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Community stories: Staunton & Henry

Turning passion into a business

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Staunton & Henry - Online Homeware Retailer

We asked one of our business customers, James Hepple, about his company, Staunton & Henry, a worldwide business based in Hong Kong.

Why did you set up

I've worked in wine retail most of my life and while homeware online retail may not seem a natural progression, there is a connection! Bear with me.

My last "paid job" was ten years with a large retail group, running the marketing and operations of their wine stores and eCommerce. As crazy as it sounds, over that time I became more passionate about retailing and eCommerce than wine (though I make up for that after business hours).

I love the velocity of online retail, and the interaction with customers in a virtual store - which can sometimes be more personal than a physical store - and the challenge of staying ahead of the competition. Over time, I grew their online business into a significant concern, and got a lot of satisfaction from that.

At the same time, I was buying my first property, renovating, decorating - and shortly after, selling and buying again etc.. From this experience, I realised I loved interior design, and beautifully designed homeware - furniture, lighting, rugs etc. Maybe it's comes with getting older but I got a lot of satisfaction out of furnishing our home and really making it our own space. I also found the traditional retailers were kind of boring and expensive, and I had to drive all over town to piece together the look I wanted.

Hong Kong Online Homeware Retailer

So I had the idea of starting an online homeware store that caters not only to Hong Kong, where we're based, but also ships world wide. There is some synergy here as Hong Kong is a stones throw from China where much of the world's homeware products are made. And it's also one of the largest hubs for international air freight, meaning it's cheaper to ship from here.

What types of people use Staunton and Henry?

Our customers are mainly women in their 30's and 40's. We're aware of this skew and also trying to appeal more to men as well. They can be based anywhere - Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, US, UK, India etc. And I think ultimately, people who like design-lead homeware and take time to research online to find what they're looking for at the best price.

What's the best thing about running your business?

I love the disruption to regular retail channels. Retail rents in Hong Kong are the highest in the world, which is ultimately passed on to customers. I get satisfaction out of solving a problem - ie: providing better products under one roof and at a better price. And I do get some nice emails and phone calls from customers, which reminds us we're on the right track.

Anything unusual along the way?

Perhaps one episode lost in translation - Cantonese is spoken locally and although mine will get me from A to B in a taxi, it has its limits. Thankfully most locals are multi-lingual, so I'm lucky to get away with English most of the time. But I had a customer call one day who was going on about "Rouges" and very excited to come to our show room and see some "Rouges" (perhaps an old customer from my wine days?). I was a little confused, but didn't want to turn away a customer, and was sure we'd figure it out when he visited the show room. Sure enough it turned out to be "Rugs" he was after, and he bought a beautiful one - but even after I tried to say gently that we call them "Rugs", he went away with his "Rouge", which of course is fine!

How is the Hong Kong online business world looking?

It's an exciting time to be in business. There are many excellent online businesses based in Hong Kong.

Some of my favourites include:

Sassy Hong Kong - a great local site that keeps you up to date with the latest in local dining, shopping, arts and entertainment.

Little Steps Asia - another great local site that focuses on things to do and see in Hong Kong - it focuses more on families with kids.

Dx - a great website if you're looking for gadgets shipped world wide from their point of manufacture.

Strawberrynet - likewise, a great website specialising in fragrance and beauty products, and ships world wide from Hong Kong.

Petproject - it has the range of 10 small pet stores under one roof, so makes a great one-stop shop for all things pet.

How's your experience been with CurrencyFair?

I used CurrencyFair at the suggestion of a friend who'd used it. Normally I wouldn't bother with funds transfer and would just accept the terrible rates offered by big banks. However, on this occasion, I needed to transfer a sizable sum, so thought I'd give it a try. I liked the way CurrencyFair made, what could be a complicated process, a pretty straight forward one. Once the account is set up, it's done, so future transactions are even easier.

I started with an AUD $10,000 transfer and saved a decent amount vs the big bank rates.

You can now quickly convert AUD to HKD with our new currency calculator.

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