An interview with Sheila Wan, founder of Paper & Tea
Can you tell us about yourself and what you do?
Hello. I am Sheila Wan, a Hong Konger and graduate of The Hong Kong PolyTechnic University. I have been working in the fashion industry as a designer and buyer as well as in product development for over 15 years. My personality is carefree, outgoing, adaptable and sometimes quirky; and I love art, movies and going to music festivals. I guess I am a go-with-the flow kind of girl.
I was brought up in a single parent family, so my bond with my sister and brother is very strong. Like my mum, I like recycling things. I was quite the wild child when I was young, being the youngest the family, because I liked to explore so many different things without any planning. Just like I never thought of being a mum. When I became a mum, I was multitasking to the extreme, and I’ve always been known as a multi-task person. My mind would never stop thinking about any possible ideas, and so now I have learnt to plan better because I need to make sure there is always time to play with my son and do the dishes while managing my work.
Currently, I’m the co-founder of few businesses. They are related to Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM soups, eco / ocean friendly natural skin products, wellness & sustainable lifestyle products, and they are all mainly online stores. I have to manage my time well as I have quite a lot to do for the company as I am involved in everything.
How did you get into your line of work?
During 2019, my son’s first year, there was lots of nap time for him which meant I had plenty of time to do my work and research on all those ideas in my mind; plus with the COVID quarantine rules and being kept at home mostly, I had the time. As a new mum, I was really looking for ways to relax and get more healthy, so I started to create my own wellness online store. To start with, I started contacting independent labels from overseas which are environmental friendly and carried hand-crafted products. I wanted to create an online store which would only carry eco-friendly and natural products. I also wanted to do find tea products which are organic as well as eco-friendly because I love drinking tea and it is a huge market for healthy beverages with so many benefits to the health and wellness for the mind too. And that’s when I found Paper & Tea. I was fascinated by their philosophy and aesthetics, the art of culture behind Paper & Tea. At first, I approached Paper & Tea in Berlin, armed with my business plan and discussed the possibilities of introducing them to the Hong Kong market.
My idea was to bring the Paper & Tea culture to Hong Kong, and let it infuse into our local culture of food lovers and tea drinkers and create a lifestyle, rather than just selling an overseas brand. My focus was more on the diversity of the modern tea culture and how we can promote and play with it in Hong Kong, as well as to support small local businesses. So right now, you can see we partnered with a local florist to make Mother’s Day gift hampers with Paper & Tea products.
What are your top entrepreneurial tips?
Keep an open mind and always think about different perspectives. Do not take people around you for granted. Everything starts small but you have to think big. It doesn’t matter if others did it before or not. Do good to the environment. Be grounded. For those of you who are like me, and I’m still a work in progress on this front,
as a mum/entrepreneur, I guess you just have to stop worrying too much and learn to enjoy the present and embrace different emotions.
What’s your proudest achievement so far?
My son, Kieron Lam is my proudest achievement. He is sweet and playful, cheeky but kind. Being a mum sometimes feels more like I am parenting myself. After the first year of struggles and feeling inadequate, I am now better and have more clarity on what I need to do for myself, my family, and my son and how to teach Kieron good values.
Looking back now, the establishment of my business has made me proud of myself for not giving up during the hard times and committing myself will full dedication. Like what my mum would always say: if times are hard you just suck it up and deal with it.
What’s next for you?
For the Paper & Tea business, we have some workshops lined up in collaboration with art galleries to do some art jam workshops and a product launch in June for a local hand-crafted kombucha tea. Also on my list are some interesting projects for myself, for example, I’ve been thinking about pursuing a professional qualification in TCM as well as cultivating more tea knowledge, and of course travelling to Berlin to meet the Paper & Tea team and visit their headquarters! Last but not least, I will have to start looking into Primary Schools for my son.
All images courtesy of Sheila Wan.
Paper and Tea: