The founder of ANDRSN Flowers tells us about achieving a work, life and mental-health balance in a time of pandemic, and how dressing starts from the bottom up
It may seem as if Jessi Chloe Chen, florist, entrepreneur and mental-health innovator, has it all, even if juggling multiple businesses takes a certain level of determination and commitment. We spoke at-length about her passion for making a difference in the mental health space, all things roses and bad shoes.
What’s it like being an entrepreneur?
I wouldn’t classify myself as a serial entrepreneur. I’ve always worked for companies and in tandem started my own businesses, so I’ve always straddled that line. For the most part, being an entrepreneur is exciting, fulfilling and can be very hard – all at the same time. It takes consistent motivation, creativity and a lot of time and effort to see it grow. One thing that’s held true for me is that it’s important to surround yourself with like-minded people, whether in business or personally, who are doing interesting things, and feeding off that energy. When you’re running your own business, you need both inspiration and aspiration.
What was your inspiration in starting these businesses?
ANDRSN Flowers was born out my love for flora and minimalist design. Beautiful flowers – roses especially – were always apparent in my upbringing in Australia, be it in the botanical gardens across the road from my school or in my own backyard. I wanted to transport and curate that special experience and bring it to Hong Kong. I’ve also always loved giving, and I wanted to provide a bespoke service that delivers expressions of appreciation, love and care in the form of beautifully boxed roses. When I first started, I saw a gap in the market for floral bouquets that were affordable yet maintained premium quality and a more modern aesthetic, and I think ANDRSN is a contemporary solution for Hong Kong customers seeking that.
With Talking Mental, it was my friend Aaron Stadlin-Robbie, the founder of the company, who approached me back in 2018. It started off with Aaron sharing the mental-health struggles he’d been dealing with at the time – and in turn I was like, “Me too!” The conversation quickly turned to how I could be involved as a partner, helping with branding, marketing and business development. Talking Mental is essentially a quick-start guide to understanding and dealing with mental health in general. We began with a series of online podcasts and short videos and have now evolved into a content-creation platform that includes live events and workshops that address all matters involving mental health. It’s mind-blowing that one in four of us will be affected by mental-health issues at some point in our lives and that one in six Hong Kong residents have a mental-health disorder. We’ve found that not only is it hard to find the right help, but it’s also incredibly costly and very inaccessible to a lot of the community. Our mission is to fill that void in resources within the realm of mental health. We work with companies, schools and individuals to create a safe, informal, accessible and informative environment, talking about mental-health issues with experts and doctors in the field. By doing this we hope to provide people in need with answers, and help remove the stigma surrounding mental health and all that comes with it.
Describe your daily routine.
Working from home really threw a spanner in the works, but I’d say I’m usually up by 7 or 8 o’clock, spend a moment cuddling my pups – an essential daily ritual – and jump on my computer. I’ll check all ANDRSN deliveries have gone out and are in order, grab a coffee and walk the dogs to our local coffee shop, then back on the computer for correspondence. I break up my work day with a midday workout at Family Form, which has become a religion to me. Something I’ve been much more conscious of in the last year is to keep-it-moving. Otherwise, it’s too easy to fall into sitting at your desk for hours on end. For lunch I’ve recently been subscribing to Nutrition Kitchen meal plans – it just takes the hassle out of the day in thinking of what to eat and trying to keep it healthy, all the while working from home with a limited choice of restaurants.
My work day usually finishes around 6pm, with evenings spent with my husband and dogs. Needless to say, I’m very much looking forward to these restrictions lifting, dressing up, and going out for dinner and drinks. I’m naturally a very social person, so this daily pandemic routine has been an adjustment, to say the least.
What’s your style like?
I’d say my personal style is confident, versatile and a little sassy. I’ve never really been drawn to only one look. What I choose to wear is always according to my mood, what I have on that day and, most importantly, what makes me feel good.
Do you follow trends?
Sure, keeping up with trends every once in a while is great. I do like to experiment with certain pieces and incorporate them into my own personal style, but I don’t think it’s necessary or sustainable to religiously follow popular trends. I’m trying to be more thoughtful in my purchases and invest in quality and timeless items.
Do you have a fashion muse?
I don’t have one in particular and it changes from season to season. I’d say Zendaya’s most recent award-show looks were killer and Rihanna is definitely the best- dressed pregnant woman alive.
What’s your biggest fashion faux pas?
Bad shoes. An outfit can be amazing, but bad shoes can’t be excused. When a man rocks up in an impeccable outfit but his shoes are just dismal, it’s the biggest turn-off. Men or women, the shoes carry the outfit – when in doubt, work from the bottom up. Pick the shoes first and go from there.
Is there one piece in your wardrobe you couldn’t part with?
There are two vintage pieces from my mum that are sentimental to me: a black Alaïa dress with matching cape, and an Issey Miyake blue and black printed shell skirt with matching top.