Reflections on COVID-19

by Coral Chung / May 02, 2020

We've decided to launch this blog during this time of turmoil because we know that everyone is struggling to survive, stay healthy, be optimistic, find inspiration and feel connected even though we are apart. As a brand we were inspired by multi-faceted women who "do it all" and although our world has changed dramatically, we resolve more than ever to stay true to our mission of empowering women with beautiful, versatile and luxurious products. We want to create a space here that is honest and a "behind the scenes" of everything that goes into a small company surviving and take it day by day. Our team members are all contributors and we will be sharing the things that we're passionate about, inspire and motivate us, practical advice that we're learning, the ways that we're staying informed, and how to make a positive impact. We're starting with a behind the scenes interview with our CEO & Co-Founder Coral.   

Coral at our factory in Italy and with her daughter Aria

How have you responded to what's been happening so far?
SENREVE has become a global company and the first thing we prioritized was our team. We really ramped up coordination and communication with our teams in Italy and Hong Kong to understand the situation on the ground. We canceled all travel immediately and wanted to make sure that everyone on our team was 100% healthy. It was also important for us to communicate with the SENREVE community, so we emailed and shared via social media updates regularly and with transparency.

Coral at SENREVE factory in ItalyCoral and Mauro, the 80-year old founder of our Artisan workshop in Italy

Not long ago, I learned that two of SENREVE's Artisan workshops in Italy shut down, potentially indefinitely because of the coronavirus crisis. So much new information is coming out every hour. We had to close our flagship store in SF. It was heartbreaking to see our beautiful space vandalized with multiple break in attempts and finally we had to board up the windows. It’s been tough, but people are far more important, and everyone is very emotionally heightened right now. 

We are really doubling down on our cultural values, now more than ever we need to focus on Flexibility, Grit & Perseverance, and Optimism! We are trying our best to stay connected as a team and are doing a lot of virtual gatherings including virtual lunches and coffee chats as well as happy hours and Fun Run challenges.

What is helping you through this, as a founder? 
It's a really hard thing to balance scenario planning for the worst case scenario with hoping for and motivating our team towards the best possible outcome. I think as an entrepreneur you're always just fighting for survival and taking it one day at a time. I'm speaking to a lot of advisors and mentors to get inspiration and coaching from them regularly. I also have daily check-ins with our team and am keeping a constant pulse on our community and our partners - having that connection (though virtually) is a huge motivator for me to pull it together, be a leader, and stay strong.

In general, I’m a pretty calm person. I don’t freak out under pressure. But even so, I have not been able to sleep at all. I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall asleep again. I feel so much responsibility toward my team and my family. 

SENREVE Team at Coral's houseThe SENREVE team celebrating a Series A fundraising round

As a mom?
I’m also managing the well being of my family; I have a husband and a 7-year-old daughter, who is finding this situation very confusing. Her school is closed, and it’s strange for her that her parents are home, but working--it’s like we’re here but not here and not “present” for her, and she’s not entirely sure how to navigate that. Like so many people, I’m trying to find a quiet space to work and manage through the noise, and it’s challenging. I try to do little things like put together a schedule for her, so that it’s at least something that I can control (but ultimately being open to her not remotely sticking with it!!).  

Collage of Aria watering plants, wearing a SENREVE Mini Maestra, and playing with legos

As a human?
I feel very discouraged by many of the developments that have happened over the course of the last few weeks, including several break-in attempts at our flagship store which forced us to board up the storefront. That made me extremely sad and disappointed in humanity. But on the other hand, I really try to focus on the positives of people coming together, especially with many of my friends, family members, and women in our SENREVE community that are at the frontlines working 72 hour shifts as healthcare professionals. I have so much respect and admiration for them, and I'm so grateful for all their sacrifices. It's so critical for everyone to do their part to stay home and be healthy. SENREVE is doing our part with our Earth Month campaign to reduce waste and protect our environment as well as doing our mask drive to support healthcare professionals.

Has anything prepared you for this?
I’m the child of entrepreneurs, though, and I’ve seen pivots and struggles before. Not on this scale, of course, but enough to understand that things can change very quickly. Growing up, I often helped my dad--a real Renaissance man--with tasks related to the many businesses he ran. My parents aren’t native English speakers, and I would often help them draft letters to lawyers or handle other official correspondence, even when I was only ten. I also had a serious heart condition growing up. These experiences made me both very tolerant of risk and accepting of challenges. I don’t expect things to be easy, so when they’re not, I stay optimistic. Knowing I’ve been able to overcome problems big and small gives me confidence. It’s a mindset. My motivation to lead a company is very deep seated, and key to both who I am and how I founded SENREVE. 

Collage of Coral with her parents as a child, early adulthood, and most recently as a family with Aria

What are your biggest learnings?
I’ve learned that there is always a way. Things seem impossible--until they’re not. Entrepreneurs are used to willing things to happen, to taking one step after the next until we arrive somewhere we’ve been trying to go. The entrepreneurial personality is about an optimistic acceptance of challenges, and it’s a core part of our cultural values at SENREVE. No one knows what’s going to happen. But we’re not going to panic, and we’re going to keep our optimism. Together, we’ll get through this.

It's also critical to adapt quickly to change, and time is of the essence. It doesn't matter what your budget or strategy looked like at the beginning of 2020, when the world starts to change you can't stubbornly stick to an irrelevant strategy and plan. It is critical to get creative and "work the problem."

From a personal perspective, everything that's happened has made me that much appreciative of my health, my family–especially my daughter who's a huge source of optimism and joy during this dark time–, and the opportunity to wake up everyday and do work that I absolutely love! 

Coral with our bagmaker in Italy

Learn more about Coral's background and the early days of her journey in launching SENREVE.