Tequila Kola has long been known as the place to go to furnish a home in Hong Kong. As the brand approaches its 25th year, founders GEOFF FULLER and MICHELLE KOLLER open the doors of their Parkview apartment to Expat Living and discuss the evolution of the brand. Their stunning home not only exemplifies the “Tequila Kola lifestyle”, but it also suggests that sometimes the best way to succeed in business is to bring your work home with you!
What was the inspiration behind Tequila Kola?
We’ve both always wanted to own our own business and, in 1991, when we started Tequila Kola, we thought there was a gap in the market for a fashion-forward home/lifestyle store.
How did you go about setting up the business?
Michelle: I found it difficult to get work as a technical person in the fashion business; most jobs that I looked at involved very long hours for not much money, so I started Tequila Kola … and initially worked incredibly long hours for no money! To get the business going we rented a shop in the Prince’s Building and used our Pok Fu Lam flat as a warehouse.
Geoff: I was initially transferred to Hong Kong with a big multinational company; I joined Tequila Kola in early 1994.
How has it evolved over the past twenty years?
Initially, Tequila Kola started as a broad-based lifestyle store: we sold everything from earrings to dining room tables – even antique radios! We have evolved into a sophisticated, focused, upscale home emporium with unique products combined with striking visual merchandising. Customers, including many interior designers, come to us for our take on the latest in home fashion. We’re now very well known in Hong Kong and throughout Southern China.
As a husband and wife team, what do you each bring to the business?
Michelle: I have a background in fashion, so I’m in charge of all things creative.
Geoff: I handle the finances, HR, and the admin side of things. We’re completely different, but our skills complement each other – if we had the same skills we could not have started the business together.
What are some of the advantages and disadvantages to running a business as a couple?
Working together as husband and wife isn’t for everyone, and it can put pressure on your relationship at times, particularly if things are not going well. But there are definite advantages – you’re unequivocally on the same side, plus when you are successful this is shared both emotionally and financially.
What’s your idea of “taking work home”?
We try not to talk about work when we’re home … but we nearly always do! To be successful, you have to fine-tune things and move forward all the time. This means discussing ideas and trends quite a lot.
Do you try many of the pieces in your own home?
Of course! We’re passionate about interiors and love to try new things – that’s why we design and buy new collections all the time.
Are you constantly rearranging and redecorating?
Yes, we recently updated our dining room with a new dining table (chrome base with railway sleeper top) and a green accent wall with matching massive carved green mirror. It looks great!
Got any practical advice for our readers on how to run a successful business?
Work hard (especially at the beginning), surround yourself with good people and constantly reinvent the business. In addition, it helps if the lucky business fairy smiles upon you!
Flagship Designer Showroom
1/F, Horizon Plaza, Ap Lei Chau
2877 3295 | tequilakola.com