Inspiring Women Edition 1: Our Founder Jo
We’re kicking off an exciting new series where we feature inspirational women within the Henkaa community, from our employees, our customers, partners and friends of the brand. Everyday we feel motivated to embrace the richness of life in large part because of the example these women have set and we want to share their story.
We couldn’t have thought of a better person to launch this initiative with than our Founder Joanna Chang (who friends, families and colleagues call Jo, so you can too). We sat down with Jo to speak briefly about launching a business, work-life balance, and the people who inspire her.
What motivated you to launch Henkaa? Most specifically what series of thoughts and events led you to the point where you wanted to create and devote your time and energy to a fashion and lifestyle brand?
At a time when almost everyone I knew was getting married, I was asked to be a bridesmaid for the sixth time! I never wore the dresses I had to buy again and on top of that, airlines were just beginning to charge for checked luggage. I hated that I would have to pay and I hated even more that I never seemed to know what to wear no matter how many things I had in my closet. That’s when it hit me – convertible / multifunctional apparel that would enable you to do more with less. When I couldn’t find what I wanted in the market with the right design, price or quality, I decided to do something about it and started Henkaa.
I remember my first time debuting a Henkaa Convertible Dress at a friend’s wedding as a guest. I arrived at the venue and as I walked over to my table, I noticed another guest wearing the same color and style dress! We were both in this purple asymmetric one shoulder dress. I freaked out for a moment but lucky for me, I was able to run to the restroom to quickly change my style. In that restroom, as I was unwrapping and rewrapping my dress, I had a small audience watching in amazement. Ladies started asking where and when they could get one and talked about how many times they’d wished they had a magically transforming dress! That’s really the moment that I realized that this brand wouldn’t just be about a dress; it would be about solving real challenges and problems that women face on a daily basis.
You did a gorgeous photoshoot with your family last year. As an entrepreneur, how are you able to prioritize your husband and children with the demands of running a business? What have been your greatest challenges?
People talk a lot about “balance” these days and if you ask me, honestly I would say that it doesn’t really exist. To think that you can always maintain this state of equilibrium between work and life is a really hard goal or standard to set. I think “prioritize” is definitely the right way to put it instead, as that’s what it seems to be on a week to week or even day to day basis. It flip flops back and forth – you have to go all in with family some days like when the kids are sick, or all business when you have a trade show or important deadline coming up.
It’s realizing what is most critical in the present and tackling that first and foremost. Further to that, I would say the greatest challenge is staying in the present while simultaneously having to consider future demands – especially in terms of financial, technological and human capital. Things are changing so fast these days and it’s crazy trying to stay on top of everything!
In the spirit of paying it forward, who would you say have been the most inspirational women in your life? What specifically about them would you credit with influencing you?
Admittedly, a lot of my mentors and inspirational figures used to be male – until I became a Mom-preneur and realized there’s a whole other dimension involved with being a mom and business owner. Nowadays, I am very much inspired by highly successful women like Arlene Dickinson (businesswoman, author and former investor on Dragons Den), Angela Jia Kim (founder of Savor the Success) and Doris Christopher (founder of Pampered Chef).
These women are all mothers, rock star business women and most admirably, still find a way to give back and build communities that support others. Having these women as examples makes me believe that anything is possible – not easy, but possible.