Coral Chung is an entrepreneur, former strategy consultant and technology executive. Coral is the Founder & CEO of Senreve, a direct-to-consumer luxury brand for the multi-faceted modern woman. Senreve launched in November 2016 with a line of luxurious handbags and has been called an “it” bag brand by fashion/luxury publications and worn by celebrities, influencers, and top female executives. Coral started her career at Bain, where she advised Fortune 500 companies on retail strategy. Coral has always been passionate about luxury retail and consumer brands, which led her to work with Prada’s COO and CEO of Americas on marketing, commercialization, distribution related projects prior to its IPO. Coral was most recently a Principal at Medallia, a leader in SaaS/big data analytics, where she worked with leading luxury and global retail brands like Apple, Sephora, and Nordstrom.
She lives in the SF Bay Area with her husband and six-year-old daughter.
1. How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I grew up in an entrepreneurial household. Watching my parents grow their business from scratch and being involved every step of the way was inspirational for me. It was also great business training and allowed me to have a much greater risk tolerance.
2. How has your previous employment experience aided your current role?
I have always been focused on working at companies and in roles where I could have the maximum learning and life experience. All of my prior job experiences led me to where I am today because they gave me the tools, exposure, and confidence to start Senreve and scale it.
3. What have the highlights and challenges been during your current role?
Starting a company is the most rewarding experience of my career. Every time I see a woman wearing a Senreve bag it’s a highlight! It’s also incredible validation of something that was merely an idea in my head 2.5 years ago. There are many challenge day to day, but the biggest challenge is overcoming the fear of failure. It’s a constant struggle that is emotionally draining at times.
4. What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
It is important to be passionate and authentic. Don’t build a career in fashion or luxury based on outside perceptions of how glamorous it is. It’s competitive and requires hard work, so the only way to distinguish yourself is to have that true passion.
5. What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?
Never giving up. Sometimes it seems like it’s all over but actually that’s when the most creative and resourceful ideas come forward.
6. How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I don’t believe in balance when it comes to work/life. For me it’s about work/life integration. I love what I do, I love my family and my daughter and I try to include her in what I do for work, whether it’s travels to my factory in Italy or events or even packing boxes in the early days of Senreve.
7. What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
It’s really difficult for women biologically because during your 30s it’s the most critical time to invest in your career, but it’s also the most critical time to start a family and have children. There’s an inherent conflict because having children and managing a family requires a lot and work (especially if you’re passionate and ambitious) demands a lot. So to me, it’s actually a combination of having a 50-50 marriage (where the partner is just as involved in taking care of family and home), getting infrastructure in place, having a community to help support – having those in place is not easy but practically it’s not possible to excel in the workplace without that type of support outside of the workplace. In the workplace the biggest challenge is still representation. Unfortunately, there are still so few women at the most senior levels, very few female founders, investors, board members. I think it’s critical to have people to look up to who make you feel like “oh yea she looks like me, I can do it too.” I find that one of the most rewarding things of starting a company is being able to build a team of strong, smart and capable women!
8. How can we encourage more women to start their own business?
I think having a community and celebrating more female founders is important. The startup founder archetype is a young guy in a hoodie. Most women don’t relate to that archetype. So it’s helpful to showcase a wider variety women, who start all kinds of businesses. That will dispel the idea that you can only start a company if you’re a young white male.
9. How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I’ve had many great mentors, male and female throughout my life. My mentors have helped me during many critical junctures, especially when thinking about starting Senreve. They really pushed me and helped pressure test the idea and my passion to pursue it.
10. Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I’m a big fan of Katrina Lake (founder of Stitch Fix). It’s amazing how she built a company from start to IPO all while having 2 kids. I also love Toni Ko (founder of NYX) who built a cosmetics empire, starting out in her twenties with no outside capital.
11. What do you want to professionally and personally accomplish in the next year? Senreve is growing quickly, we’re focused on executing a couple of major partnerships, international growth, and broadening our product assortment. We’re also hiring quickly and building out our team. Personally, I want to meditate daily, workout regularly, and go to sleep before midnight – simple goals that are hard to stick to!!!
12. What are the top three tips you can offer to an entrepreneur starting out?
1. Don’t get psyched out before you even start. Stop any negative self-talk. 2. Ask your close mentors, friends and family for support (don’t be embarrassed or shy about asking for help). 3. When in doubt, test and pivot. You have full control over your destiny!