Wendy Siu: Not making a drama out of a crisis
The middle of the Asian financial crisis may not seem the best time to start a luxury lifestyle business in Hong Kong. But that didn’t stop Wendy Siu, a former corporate executive with a passion for dressing up her home.
“It’s never the right time,” says the founder of Heather & March. “I think it was persistence. Once I set the goal, I said, ‘just do it’. We were just a small speciality store to begin with, so I thought I’ll just give it a go.”
Fourteen years later, Siu’s business is thriving as the exclusive agent of a number of high-end tableware and home accessory brands, and the promoter of savoir faire through partnerships with designers, private clients and major corporations. For her efforts, Siu has also been named an Officer of the National Order of Merit, one of the highest civilian honours bestowed by the French Republic.
Born in Hong Kong, Siu was educated in United States, working there and in London before returning home in 1989. “Growing up in Hong Kong, we’ve been taught to work very hard,” she says. And, while she may have left her corporate career with the likes of British Telecom and General Electric behind, Siu still carries with her the same work ethic.
“I’m a busy bee,” she says. “It would be nice if I could find more downtime.”
For Siu, a typical day begins with a spiritual reading followed by a cup of tea on her rooftop among her treasured plants. The rest of her time is spent focusing on managing and growing the business, collaborating with organisations such as the Alliance Française, entertaining clients at favourite restaurants such as Caprice, and promoting “everyday living as an art form”.
“I’m walking the talk,” she says. “The bottom line is home, home, home. That’s how you make your everyday living an art form. You can create your own oasis and sanctuary. Every day when I go home, I just feel so good.” Siu hopes to continue sharing her passion for the home by expanding Heather & March, while remaining a specialist in the art of French living. She credits timing for her ability to establish a lean, efficient operation. “We opened at a time that wasn’t very promising and then encountered so many challenges – the Asian financial crisis, Sars, the market crash of 2008. That we have gone through so many challenges and we’re still here means we are very fit and very strong,” she says.
Those are important qualities to a woman as focused and organised as Siu. “There’s a quote from Abraham Lincoln that really explains my philosophy: ‘I do not think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday’,” she says. “I can’t tolerate complacency, ignorance and stagnation. There’s no excuse for not being better than you were before. You have to make use of your time. Don’t waste it.”