5Qs with Joanna Lau
5Qs with Joanna Lau
Our 5Qs series is a chance for you to get to know more about folks in the Singapore Global Network community, where we pose 5 questions to exciting individuals to find out more about what they do!
Joanna with her favourite POPPINS Backpack Tote from JEMMA
Joanna came to the U.S. to attend New York University 13 years ago. She started her career in Wall Street trading after graduation, but her love for creative risk-taking and her handbag obsession eventually drew her into the hard grind of fashion entrepreneurship. As the Founder & CEO of JEMMA, a fashion e-commerce handbag brand, Joanna shuttles regularly between Singapore and New York, where the brand is based. A Siglap girl at heart, Joanna still misses her Kway Chap with ice cold Milo!
1. What is your favourite place in NYC?
Hudson River Park! After spending a lot of time indoors this year, I’ve really enjoyed being outdoors and Hudson River Park on the westside near Battery Park offers beautiful river views, especially at sunset. With the World Trade Center and Statue of Liberty as a backdrop, it is simply stunning!
2. What is your favourite food in NYC?
Japanese food, especially sushi. I reckon the Japanese food quality in New York rivals Japan. There are countless Japanese restaurants in the city that are authentic and high quality. My frequent go-to sushi place in the city is DOMODOMO. It serves quality sushi at a decent price point.
3. What is the most exciting part of your job?
As JEMMA’s Founder & CEO, I built an online direct to consumer handbag brand from scratch to where it is today. It has been my greatest challenge, and the most exciting experience I’ve had in my life despite the constant ups and downs (*not for the faint-hearted!).
I went from a frustrated consumer looking for better handbag options for working women like myself, to a passionate women’s advocate. I really care about how women could benefit from their daily necessity - handbags - and giving women better options that allow them to carry everything they need and still look beautiful.
Building a fashion e-commerce brand in New York is exhilarating because you are competing with the best of the best in one of the largest markets in the world. It’s a sink or swim game daily and you either live for the challenge or quit. I have chosen to live, love, and succeed.
Joanna was invited to University of Pennsylvania to speak about JEMMA and female entrepreneurship
4. What do you miss most about Singapore?
Definitely Singaporean food and the comforts of being home with family and friends! Singapore has and always will be my home, and as they say, home is where the heart is! I try not to be too far away from home, so I tend to visit Singapore pretty often.
Joanna enjoying the Singapore skyline at a rooftop bar with her husband Jeff
Tell us one fun fact about you
I love golf and have been playing since my primary school days. Growing up, learning, and competing in golf have taught me a lot about life, discipline, and performing under pressure. I have also met and built many great friendships on the golf course - some are my best friends. I love the game of golf because I think it’s a great lesson on life and a sport you can keep playing till you’re old!
Golfing has been Joanna’s all-time passion since her primary school days
If you are interested in connecting with Joanna, please send your request here. SGN will be happy to make the introduction.
(Photo credit: Joanna Lau)