In Conversation With Stephanie Hannington-Suen

In the journal this week, we chat with Stephanie, the creative behind Homework. Stephanie created Homework to help people find balance in their everyday life. Combing her parent's Traditional Chinese Medicine skills, and the healing power of nature with her graphic design experience, Homework was born. Continue reading to find out more about the philosophy behind the brand.

Written by Jenny Garcia.

You only have to spend a moment browsing in Maze to know that the brands they partner with offer something a bit special, Homework is no exception. A unique combination of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), 100% natural ingredients, a minimalist aesthetic and eco packaging. The end result is natural purpose driven skincare and redolent home fragrances. Stephanie Hannington-Suen the founder, grew up around TCM and has used her design background, childhood experiences and knowledge to fuse the two worlds, imparting a sense of balance into our daily lives.

In Conversation with Stephanie Hannington-Suen

We are so grateful to Steph for taking time out of her schedule to share details of her business, inspirations and passions with us. We hope you enjoy getting to know her and Homework a little more in the following conversation:

Who and what inspired you to conceive Homework?
My parents inspired me to start homework. Growing up they ran a Traditional Chinese Medicine clinic which I would help out at on weekends. Seeing them run their own business and their belief in the healing power of nature definitely inspired me.

How have you managed to fuse the old and modern world?
Traditional Chinese Medicine is a centuries old healing practice. I take inspiration from the idea of the importance of finding balance. TCM is all about balance of yin and yang, of hot and cold and so I wanted to help people find balance in their everyday life. So I created a collection of contemporary products that apply a modern approach to ancient Chinese philosophy to help you make time for yourself and start new rituals.

Which part of the process do you enjoy the most, sourcing ingredients, making recipes, designing packaging, meeting wholesale partners?
My background is in graphic design, I studied it at Edinburgh College of Art and was in the design industry for 8 years before starting homework so I would say my favourite part of the process would have to be the branding, marketing and photography.

How do you create new recipes?
Whenever I’m creating a new recipe, I always consult my mum on the best ingredients to use based on their TCM benefits. For example, our dandelion soap bar, dandelion has been used to treat eczema and psoriasis in TCM for centuries. It’s one of the herbs that my mum puts in her herbal remedy prescriptions to help treat these skin conditions. With this knowledge, we infuse dried dandelion in olive oil for 12 hours on a low heat and then use that oil as the base material
for our soap bar. This creates a nourishing soap bar and it is how the bar gets its unique green natural colouring.

In Coversation With Homework - Soaps

Why is being sustainable so important to you and how does that manifest itself in your business?
I think it’s important for everyone to be as sustainable as possible. I didn’t see the point of starting a business if it wasn’t one of the core underlying values. We try to make sustainable choices in every aspect of our business, from the packaging materials to only manufacturing small batches of products at a time to avoid waste.

Do you use your own products, which is your favourite?
Yes and I always find it so difficult to choose only one favourite. I love using our jojoba shampoo bar and dandelion soap bar every morning. Then in the evenings I love burning the Bai San candle as I love the grounding effects. On weekends, I love indulging in the Wood Bath Soak.

In Conversation with Homework
How and where do you source all your natural ingredients?
When we first started out, we contacted lots of different suppliers getting samples of their ingredients. After a while you narrow it down to the best and now we have a little black book of our go to suppliers, some that my parents used in the past for their dried herbs.

What made you decide to partner with Maze?
We’ve admired Maze for a long time and loved their values and how they place design and quality front and centre, something that we believe here at homework too.

What are you reading, watching and or listening to at the moment?
Currently I’m reading East Side Voices: Essays celebrating East and Southeast Asian identity in Britain.
Watching The Dropout.
Listening to Do You radio. I have it on every morning in the studio.

How would your friends describe you in 3 words?
Oh that’s a tough question but I hope – Reliable, creative, positive.

Favourite meal of the day?
Dinner. I always look forward to getting home. I’m a real homebody.

What’s the best thing about running your own business?
How everyday is different.

What does life balance look like to you?
Life balance is a core belief for us at homework, so it’s definitely something that I’ve always embraced. I love having evenings to myself and going on holiday.

Tea or coffee?
Tea, I’ve never really liked coffee.

Top sustainable tip?
Make conscious purchases.

What are the next steps for Homework?
We have some new exciting changes for homework that we’ve been working on behind the scenes. Watch this space.

Cat or dog?
Dog since we got our puppy Sonny.

Five year plan or get through the day?
Five year plan, I’ve always been a planner.

How do you relax?
Cosy evenings at home.

Best life advice?
Enjoy life and don’t get stressed. Everything always sorts itself out.

Urban or rural?
Although I live in London, I would pick rural. I love taking any opportunity to get out of the city.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
Be kind to yourself and enjoy the everyday moments.

A lot of what Stephanie says will resonate with small and independent business owners, in the same way her products resonate with those who use and enjoy them. Steph’s last imparting words are simple but wise, two things we could all do with remembering as we go about our busy lives.

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