Women Who Do What They Love - Riitta Burri

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Who is this woman? Riitta Burri

What is her passion called? MyBag!byBurri

Where can you take a squiz at her stuff? www.mybagbyburri.com

How did she find herself in Beijing? I came to Beijing 2.5 years ago, for my husband’s job.

What is this woman’s story? I’m American with a Finnish mother, hence the name. I never had a ‘real’ profession. Just lots of little jobs in between studying all over Europe. Then I met my husband at the Expo in Sevilla in 1992. Now we have four kids and I started my own business here in Beijing. I love Bikram yoga, spinning and skiing. I also love making things – boxes, scrapbooking, cooking and baking, reading, movies… the list goes on.


How long has she been doing her new career thing? Since May 2009.

What does she actually do? I make tote bags which fold up into a small pouch. The special thing about this bag is the pattern. Currently there are five patterns, each representing a different country. The patterns are long lost motifs – 50 to 100 years old – lost into museums or coffee table books. I’ve reproduced them to make these bags. Hence, MyBag! my country. The bags are 100% cotton and water repellant.

Why does she do it all? Because I love to shop, I hate plastic and I wanted to try my hand at something challenging.

What pesky obstacles has she experienced running a business? It was very difficult to get started. But I kept at it until I found my supplier who sourced me the Beijing factories. I told everyone I spoke to about my project.


How does she balance her work with family? “My” day starts at 8am and ends at 4pm. When the kids come home, I am all theirs’, usually. Then at 9pm I get back to emails and business.

What have been her greatest business joys? Encountering a tremendously positive feedback, and getting my own identity. I’m no longer the tai tai following her husband. Though I did always say I’m a trailblazing spouse. Amazing though what effect having one’s own business has (especially on men) at a cocktail party! Even something simple like a shopping bag.

What are her favourite things about her business? The challenge. And the discovery of new patterns. And the enthusiasm it has sparked among people. And my friends who are all keen on helping me distribute in their home countries.

What is her inspiration? World travel, art history, creating something totally new.


If she could do anything in the whole wide world, what would she choose? I would like to work for a company which organises events, such as world fairs, the Olympics, the Grammys, Oscars, etc. Big events with an international crowd.

Where would she escape to if she could? To Tokyo.

What would she do there? I would eat and check out the bag situation in the stores. And I would do an extended weekend into the countryside.

What is her greatest achievement? Having four kids and now starting up this business.

What does she love about living in Beijing? The fast pace of things, the great restaurants, massages, household help and my purchase power.


What five words sum her up? Energetic, positive, frank, impatient and always trying to do more than time or my energy allows.

What fabulous advice does she have for those wanting to follow their passion? Go for it! No matter what. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Tell everyone your idea and suddenly it will take shape and happen. But you have to stick to it. You have to breath it and live it 24 hours – at least to get started.

What’s next for Riitta? The ultimate goal of MyBag! is that every country on the planet has its own bag based on one or more old patterns.


Riitta’s chic range of MyBag! bags are available in Beijing at Ullens, Tai Tai Kitchen, The Orchard, The Cottage and Counting Sheep Boutique. See her website for details on stockists in other countries - www.mybagbyburri.com.

Rita has since left Beijing for Europe, but plans to grow her business all over the world.

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