Meg He is the co-founder of ADAY, a direct-to-consumer technical fashion brand. In 2016, she and her co-founder, Nina Faulhaber, were named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 Retail & Commerce category. Meg was born in Beijing, grew up in London, moved to Silicon Valley to earn her MBA at Stanford, and now lives in New York with her rescue, Helix. Helix is helping Meg train for her next marathon.
Did you have pets as a child in the UK?
I didn’t have any dogs. One of my mother’s friends had a rabbit that she didn’t want, and I was given that for a while, until my mother gave it back. Then I decided that because my mother wasn’t very keen on dogs and cats, or things that were fluffy, koi carp were the way forward. We started off with two koi carp, and one had a very injured tail. The tail actually kinked at a right angle, so I named it Right Angle. It couldn’t really swim properly. Because we started off with these two fish, I volunteered to dig a pond in the back garden. I think I was 11. Now, we actually have a much larger pond. I think we maybe have 30 koi carp. It’s turned into a real thing for my mother.
Did you build emotional connections to the koi?
Koi are very intelligent as far as fish go. You can teach them to feed from your hand. They are very amazing animals. If they accidentally jump out of the pond, they can be laying out of the water for half a day and still survive. They can live for, I think, close to 100 years. There is just something really beautiful about the way that they move.
How did you end up working in fashion and co-founding ADAY?
I was fascinated with clothing when I was a kid because I didn’t have enough money for nice clothing. I figured out a way to get nice clothing cheaply, which was by buying vintage designer clothing. In the very beginning—this was when eBay didn’t do spell check, so it’s unbelievable the amount of people who will misspell Dolce & Gabbana—it’s actually pretty hard to spell. I once picked up a Yves Saint Laurent smoking jacket for £6, and I turned and resold it for £900. So I did this when I was in high school, and I got some very nice clothing, especially from the ’70s and ’80s. I specialized in ’70s and ’80s designer clothing, and also cocktail dresses from the ’30s and ’70s.
Even when I went to work in finance at Goldman Sachs, I still remembered that time. In high school, I taught myself to code and spent a lot of time with computers. From there, it made since to move to Silicon Valley, which was really where all the action was. I got my MBA at Stanford GSB and I ended up working with a number of different companies at the intersection between fashion and technology.
My co-founder, Nina, and I had worked at Goldman Sachs together. We noticed that in every industry, the technology got better and made lives easier. But in clothing and fashion, things never really got better. They just got different colors, or shinier. So we really wanted to make better clothing, so people could have better wardrobes, and just simplify their lives, because that seemed to be where technology was happening everywhere else.
“I think that if dogs were allowed on the New York subway like they are on the London Tube, every other person would have their dog with them.”
Tell us about Forrest, your first dog.
I had gone through a pretty messy breakup, because we had launched ADAY in 2015, and the company was doing great. But all of our customers were in the US, so we decided to move to New York. I was actually dating an American in London, He was like, oh, I want to move to New York too. I was like, great. It’s all working out. But three months after the deadline in which he was supposed to move to New York, I realized he was never coming over. I was just very lonely in the city. I felt very abandoned. I had friends here, but a lot of my friends were working in finance, and I didn’t know many people who worked in startups.
How long did you have Forrest?
I had Forrest for two years. I was in California, and my partner was looking after him. I decided to cut my business trip a week short. I came back, and Forrest was very excited to see me—we had a great day! On the second day, in the evening around 10pm, he started howling like I had never seen him do before. Then, he ran behind the stove. My partner reached for him, and Forrest bit him. He was foaming at the mouth at this time.
At this time, I was very concerned for my partner. What if Forrest had contracted rabies somewhere? Maybe the vaccination didn’t work? And then suddenly, Forrest started having seizures. His eyes were bloodshot and he had blood around his mouth.
We got into a cab and my partner was performing CPR on him. I was holding his head. He died in the cab on the way over, but I didn’t know that until we were at the hospital. I remember screaming into the night. Obviously, it’s very sad, but I’m very happy that I was able to be there for his last moments.
I wasn’t looking to adopt a dog after that. But I became a foster parent to two puppies from Social Tees. They were just both incredible boys. So smart and such great temperaments. So, we ended up adopting one of them—Helix.
Do you keep in touch with Helix’s brother?
Yes. There are like eight brothers and sisters in the litter. Helix has a brother who lives by the beach in New Jersey. I’m hoping to see him sometime, as his mother and I always DM each other with tips.
Tell us about your typical day with Helix.
He’s a German Shepherd, Dalmatian, and other stuff. All those mixes like to run. In the morning, we will go to either Prospect Park, or Fort Greene, and we’ll play with the dogs for up to an hour, whenever he starts looking like he’s flagging. Then, we’ll run to work. It’s about four miles over the Manhattan Bridge to SoHo. He can run very fast. He was doing like six-minute miles, five-minute miles at 14 weeks.
