My Shanghai, an Urban Family series where we ask a Shanghai-based somebody to tell us about their life.
How special it would be to create your own business, see it thrive and have the pleasure of sharing the whole experience with your best friend. Posy Pearson and Lili Gleason, owners of The Shanghai Gift Company were friends first, and from there a business partnership developed. Hailing from different continents (Posy is from the UK and Lili from the US), they met in Shanghai and have cultivated a thriving business where they create environmentally aware products, work on their own terms and most importantly, balance their family lives.
When did you launch The Shanghai gift company?
Posy: As a team, we had been managing two businesses ReKindled Candles since 2016, and Shanghai Stationery since February 2017. This Autumn we decided to create The Shanghai Gift Company as the overarching brand for our different product lines, as we felt it allowed us to expand the company and what we offer.
What was the motivation/inspiration to start your own business?
Lili: We both really love creating things, so finding a job that enabled us to do that on a daily basis seemed like a great idea.
Posy: It was also really important to us that we have jobs that don’t confine us to regular office hours. We both have young children and want flexibility with the work we are doing.
Tell us about The Shanghai Gift Company, I understand your products are handmade with carefully sourced products.
Posy: Yes, the majority of our products are handmade by us. We hand pour our soy wax candles with carefully sourced ingredients, our cards are made from recycled paper, it’s important to us to make safe products that are good for the environment.
Lili: Our stationery range is a combination of items gathered from many different, amazing local people around Shanghai. You’ll often find us running around town finding various bits and pieces to make the finished products.
You both have two young children (and Posy, you have a 3rd on the way) and a flourishing business; what’s your secret to balancing family and work commitments?
Lili: When you find out, will you let us know? Ok, but seriously, we have learned to say ‘No’ at times. It’s really hard sometimes but with limited time, we can’t socialize and volunteer as much as we used to.
Posy: Yes, eventually at some point something has to give, but we try to make sure the children always remain the priority. It depends on the time of year, maybe we do more takeaway than home cooked dinners around this time with so many events to manage. The children are now at an age where they also really enjoy helping out with the business. They love to package items and always have very honest feedback about any new ideas we have. It’s really fun!
Tell me more about the dynamics of running a business in partnership.
Posy: We are friends first and foremost and we just clicked when we first met a few years ago and couldn’t stop talking! We both have different skill sets and it makes a great balance for the daily management of the business. Lili is more creative than I am, and handles all the graphics and design.
Lili: Posy’s Mandarin is better than mine so she covers the supplier end of the business. We make a great team and it helps that our husbands and children are all great friends too.
What is your range featuring for the upcoming festive season, are you seeing a trend towards anything in particular?
Lili: We have some really beautiful large Christmas jars for candles, and some amazing new scents. Right now, we are selling out of the candle 'Winter Bliss' (a Christmas scent that smells like cinnamon and holly berries), and 'Fig & Olive' is also very popular this season.
Posy: Our ‘Family Calendar’ has just come out and we’ve been so happy with success so far. We also have a new range of watercolor Christmas cards that have been well received. In this digital world, I love seeing the many people who are still as traditional as us when it comes to stationery!
What is the best advice you were given before starting your business?
Posy: Not to be afraid to put yourself out there and just try. The exciting thing about living in Shanghai is the great range of cultures we are exposed to, and the huge amount of inspiration around us. We just need to have the courage in our convictions and know that some items will sell better than others, but as long as we are having fun at the same time, it’s ok!
What advice do you now have for someone wanting to launch a business in Shanghai?
Lili: Do your research. If you know someone who owns a successful business and is willing to help you, take their advice. People in Shanghai really don’t mind helping each other with how to get ideas off the ground.
Posy: Yes, Shanghai is huge but we are a small community and we all help each other to succeed.
How can customers purchase your items, where are you selling them?
Customers can purchase items by scanning our QR code and following The Shanghai Gift Company account. We advertise which upcoming markets we will be at, such as the school markets and Paulaner’s Christmas market. We also supply some of our range to several stores around Shanghai such as DTL Furniture (Puxi and Pudong stores), Madame Mao’s Dowry on FuMin Road and Esy Dragon in Tianzifang.
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