Lindork’s Lists: Q&A #14: Chau Lui
Originally published to newsletter subscribers on Oct 3, 2021
The fourteenth person I’m profiling in my paid newsletter subscriber Q&A series is:
Chau Lui, co-owner of Paris Jewellers
Getting to know Chau Lui:
I remember when I first learned Paris Jewellers was an Edmonton-founded and headquartered company. I’m always a little surprised, and impressed, to hear well-known, well-respected businesses with locations across the country, started and grew locally in Edmonton. Because why not? Why shouldn’t or couldn’t Edmonton be a place that welcomes and nurtures entrepreneurs, that helps grow successful businesses. Then when I learned that the co-owners of Paris Jewellers were women, and not just women, but Vietnamese women, I knew this was a business / business owners I wanted to talk to, and share about.
Chau Lui, 38, and Trang Wong, 36, are sisters and co-owners of Paris Jewellers. Their family arrived in Edmonton in 1985, and they grew up in the jewellery business. The immigrant / business story is a meaningful one for me—as I grew up in my parents restaurant. I didn’t end up taking over the business (yet??) but Chau and Trang did, and they’ve taken it into such an exciting direction. Paris Jewellers has grown from a small, 400 square foot store to one with 23 locations across four provinces, employing 230 people, and a thriving online operation.
I learned it was a woman, Asian-owned business during the recent rise of the anti-Asian racism movement. Paris Jewellers released a limited edition Hope collection with 100% net proceeds donated and split equally between the Canadian Asian Solidarity Fund via canadahelps.org and Stop AAPI Hate. The Solidarity Fund aims to support Asian Canadians, celebrate the contributions of the Asian community, and stand up against intolerance, prejudice and injustice. Stop AAPI Hate is a national coalition addressing anti-Asian racism across the U.S.
I was grateful to get a chance to learn more about the business and co-owner Chau, and am excited to share the Q&A with you below.
Let’s Dive Into the Q&A with Chau:
Can you talk about the work you do at Paris Jewellers? And how and why, you started the business (my understanding is your the second generation owners—so it started as a family business/ your parents?)
Yes, our parents started the business. Myself and my sister, Trang, have been working at Paris Jewellers for 16 years and 12 years, respectively.
We are co-owners and run the business together. I am involved in our product development, training and marketing while Trang is involved in the financial planning and operations.
Can you share memories of working in the business growing up?
We have such fond memories of working in the business growing up! At a very young age we would be at the store watching our mom work with wonder—how she would treat customers and make them smile through jewelry. As children, we helped by writing the sale signs (in marker) that hung in the store!
What’s something that people might know about, that may be surprising about owning a jewelry business? Or about being entrepreneurs?
I think that people can assume that owing a jewelry business can be glamorous at all times. And while it is a lot of fun, it also takes hard work, constant effort and resilience. As an entrepreneur, there will be many days that we may feel like giving up – but if our WHY is strong, we will always find a way to continually evolve and grow.
Can you share some memorable moments or ‘successes’ related to Paris Jewellers?
Opening a new store, to us, is considered such a huge accomplishment for our entire team. It takes a lot of belief, planning, hard work, execution, and follow up. The opportunity to open a store in a community is always such an honour for us.
You had a Hope collection earlier this year in response to anti-Asian hate, donating proceeds to anti Asian hate initiatives, can you talk about the collection, and if you’re comfortable, share your own experiences with racism?
Our Asian Heritage Hope collection is very dear to our hearts. The set features hexagon cut genuine rose quartz. The delicate, rose quartz is known as the stone of unconditional love. All sides are equal in length and all interior angle measurements are equal in a hexagon, which has been chosen to reflect that all people are equal (or more importantly, how all people should be treated regardless of our backgrounds or differences).
Trang and I have experienced racism growing up at many points in our lives, and also while growing the business. That is why this initiative is very close to our hearts – we believe that through sharing our story, we can shift perspectives, and create more understanding. And even if our story only resonates with one person, perhaps that is the change we would have needed growing up.
You employ 90% women—is this intentional? Why is this important?
We believe in hiring the right person for the role. But our company is 90% women, and we are proud of it. It’s important to us, because as female business owners, we know the power of having a strong community of women that supports you and your dreams. It is our sincere hope that we create that within our own company.
Where do you want to see Paris Jewellers go? What does growth and future success look like? Any sneak peaks or things people should watch for down the road?
Future success for us looks like continually providing our customers with a joyful and memorable experience, consistently at every location. It also means stronger community partnerships so that we are able to support and give-back to the communities that we are so proud to be a part of. Sneak peeks – we have some very exciting new collections coming soon that we are sure our customers will be very thrilled about…stay tuned for November!
Can you share challenging moments, obstacles or even failures, you’ve had to overcome as part of your Paris Jewellers journey? And has the pandemic changed how you operate?
The past 16 months have been a challenge but with every challenge we grow and become stronger. Temporarily closing all of our stores due to the pandemic was one of the hardest things we’ve ever had to do. During that time, we focused on our people first and continued to make communication with them a priority.
Is it hard working with sisters / family? Advice for how you manage working together?
Any team dynamic can be challenging – especially family! How we manage to work together successfully is by clearly defining our roles and responsibilities and by writing them down so that everyone is aligned. One of our core values is to be sincere – therefore, we take this approach with each other. We are honest and clear, and if we disagree we talk it through. At the end of the day, whatever decision was made, we will support each other no matter what.
Can you share advice for others on pursuing their dreams, owning their own business?
One of the sayings at our company is that “when it’s written, it’s real”. Have a written plan and revisit it often. Make a date in your calendar to review progress. As business owners, sometimes we tend to want to do everything, but the reality is it is hard to do everything well. Pick something that will create maximum impact, focus on that, and once it’s achieved, move on to the next.
Could you articulate “why you do what you do?” Why are you passionate about jewelry? About business?
Every time a customer chooses to shop at Paris Jewellers, I know it is such an honour. When we can find that perfect piece to celebrate their special milestone or moment, it is such an exciting thing! I believe that jewelry does bring happiness to people’s lives and that every time they wear that special piece, they hold that moment close to their heart.
Wrapping up our Q&A:
What show would you recommend people watch on Netflix (or other streaming services) and why?
I actually just finished watching Younger and I loved it because it showed the main character trying hard to get back into the work force – for herself and her family. Through that experience she found herself and developed friendships with other women that supported her. It was a feel good, funny show that kept me looking forward to the next episode!
Is there a book or podcast you recently read (or doesn’t have to be recent) that you would recommend to others and why?
What is one of your favourite restaurants or stores you’d recommend in Edmonton?
One of my favourite restaurants in Edmonton is Buco! They have the best Ravioli and my kids love their mac and cheese.
What’s something about Alberta you love or recommend others check out?
Taking a walk along the river valley in Edmonton is absolutely breathtaking.
Thank you Chau for sharing your story!
You can connect with Chau (Paris Jewellers) on:
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