What do you wear when you go running with Helix?
For running with Helix, I wear the Kurgo K9 Excursion Running Belt and 48-inch Hertzko Hands-Free Running Dog Leash. My favorite running top is the ADAY Fast Forward Bra in teal—this is the perfect running bra, as we created it for larger busts, but I’m a 32B and it’s outrageously comfortable. It fits everyone. I wear the ADAY Brakes On Leggings in navy and the ADAY Up in the Air Jacket when it’s cold.
“I think one of the defining but really super cool things about having your own company is that you can set the culture, and it can be a dog-friendly environment.”
The ADAY New York office and showroom (264 Canal Street) is on the border of Chinatown and SoHo. Tell us about how you found this location.
My co-founder Nina was in charge of looking for the U.S. office, and she found this great space on Lafayette Street that was too expensive. She walked outside and ran into one of my best friends, Michael Preysman from Everlane. He told her to get the office, so we did. Now we’re across the road from that office. We’re across the street from Glossier’s showroom, so a lot of people do a SoHo tour and visit us along the way.
Our office in London is in Somerset House, and it’s very dog friendly. It’s very grand neoclassical building, and Helix walks around inside like he owns the place.
Ah, so you took Helix to London for two months in 2018. Do you have any favorite dog-friendly travel companies?
I love the Park Hyatt. They give dog goodie bags to guests in New York. There’s a map of where you should take your dog within 10 blocks of the hotel, and they actually draw out their favorite parts of Central Park to explore. They write out this whole welcome board for you, and it says no home is complete without a dog—or something like that. Then, they give you a whole pack of wipes, peanut butter treats, and their own little poo bag holder. It says Bark Hyatt on it, which is cute.
What are the differences between raising a dog in London versus New York?
Helix was raised going to New York dog parks every day. I was very shocked to learn, even having grown up in London, that there are not many dog parks in London. Although dogs are allowed at all parks, most of the time the dogs don’t want to play with each other, because they grew up playing with their owners. They only want to play fetch.
But aren’t dogs allowed on the Tube in London? Like, they’re just allowed to sit there. In New York, they have to be carried in a bag on the subway. Doesn’t that make London seem more dog-friendly?
I think that if dogs were allowed on the New York subway like they are on the London Tube, every other person would have their dog with them. Whereas I rarely even see dogs in London. In New York, I see dogs pop out of bags all the time. There’s also a lot more countryside in the UK. The only cities are London, Manchester, and Birmingham. So it’s like, why would you live here when you could be in the countryside? London is also very diverse—even more so than New York—and so there isn’t this prevalent American mindset of dogs as family members.
Do you have any secret nicknames for Helix?
I call him Kitten. When he was small, he was very kitten-like.
Do you have conversations with Helix?
So, Forrest was very much of an adult. I definitely talked to Forrest, and he addressed me as an adult. Whereas Helix is still very clearly a child. Our interaction is either play or boundary setting. I think it will morph into conversation, but at the moment, he either wants to be silly and have fun all the time, or sleep.
Tell us more about Helix’s personality.
If he were the kid in high school, he would be the one that just wants to be friends with everyone, and doesn’t mind getting made fun of. He’s just instantly forgiving and loving. So if you give him all of the toys, he’s like, this is great, thank you for all of the toys. I’m into this one. Now I’m into this one. But if you give him no toys, he’s like, okay, I will make a game with myself. He’s very easygoing.
What does Helix eat?
We are still trying to establish what food he likes. So far, it seems like he just gets bored of food every now and then. At the moment, we’re on a Purina blend. Next, we’re going back to a brand that we had some success with, which is Farmina. He seemed to really like it. He’s really picky. Some days, he will just go on strike and not eat for a day or two.
My dog does that, too.
I definitely get worried. I have a stack of frozen chicken thighs, and I’ll make chicken broth for him and add some meat, and mix that into his food. Then, he’ll eat again.
I noticed Helix’s pearly whites! Do you brush his teeth regularly?
It’s the one that does baking soda—Arm & Hammer Fresh Breath Enzymatic Toothpaste for Dogs. All this was inherited from Forrest. I introduced Helix to the toothpaste at 10 weeks. At first, he just licked it. It was a long time before I even brushed one tooth. But now we do a full brushing once a week.
Do you think entrepreneurs benefit from the responsibility of having a dog?
One, everyone would benefit from having a dog. Two, entrepreneurs are in a unique position where they can be flexible about their work hours, so more of them are able to get a dog. There was this class at Stanford GSB called Work and Family, and the professor joked that, you know, maintaining balance in life, and kids, and marriage, and all of that stuff will always be very hard. But if you want someone who will really love you, then get a dog. But a lot of people are not in that position with their work schedule. But entrepreneurs, we get to set our rules. I think one of the defining but really super cool things about having your own company is that you can set the culture, and it can be a dog-friendly environment.
Photography by Tayler Smith