HK HUB Spotlight: Kate Davies, Founder, Authentiques
In the next part of our Spotlight series, focusing on successful female entrepreneurs, we speak to Kate Davies, Founder of Hong Kong based importer of rare 18th and 19th century European antique company, Authentiques. Kate launched Authentiques two years ago and since then has curated a showroom full of stunning antique furniture, tableware, decorative pieces and collectors’ treasures.
HKH: Tell us a little about your background and why you decided to launch Authentiques.
Kate: My career started in journalism. I was a television news reporter for the Seven Network in Australia for 10 years. I then moved to Hong Kong and transferred in to financial public relations which led me in to marketing and events roles in ABN AMRO, RBS and Samsung Securities, the latter shutdown without warning, my husband had died unexpectedly and our daughter needed more stability, not a mother flying off in to the night for a week at a time.
It seemed like the right time to try small business. It was a now or never moment and I had the clarity and confidence to challenge myself and the expectations of many others who wanted me to be safe and secure.
HKH: How long have you lived in Hong Kong?
Kate: 17 years. I moved here to cover the handover of Hong Kong and fell in love with the lifestyle, culture and history. Watching it grow and change has been a pleasurable and painful experience.
HKH: What inspired you to launch Authentiques?
I chose this business because I wanted something that could grow without me having to employ too big a team. Also I wanted to have a niche product that the affluent Chinese would be attracted to, a product that speaks to consumers who like luxury and well-crafted furniture and items. It was important for me to have control of my work day. I can attend my daughter’s school plays most of the time but work all night
HKH: What have been your biggest challenges since starting Authentiques?
Kate: They are mainly personal. Such as having enough time in one day to achieve what I want to achieve. I used to read about small business owners never being able to stop thinking about work. It’s true. It’s a 24 / 7 state of mind. It takes a lot of self-discipline to shut your laptop or put down your phone when so much information is at your fingertips. It’s tough running a business. You have to go out and find it and there are days where you throw your hands in the air and wonder why you are not taking a salary job.
But I remind myself that I am doing this for my daughter. I won’t be able to rewind the clock. I am her only role model. I can’t give her these years back and although she often sees very little of me, she does see me daily and I try hard to carve out time to discuss an issue or demonstrate our family values. The life of a Hong Kong child can be very privileged and before you know it you have a very spoilt brat on your hands. Small business comes with limitations that I believe shape a good person. If I could give her everything, I probably would but the outcome could be scary. I enjoy having to be present to provide the balance despite the different situation we are in.
On a professional level, as the founder and leader, I have to maintain a huge amount of momentum. A big institution pulls you through your day with deadlines set by others. But now it’s up to me. And finding avenues to doing business in China has been difficult. Knowing who to trust is a challenge. My husband was a homewares designer who worked with many factories in China and he had the full range of experiences there. His experiences have taught me to be cynical by default so then there’s more upside but small business has to involve some risk taking.
HKH: What’s your favourite part of the job?
Kate: Buying! Who doesn’t like a shopping spree and when you are surrounded by beautiful and unusual pieces it’s a special experience buying a slice of history. We host events, giving talks about the history of furniture, the effects reigning Kings and Queens had on styles, etiquette in 18th and 19th century England and many more. I truly enjoy watching our guests’ faces light-up when they walk in to our secret space and when they are listening to the fascinating stories. They are transformed to another era and I think that escapism we provide is an unexpected gift. I love to give so it’s a great bonus or perk for me.
HKH: What do you miss, if anything, from your corporate role?
Kate: The big budgets, the teamwork and the salary. It’s very comforting knowing that money will literally be dropped in to your account on the same day every month. I have forgotten what it feels like!
HKH: Where do you see your business in five years time?
Kate: We hope to have a strong business in China, hopefully 60% of our antiques will go there and we want to increase the understanding of European antiques. We’ll be giving the pieces a new life in Asian homes. Fingers crossed, stars aligned!
HKH: How do you retain a work/life balance?
Kate: With great difficulty! I rely heavily on domestic help and I live in an apartment block with a gym. Gone are the days of having weekly massages and pampering. Now it’s a quick gym session and off to work. I keep life simple. We travel a lot less. I position Hong Kong as our true home. Most meals are made at home, a lot of salads and fresh meats, and I can work from home. I am not afraid of failing so that eliminates a certain type of stress. At the same time success is one clear goal, but I can’t lose sight of the fact that I chose this lifestyle to be present for my daughter and I enjoy seeing her understanding my business. When a five year old says “did you sell those velvet chairs today Mummy” you know you are present.
HKH: What are your go-to time saving resources?
Kate: Dry shampoo, we play “beat the hourglass” with my daughter, shining silverware, glassware and our home with Enjo products (super fast and no chemicals) as well as utilising technology such as FaceTime, Skype, WeChat, QQ.
HKH: What advice would you give other women who are considering striking out on their own?
Don’t bother if you get anxiety, are a natural worrier, or a glass half-empty type. You’ll stress yourself out. You need an abundance of positive energy, honest friends and a belief in striking the balance (not just financial gain) and even then it is tough.
To find out more about Authentiques, go to the website or visit the showroom on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 12pm-6pm or at other times by appointment, T: 3460 4286.