The Untold Story of Helen Lo

Discover how the founder of Lo & Sons fled civil war, almost became a nun, immigrated to Alabama, fought for social justice, graduated with a Ph.D, and ultimately became a master of reinventing her career.

We recently chatted with our mom about her amazing yet untold personal story and unconventional non-linear path to success.  Listen to the full conversation below:  

The Early Days

Our mom, the youngest of 7 children, was born in a small village in southern China. During the civil war (after World War II) our mom’s family fled to Macau, which was then a sleepy Portuguese colony. Not long after, our mom’s father passed away, leaving her own mom—uneducated and penniless—alone to fend for her 7 children. Our grandmother was able to get our mom into a Catholic boarding school in Macau as a charity case. Only 7 years old and all alone, our mom quickly felt how differently (and unfairly) the nuns treated her, the charity case, compared to other students from more affluent families. This would shape her lifelong strong sense and passion to fight for social justice.

After graduating high school, our mom embarked on a 4 year transcontinental journey from Macau to Canberra, Australia to Mobile, Alabama to Boston and then to New York City, where she worked in the Empire State Building as a clerical worker to save up money to pay for the rest of college. Despite getting into Columbia University, she did not have enough savings to enroll as a full-time student. Instead she chose to attend the University of Massachusetts in Boston.


collage of Helen Lo photos as a child
collage of Helen Lo as a young woman


Passion for Social Justice

While at Boston, our mom became active in the Boston Chinatown community, channeling her passion for social justice and underserved communities. Thinking about how she could amplify her efforts, she decided to apply for Ph.D programs so that she could eventually go to Washington DC and help craft social policies to fight for social justice on a national level. Despite getting into the University of Chicago, our mom decided to go to Brandeis University, which allowed her to stay close to the Boston Chinatown community.

Love & Family

Living on Claremont street in Boston, our mom met our father, Fred, who was then also pursuing his Ph.D but at MIT. After our dad completed his Ph.D in astrophysics, he got a postdoctoral position in radio astronomy at Caltech.  So our mom and dad packed up everything to move to Los Angeles, CA, where both sons, Jan and Derek, were born. Like so many women then (and now), our mom sacrificed her own professional goals, specifically her goal to move to DC to shape national social policies, for her husband and family.

helen lo and family


collage of Helen Lo with first son


collage of Helen Lo with both sons

A Master at Reinvention

When our dad got a job at the University of Illinois, our mom and dad packed up everything to move to Champaign, Illinois. Faced with limited professional opportunities in a smaller college town, our mom realized she had to reinvent herself professionally. First she became the Director of the Frances Nelson Community Health Center, which served the underserved community. Then she became the director of Institutional Research at Parkland College where she worked with big data before data science became popularized.

When our dad became the Director of the Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics in Taipei, Taiwan, our mom and dad packed up everything again to move to a land where she did not speak or read the local dialect. There she worked as a management consultant at TSMC, one of the top semiconductor companies in the world, to advise on how the company could better assess its teams.

When our dad became the Director of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, our mom and dad packed up everything and moved* to Charlottesville, VA. After so many years of professional reinvention and with both sons finally out of the house, our mom finally felt like she could take a rest.

[*notice a pattern?]

Finally “retired,” our mom started to travel more with our dad, who continued having to fly all over the world for work. Because our dad insisted on only carrying on luggage—even on international trips throughout Europe and Asia—our mom had to figure out how to manage to pack everything with just a carry-on. Except she kept searching and searching for a lightweight (to deal with her back problems), functional (to keep her laptop and electronics organized), yet stylish travel bag.

And this search would ultimately lead to the birth of Lo & Sons and her last reinvention: from CEO to CGO (Chief Grandma Officer).


  • Rochelle

    Great story of re-invention for a smart ambitious woman! Loved it. Having worked in male industries all of my career, and having to travel around the globe, I got my first bag after my daughter mentioned that a friend found it so useful for travel. One can tell that it was designed thinking of a woman’s needs-so many great compartments. I am now looking at the backpack as I carry my Ipad pro, my computer and other gadgets for work and play with me.

  • Eliza

    Reading about Mrs. Lo’s journey was truly inspiring! It left me hopeful for my future as well. She sounds like a truly incredible person being able to adapt and reinvent herself multiple times at different stages throughout her life. Wishing the Lo family continued success and prosperity!

  • Vivian Lee

    As a fellow Chinese American and MIT graduate, it is super inspirational to see your family so accomplished in both their scholarly pursuits, “typical” postgraduate careers, AND making such an impact in the sustainable fashion world. I just bought my first L&S bag and hope to be a customer for years to come!

  • Isa

    I just purchased my third bag as a gift to my boyfriend. I love the story of the company and Im so impressed w the design and quality of the products.

  • Trixi

    I will be using your company for my university assessment for Sustainable business management. Your mother is inspirational!

  • Virginia

    I loved your life story! I am from Hsinchu, Taiwan, where you must have spent some time in while consulting for TSMC. I started using your TT bag when my first son was born, he’s now 5.5yr and I am still using the bag everyday for work, along with the waverley! I love your products.

    Thank you for sharing your story, and making these incredible products for working women.

  • Srey S

    Thank you for sharing such a powerful story! This made me love your company even more than I already do, which I didn’t know was possible. As the daughter of an immigrant single mother who escaped the Khmer Rouge and the Cambodian genocide, I appreciate reading stories about modern day strong Asian women.

  • Joyce

    Thanks for sharing your story Mrs. Lo! What an inspiration to see you reinvent yourself throughout your lifetime. Very admirable.

  • Isabella

    Such a beautiful and inspiring story! I have five of your bags and love them all. Thank you for sharing!

  • Joanne K

    What a wonderful story of persistence and success and at any age. Your voice telling your story and sons asking the questions is a real treasure. I look forward to trying your products. Best wishes!!

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