From fashion stylist to jewelry brand owner: Yi Guo's Shanghai adventure
The road to being a successful female entrepreneur – be it a restaurant owner, a designer, a gallery owner or a retailer – can be bumpy. In this series, "She Power," we talk to women from different countries and different backgrounds about their experiences and stories of setting up businesses in Shanghai. One thing these amazing women all have in common – they all yearn to build a brand that does good, that gives purpose and fulfillment, and even a palpable sense of joy.
Yi Guo's adventures in Shanghai began when she was given the opportunity to move back to her birth city in 2010.
As she was born in Shanghai and growing up in New York City with a Jewish stepfather, a Christian mom and Buddhist grandparents, multiculturalism is embedded in Guo. She pivoted her career from being a fashion stylist to become a jewelry brand owner eight years ago. It has been a fun, sometimes scary but always deeply rewarding journey.
Q: Why, after living in Shanghai for a few years, did you decide to strike out on your own to build up a brand?
To be honest, I saw the end of traditional print magazines. When I graduated from college, my first job was working as a fashion assistant for Vanity Fair. At that time, we all had black Lincoln town cars to take us to lunch and what seemed like an endless budget. The decline over the years was incredibly obvious. I used to be able to style Chanel with H&M and be creative in my editorials for Vogue China. I could see my visions come to life.
However, I decided to create something beautiful and tangible, inspired by my travels to Sri Lanka and Myanmar, the sapphire and ruby capitals of the world. I founded my brand in 2015. It started from a small collection of jewelry inspired by gemstones, to a colored gemstone fine jewelry brand exuding a simple modern elegance that reflects my personal aesthetics.
Q: What were you trying to bring to the local community through your creations?
I just felt it the right time to invest in something solid in the city of Shanghai. This beautiful city which has gone through so much is now better than ever.
Q: What are the biggest challenges setting up a business here? How do you stay motivated?
Before the opening of my store on Julu Road, I was not really motivated. I think a lot of us experienced this after the lockdown. I didn't feel compelled to do much as my entire value system came under question when there was a battle for your health or your life at stake. As the opportunity showed itself to me to open a store, I rose to the challenge. I love challenges. It energizes me and that's when the best of myself can come through.
Q: What was the moment that made you most proud?
So many small moments come to mind. When the signage of "YI COLLECTION" went up on the store, I felt proud.
Q: What are you working on now?
I'm currently working on restructuring my staff for optimal efficiency.
Q: Do you have any advice for women entrepreneurs?
Have people around you who are smart and who can support you. Gather as much knowledge and information as possible before you act. I always like the saying: "measure twice, cut once."