Mentor: Jessie Wong

Meet Jessie Wong, founder and director of Yu Mei. With a Bachelor’s degree in Fashion, and experience working in the industry (including working at New Zealand Fashion Week) before starting her own company, Jessie has great insights into making products based around the needs of the people.

We caught up with Jessie to find out more about her, the origins of Yu Mei and why she got involved with Venture Up.

Hey Jessie, could you tell us a bit about your background?

I’m the founder and director of Yu Mei, which is a leather goods label that focuses on creating bags built for purpose to carry with ease dedicated to the creation of understated luxury. We not only make our customer the inspiration for our product, but we include her in every aspect of the design process along the way.

I started Yu Mei because I truly couldn’t find a bag that was made from beautiful buttery leather and minimal hardware that would fit what I actually needed to carry around in a day – laptop, chargers, phone, sunnies case, 10 jerseys for the Dunedin cold, essentially a portable office. The format of bag design is based on women’s roles in society a hundred years ago, and I felt that needed to be updated to suit modern day life.

In the three years that I’ve been building Yu Mei, we’ve expanded internationally to 36 stockists, have an amazing, supportive team and have more than doubled our revenue every year since we started. I think that it’s so important to have a key purpose behind what you’re doing, that informs every decision going forward and will always keep you on the right path.

What made you want to be involved in Venture Up?

I wanted to be involved in Venture Up because I thought I would probably learn all sorts of things from the participants. New ways of thinking, problem-solving, fresh concepts and enthusiasm are rich in environments like Venture Up.

What do you feel you get back from mentoring?

I’m inspired by the determination of the teams, and the time with them makes me reflect on what my team and I do. I go back to the Yu Mei studio with a renewed sense of excitement and direction.

What do you look for in a team or venture before you commit to mentoring?

I look for teams that know their ‘why’ – which basically means having a great problem to solving, often the both hardest and easiest thing to come up with, and a sense of social responsibility and sustainability to the idea.

What’s one question you wish you’d be asked in an interview? And what would your answer be?

Q: What’s the best thing about your job?

A: The community that comes about as a result of our work – not only am I surrounded every day but an incredibly supportive and hardworking team, but our customers become friends which makes Yu Mei so much more than just a product.