When Jessi Chloe Chen and Aria Chau were in boarding school in Melbourne together, the pair would occasionally sneak across the road to the Royal Botanical Gardens, where they would smoke cigarettes, talk about boys, and fantasize about all the wonderful places they wanted to go and things they wanted to do in the future - all while picking wild roses from the garden and putting them in their hair. Little did they know that they were planting the seeds for what would become ANDRSN Flowers, a flower delivery business that creates bespoke contemporary-chic boxed Australian roses.
“We always said we’d start a business together before we turned 30, and we did,” says Jessi, who adds that she actually got kicked out of boarding school for sneaking out every Thursday night to promote at a club. But you can’t keep a bad BISH down, especially one who knows how to find the silver lining in seemingly dire situations.
“I wouldn’t be who I am today if I didn’t get kicked out of boarding school at 16. It led me to meet my dear friends and business partners whom I started an event management company with,” she explains. “It was my first swing at being an entrepreneur and funded my lifestyle all throughout University.”
Named after Anderson Street where the boarding school still sits today, ANDRSN launched just before Valentine’s Day this year, and it all came full circle; from sitting in the Royal Botanical Gardens picking wild roses over a decade ago, Jessi and Aria were now sitting in Aria’s living room in Hong Kong hand-packing boxes of beautiful Australian roses - most likely still talking about boys and all the wonderful places they want to go and things they want to do.
"You can do it all as long as you work more than you indulge. Keep the people that love you close and get enough sleep."
There are a lot of people who are opposed to the idea of working with friends for fear a myriad of reason, but Jessi says that when it comes to ANDRSN, she and Aria are “solid.”
“We’ve known each other for so many years and have lived together. We know how to manage each other’s personality,” she says. “The hardest thing in business is managing people and their idiosyncrasies, so it’s good we have that foundation. She knows what I’m trying to get at when I’m unable to explain myself precisely in words. I trust her, we share the same views and goals.”
Now based in Hong Kong, when she’s not busy running ANDRSN with Aria, Jessi runs a fashion showroom called DSTRT, which carries a portfolio of over 15 international brands that they represent and distribute across Asia Pacific including Herschel Supply Co., Jason Markk and Native Shoes. It’s a lot of balls in the air, but she’s got the juggling act down pat.
“It definitely makes you more resilient. You realize you’re able to carry a lot more than what you may have thought, whether that be workload, dealing with crises or managing staff. One person can do a lot, but I’ve learned more than ever that you need to be able to delegate. Multi-tasking is a bloody art and it’s something I’m still learning to master, and that goes hand-in-hand with being able to trust your staff and empower them, so that your vision becomes theirs too.”
For Jessi, the memories and milestones associated with roses are plenty. From the flowers she received on her graduation day - “it’s a miracle I managed to get there,” she says with a laugh - to the beautiful ikebana arrangements her mother created for her father in his hospital room. It was roses that she received from lovers as they fell in love, and it was roses that she lay on her ex-boyfriend’s casket when he passed away unexpectedly four years ago.
“The memories have always been the high-highs or the low-lows,” she says. “That’s always been the beauty for me.”
Sentimental value aside, if you know Jessi, you’ll know that roses speak volumes about the kind of person she is; someone who is endlessly giving, who brings life to whatever room she walks into, who’s always there for the good times and the bad.
“I enjoy life, I do it to the fullest and I am unapologetic about it. I travel, I party, I spend quality time with the people I love that make my life full. You can do it all as long as you work more than you indulge. Keep the people that love you close and get enough sleep.”
When’s the last time you surprised your momma? Or your best friend? Or even yourself? We’re all for treating yourself. Head over to andrsnflowers.com
Photographer: Stanley Cheng