How I Make It Work: Jen Taylor, founder of Hokolo

I have learnt not to stress over things and prioritise the family, says mother and Hokolo founder, Jen Taylor

Jen Taylor founded her striking homewares brand Hokolo to express her love of colour, patterns and useful objects.

“I am on a mission to inspire people of all ages with my witty, stylish and beautiful creations,” she explains.

She has a background in architecture and now juggles her business with bringing up two boys.

What inspired you to start Hokolo?

My background is in architecture, I have worked as an architect for 12 years prior to setting up Hokolo. Back in 2012 when our eldest son was 3 years old I was looking for a change and wanted to be more creative, hands on and to be able to spend more time with my family.

Architecture is great but it takes a very long time to see the end results and can be a very stressful job. When I design patterns and products, the process is shorter and I can get immediate customer feedbacks which help influence the next design. I love working with materials and considering how things come together.

Now running my own design practice, I adopt the same ethos and process, turning initial concepts into tangible products.

Can you tell us a bit about it?

I am originally from Hong Kong but moved to the UK at 15 and have been living in London since 1997. London is my home and I love my city. Hokolo is an amalgamation of Hong Kong and London.

Being a 70s child I love all things bright and colourful, often nostalgic of the past. With my background in architecture I love geometry and clean contemporary designs which reflect in my work. Also you often see me referencing food as I’m a foodie, it’s in my blood.

Hokolo’s first product range was children’s clothing as my son was my star model! But I soon shifted the focus to homeware and interior which I felt more comfortable with my background in architecture and design.

How difficult was it to launch your own business?

With the internet these days it’s so easy to start a business but keeping it profitable and enjoyable is a continuous challenge.

What would you say is your USP?

My designs are bold and colourful with a Scandi and retro feel but it’s often the fun and quirky narrative behind my designs that resonate most with my customers.

How do you manage to fit it in with being a mum?

I am not going to lie, it’s really hard to juggle everything.

Since our youngest son was born nearly 2 years ago I have to take a step back from the business as childcare is so expensive in London. I didn’t want to compromise my family or the business so it’s all about managing expectations.

I have learnt not to stress over things I have little control or choice so I decided to prioritise the family and focus back into the business when our youngest starts nursery.

Describe your home…

We live in a 1960s 3-storey terraced town house in Dulwich with lots of lovely original features, plenty of natural light and lots of green open space.

Our last flat was a top floor Victorian flat within a mansion block, so we are used to light and views. We have plans to refurbish the house this year so hopefully I can show you the results soon!

Have you come across any amazing baby kit on your travels that we should know about?

Nothing fancy but I always carry a small pair of scissors in the nappy bag to cut food up, it’s so much quicker than knives and forks! In Hong Kong we use chopsticks and everyone carry scissors to cut up food for children.

My friends in London are always amazed how handy a pair of scissors can be when you have a hungry and impatient little one wanting to gorge down something bigger than their head!

What would be your advice to someone giving birth now?

Enjoy the moment, the birth is by far the easiest and quickest moment when you look back.

I had a beautiful planned home birth with our first and an emergency Caesarean with our second. The most important thing is our sons are both healthy and I’m grateful for all the care we received from the NHS.

Who is your inspiration?

Not one person but as an architect I was much influenced by modernism and the great modernist architects who were often great product designers who put emphasis on materials and processes such as Breuer, Aalto, Scarpa, Wright, Eames, Jacobsen.

But with the love of colours and patterns I love Marimekko, Orla Kiely and all designers and artists, new and old, who work with bold graphic shapes and colours.

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