my dad’s company suffered a big loss. My mom and I left to stay with my grandmother in Pune, India for a year but in between I had met Mahesh when I was just 16 and decided to marry at just 18 years of age.
Can you talk us through your career pre and post babies? How did you get back into the swing of things after having children?
Honestly, my career kind of just fell into my lap. I was 19 when I had my first daughter, Nadia, so there wasn’t even any time for school back then. It was only when Nadia was 4 years old that I completed courses at university here in Hong Kong. I ended up helping out my family by just casually assisting them host events from time to time, and out of nowhere my sister and I decided we should make this a real business. Nadia was 15 when we did, so it was about 3 years after I had my last baby girl, Naomi. At that point, I had already seen two children grow up so I figured I could do this. I never thought I’d be working, but it was more a hobby that turned into a business. And here I am today, still working 10 years later.
How do you balance work and motherhood?
This part is tough. Thankfully, two of my kids are older now and can completely take care of themselves, but I have one little girl still at home. My wish is that I could be there to pick her up from school and to spend more time with her, but most of the time I have no idea where I’m going to be throughout the week. Running an events company is hard because your hours are not structured. I work late into the night on most evenings and that’s when my daughter is out of school. I try to manage this by spending all weekend with her.
How do you work fitness and ‘me-time’ into your life?
Fitness isn’t optional for me. I just believe in being healthy overall, and it’s something that’s never changed since I was 18. I work out most days a week. Mostly when I wake up I immediately get dressed in workout clothes since that motivates me to just get it done!
How do you save time? What are your organisational tips and tricks?
I honestly feel like I never have time. When I do, I need to sleep.
Do you have any tips for aspiring “mamapreneurs” and other working mamas in Hong Kong?
Decide what is important to you, and lead with that. Work always comes and goes, but your time with your kids is the most valuable. When you find a way to be able to prioritise your family while being able to enjoy doing what you love while at work then you strike the perfect balance. Starting out is always hard because you’re a lot more work-heavy. But once you get your business up and running, having the flexibility in your day makes a whole world of difference. Stay strong, stick it out, the benefits outweigh the costs eventually!
What’s your favourite thing to do with your kids in Hong Kong?
My girls and I love to eat! One-on-one trips with the girls are my favourite, too. For Nadia’s 13th birthday we took her to Sydney, I also spent ages in London with her, I have spent a month in LA with Kyara, and now I’m headed to Japan for a while with my youngest, Naomi! This gives me a chance to bond with the girls one by one.
Top family restaurants in Hong Kong?
Osteria and Loong Yuen at the Holiday Inn Golden Mile are always our first choices because they’re close to home but occasionally Nadaman, 298 Nikuya Room and the Jockey Club in Shatin are also my personal favourites.
Favourite place to go on holiday as a family?
Bali is always a favourite place to go in the summer as well as Brisbane, Australia to visit my family.
Favourite date-night restaurants?
Gaia – it has always been a favourite and Pino never disappoints! We’ve spent many anniversaries at Morton’s as well with all three girls. Post dinner we head to Dragon-I especially on Thursdaysnights!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received as a parent?
My parents and in-laws would always say never scold your children! Which is not such a good advice if they had done something terrible. But they would also say to tell your kids how much you love them. This advice never gets old. The best advice I can give is to hug them, give them a big kiss and say I love you to each one everyday.
As a mama I wish I were better at…
Spending time cooking dinner for my kids. It’s always so rare when I do, and all the kids always talk about how much they love my cooking, but I just never have time!
My most humbling mama moment was…
When all my daughters mentioned to their friends over a conversation that I was their “Supermom”.
One thing I won’t sacrifice as a mama is…
Spending time with my daughters and my in-laws. We have such a big family and I will never compromise to spend time with them, my family is more important to me.
I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about….
If I have locked all the doors and windows!
Even when my children have families of their own, I’ll still…
Always be there for them and take care of their children one day!
My favourite moment of the day is…
Bedtime. It’s quiet and it’s where I can sort out my thoughts and reflect on what I have achieved that day and plan for the next.
I always feel saner after…
A nice glass of wine.
I wish I had more time for…
A full-body massage.
Bedtime is always smoother when…
I have read a passage from Joel Osteen’s “Your Best Life” before I shut my eyes.