Name: Maura Thompson
Hails From: Philadelphia, U.S.A
Years in Hong Kong: Four
Currently: Co-founder of Sassy Hong Kong
FROM THE FIRST SECOND WE MEET, I can see why Maura Thompson is the perfect woman to be at the helm of Sassy Hong Kong: Sassy is the definitive girl’s guide to Hong Kong, and Maura seems the definitive Hong Kong girl. She’s warm, full of stories and ideas, running a business while still managing a personal life, and looking chic and gorgeous all the while.
“Myself and two girl friends, we all moved here around the same time. We were sitting at lunch one day and we were saying, ‘I wish there were something more for girls in Hong Kong to do and a website that tells them where to go and what to do, events that bring them together.’ That’s how Sassy was born and I’ve been doing that ever since.”
Sassy Hong Kong (www.sassyhongkong.com) is a girl’s guide to to the city – restaurant reviews, boutique openings, style and travel info and so much more. “It’s that one stop shop for lifestyle information… if it’s Friday night and you want to go out for dinner with your friends, you’d be able to go onto our site and check out a review of the latest opening.”
When the notion of moving to Hong Kong first came about, Maura had no idea the city would become her home of four years and counting, and she certainly didn’t realize that she was soon to create an eminent Hong Kong website with more than 7,500 members on its mailing list.
“My (now) husband came home one day and he was like, What do you think about Hong Kong?” Maura was unsure at first. “I grew up in Philadelphia, and my whole family lives in that area. When I moved to New York, that was far away.” But Maura decided to take the plunge, in more ways than one: She got engaged, and finally decided that moving to Hong Kong was indeed the right decision.
“We came over to check it out and fell in love with it. Then they told (my fiancée) Paul, We want you here in the beginning of January. But our wedding was in May! So he moved over here in January and I stayed back in the States, moved out of the apartment, quit my job, planned the wedding, and then two days after our wedding we moved over here.”
After the whirlwind activity of relocation, Maura was quick to take full advantage of Hong Kong’s vibrant opportunities for personal and professional development, finally hitting upon the idea of Sassy with her girlfriends.
The site has given Maura the opportunity to be a part of Hong Kong’s thriving world of fashion and design. “In terms of fashion in Hong Kong, one of the great things that I love about my job is the being exposed to all the amazing independent designers (and) letting the girls of Hong Kong become more aware of these cool shops.” Maura tells me that when she first moved to Hong Kong, she found shopping a bit difficult because mass chains seemed to be the only option. Since then, Sassy has become an irreplaceable resource for women searching for interesting, independent boutiques.
Maura calls her own style “classic with an edge, minimum,” preferring neutrals to busy colors, and recently making an effort to wear shades such as “softer browns or peaches or salmon colors” complementary to her warm skin tone. Today, Maura looks radiant in a simple black skirt, bronze-toned leopard print blouse and a soft olive Jimmy Choo bag. She’s especially eager to tell me about her accessories.
“I love love love jewelry…I prefer jewelry purchasing over clothes. In terms of my jewelry style, it’s not super expensive, it’s just cool pieces that can add something to an outfit.” One example of a cool piece is the necklace she’s wearing today, a LOVE pendant purchased at an upscale, quirky Philadelphia tourist shop and based on the statue by American artist Robert Indiana. In keeping with her love for unique jewelry and chunky watches, Maura even has a wristwatch which was originally a college graduation gift to her husband from his father.
Like her style, Maura has created the Sassy website to be attractive with a personal touch.“The nice thing about our site is that we only put up things we think are worth knowing about… It’s good quality information but also in a fun, personal environment. We don’t just take a press release and plop it up on the site.”
Recently, Maura has been especially excited to invite a team of Sassy bloggers on board. “Our girls are running around town super passionate about their areas of interest. I think that has brought an amazing wealth of content to our website, and it increases our credibility as well because it’s not just myself and (Sassy Co-founder) Hester saying we like to go to these places. Instead, it’s our resident food blogger who lives and breathes eating. She’s going to the restaurant, she’s taking pictures of the food, she’s analysing every little detail.”
Of course, Sassy has seen plenty of challenges along the way. Besides the expected trials of making a name for the business and staying exceptionally committed to the work, Sassy has worked hard to overcome a struggle unique to this website: Stigma.
“We were three expat girls who moved over here, and we didn’t want people to think Sassy was for women who don’t work. It was a struggle in the beginning, but I think we’ve done an amazing job of proving that we’re not a website for women who have nothing to do all day. We’re a website for women who are insanely busy and are looking for help in terms of how to schedule their day or find cool things to do amongst fifteen hour work days.”
Along with her other two co-founders, Maura also faced the challenge of performing any and all tasks necessary to get the website up and running. “You have to wear all these different hats… you might not know anything about finance and booking and all that stuff, but since there’s no one else to do it, that’s your role.” Still, the challenges of being a small team and taking on a plethora of responsibility do come with perks. “Now, I know a little bit more about keeping the finances and marketing and PR and editing. It is a challenge, but it’s a benefit when you see the outcome.”
Indeed, Sassy is a website that just keeps growing. Besides providing information, Sassy also organizes a monthly happy hour (‘Sassy Hour’) where Hong Kong girls can enjoy rotating venues, peruse goods from Sassy-partnered brands, and just “have a glass of wine and chill out with each other.”
When she describes Sassy Hour, I get a real sense of Maura’s pleasure at being able give both content and contentment to the women of Hong Kong. Perhaps her passion, work ethic and good-natured humour seem best encompassed in her eager statement of unequivocal love for heels: “I love high heels…At some point in time I know I’m going to face-plant on Pottinger. I’m always hobbling around in high heels, and someday I’m going to fall flat. I just hope no one I know is there to see me, but I know in Hong Kong it will happen!”