Founder and creative director of Happyology, Jessie Gao, talks family life and the secrets behind her growing business
What’s the story behind Happyology?
Happyology founder Jessie Gao told us: “I was born and raised in Ningbo in China, where my parents had a business making childrenswear. As a little girl I always had quality clothes to wear, and would play among the fabric piles and run through the sample room as if it was my own wardrobe.
“But the real drive was my little sister, who is now eight. I always love dressing her up, but here in the UK it was difficult to find quality, beautiful, affordable and not-so-high-street childrenswear. Not long after I’d graduated with a master’s degree in engineering in 2014, I moved back to my family house in Brighton and opened up my own design studio.
“I spent 2015 setting up our factory in Ningbo, and when in Brighton, I organised my technical team, office and design studio while designing and sampling my first collection. I opened my first shop in Leamington Spa in December 2016, then a second shop in Brighton in April 2016, and finally launched the Happyology website in spring 2016.
“As soon as we opened our first shop, people seemed to love our design concept and were so amazed by our quality and affordability. The popularity of the brand has been since spread both locally and internationally.”
Describe a typical day for you…
“My colleagues always say I am too busy! Due to time difference, I always start my day early and speak with our factory to check on production and address any outstanding issues. I then check emails and deal with daily matters. I usually design in the evenings, when I can focus properly.”
Do you have a favourite Happyology shop, and why?
“It’s hard to pick one shop as each one means so much to me. Every project receives my full attention, from picking a location, to designing, sourcing furniture and going through the fitting process.”
Any advice for anyone wanting to start their own business?
“Have determination and persistence! In the initial stages you may have times when you want to give up, but you have push yourself, learn from mistakes and embrace all obstacles.”
What has been your proudest moment since setting up?
“I love encountering happy customers, whether it’s in store or online. I very rarely work in the shop these days, but I still try to squeeze some time in as I love meeting people face to face and being able to hear first-hand feedback from them. It’s good to know what we’re doing right and what can be improved.”
If you could open another store, where would it be?
“We have plans to expand both nationally and internationally. Next in our sights is Singapore, which will be opening in August this year and is where my parents and sister currently live.
“After that, I have Japan and China on my list. In the UK, we’re aiming to open further shops in towns and cities such as Cambridge and York, where I’ve lived previously.”
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
“We’re very excited to launch our AW18 collection in early September! This includes our special Mummy & Me range, which features a couple of maternity and ladies’ styles. We’ve also just completed the design and sampling for SS19, and the factory in Ningbo will be starting the production on this soon.”