Wendy Yu is the founder and chief executive of Yu Holdings, a cutting edge, globally positioned company that makes strategic investments in areas associated with innovation, creativity and philanthropy through its subsidiaries Yu Capital, Yu Fashion and Yu Culture. Yu’s investments include fashion brands Mary Katrsntzou (who has an upcoming collaboration with the 2019 Victoria’s Secret fashion show), Cefinn (founded by Samantha Cameron), technology giants DiDi (the Uber of China) and Tjia (the AirBnb Of China). Yu grew up learning first hand lessons about drive and vision from her father, the founder of Mengtian Group, the largest wooden door manufacturer in China. At the age of 15, Yu moved to London to study Fashion Management at the London College of Fashion where she began to build her own vision of a career that was more than a profession, but was a way to make a social, artistic, business and cultural impact—a vision she has both realized and continued to expand on. Part of that involves partnering with the Business of Fashion (BoF) to launch the first Business of Fashion China Prize: a global fashion award dedicated to emerging Chinese design talent that carries a cash prize of $100,000, a slot on the official fashion calendars of Shanghai Fashion Week and London Fashion Week and mentorship from industry leaders.
Carrie Hammer: What was behind your desire to create Yu Holdings?
Wendy Yu: Ever since I was a kid, I was pretty sure I’m going to be an entrepreneur, but not the type of entrepreneur like my dad who’s quite traditional. As a kid, he would encourage me to keep asking myself where I wanted to go and how I would get there. At a young age, I had the mindset of not just finding the right position for myself, but also finding the right pathways to get me there. I see myself as being a creative entrepreneur, but on the global stage. I see myself being this bridge to connect investments with creativity. I wanted to do something that was quite new, quite refreshing, something that a millennial entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist would do and something that probably nobody had done before.
Hammer: What was something that you learned about yourself as you developed the investment firm?
Yu: I learned so much about myself. I started to become more and more aware of my strengths and weakness. To be a leader you have to really know who you are and you have to find a team that compliments your strengths and weakness. I have learned how important it is to have the right people and a good team around you. Ultimately it shouldn’t be just for your vision. You have to find that perfect balance between what you love and what you are good at and also asking, “does the market really need this?”
Hammer: As a highly accomplished, successful young business woman, you must find yourself in situations where people underestimate you. How do you use that to your advantage?
Yu: I think it is an advantage that people underestimate you. With every ugly obstacle there is an opportunity. When people underestimate you, it doesn’t matter because then you know why you want to achieve that particular goal and what you want to do in the long run. I’m a rebel at heart. I feel like when there are more obstacles, it makes me more excited.