Laurie Lemmlie-Leung and her husband started their own organic business to support the sustainable textiles movement.
What’s your story?
After moving to Hong Kong with my husband, I worked for an accounting firm. I hated it. Being stuck in a cubicle makes quietly looking for a job (pre email days) impossible. I quit and went to help my husband. It was supposed to be temporary, but we liked working together, so 30 years later here I am. Sapphire International Ltd. has morphed several times over the years. For the last twenty we’ve been manufacturing home textiles primarily for children. We started our own brand Breganwood Organics in 2010 in an effort to promote and support the sustainable textiles movement.
What excites you most about your industry?
The textile industry has always been a major polluter. They have taken note. Many companies, both big and small are working together to find new and better ways to manufacture textiles including more sustainable raw materials, better manufacturing processes, improved design and customer engagement. It is inspiring to work with and learn from people who are committed to improving the industry.
What’s your connection to Asia?
When I graduated from college I joined the U.S. Peace Corps and was assigned to the Philippines. What was supposed to be a two year stint turned into three. Afterwards I stayed in the Philippines for another seven years working with Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees. I also met my husband, a Hong Kong native. When we first married he moved to Manila but we eventually returned to Hong Kong where he took over the family business. I’ve been in Asia all my adult life.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I have only done business in Hong Kong.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“If you never make a mistake you are not trying hard enough.” In other words, don’t be afraid to try new things. You cannot let the risk of failure stop you from trying. And, as my mother used to say, “Can’t means, you don’t want to try.”
Who inspires you?
Many people. Both my grandmothers, each raised families, almost single handedly, in the middle of the depression. People who face extraordinary difficulties in their lives but are still filled with gratitude because they manage to concentrate on the good things in their life.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
According to Redress, there are 111,690 tonnes of textiles being sent into landfills each year, which is the equivalent to around 15,000 garments ending up in our already overflowing landfills every single hour. We need an attitude readjustment towards how textiles are purchased, used and discarded.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Learn Cantonese. I hate it when people ask how long I’ve lived in Hong Kong, because the next statement is “oh you must be fluent in Cantonese”. No, I am not.
How do you unwind?
I have a couple of close friends and we hike every Sunday. I also recently learned to crochet. It’s very relaxing.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Thailand. It is beautiful, the people are friendly, it is easy to get to, the food is delicious, lots of nice resorts and spas and it is not too expensive.
Everyone in business should read this book:
Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson. It’s an old one, but still very relevant.
Shameless plug for your business:
If you are looking for a few adorable, cosy towels for kids go to www.breganwood.com. Also, check out our newest product – cotton muslin throws.
If you’re looking for a manufacturer contact us! Sapphire International Limited is a great company to work with. We partner with companies great and small to create unique, quality home textile.
If you are in Hong Kong and want a great deal, meet The Quarry Bay Towel Lady. Our newest website offers stock bath towels and limited edition samples at great prices. www.thequarrybaytowellady.
How can people connect with you?
This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews
Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started,
built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.