There’s no doubt that Hong Kong is one of the best places to start a company. Its unique position, open attitude of the people to new ideas and willingness of the government to promote HK-based ventures are incredibly encouraging. Starting a business as a mum can especially be challenging due to the overwhelming nature of the business world in Hong Kong as well as our other family commitments. As a mum of a 4 year old and a 2 year old, and a business owner who works from home, I’ve put together this guide to starting a business in Hong Kong along with 7 tips that are absolutely crucial, in my opinion. Hope you will find this useful, and it will inspire you to get started on your business dreams!
From my experience, there are 5 main steps to starting a new business:
- Ideation & Business plan
- Registering & Legal formalities
- Website Development
- Get set and go!
Step 1: Ideation & Business Plan
Often the best business ideas come out of a specific passion or discovery of products or services that you feel are missing from your life. As mums, we are so heavily involved with raising our kids and sometimes come across an idea that could make our lives that much easier. Write down all the problem points you have (as a general consumer or a mama consumer), then narrow it down to what the problem is you would like to solve and, how you propose to solve it.
Write a simple business plan with the problem, your solution and your approach along with some basic timelines, cost and your future vision. Think it through thoroughly, talk to people (as many as possible) and come back to amend it. You will almost never get it right the first time, but that’s already a sign that your approach is correct. Incorporating feedback and continuous validation is key to a healthy approach. In one such feedback discussion with a close friend of mine, Anasua, I found a partner for my business! It’s always better to work with a partner or a friend as it removes a lot of stress, especially as mums with hectic schedules and little ones to tend to.
In my case, my partner and I love trying small and new businesses, their unique products and placing orders with the founders themselves just because of the sheer passion and quality they promise to deliver. After I moved to Hong Kong, I saw that there were so many fantastic mum entrepreneurs in this city who create amazing products and services from home. But as a consumer, it was impossible for me to follow hundreds of FB pages and newsletters or even maintain my own log of information. I wanted ONE reliable and well-trusted information source to reach out to some cool and unique businesses. That was how www.HiddenTruffles.com was born! HiddenTruffles helps you “Discover High-Quality Small Businesses In HK”. On our portal, you can browse through various unique businesses and their events that we hand pick, profile and photograph to showcase to all of Hong Kong’s waiting consumers!
Step 2: Networking
You may have heard it before but the three tips to growing a successful business are – Networking, Networking & Networking! Talk to as many people as possible about your business for feedback, collaborations or simply for some encouragement and to make a new friend in the city. The amount of collective knowledge you’ll get from networking is incredible.
Never neglect an opportunity to meet a new audience. Talking to people outside of your friend’s circle will help you verify that there is a genuine need for your business. It also helps you evaluate the size of the target market.
As mums, we have several places to meet other mums, including mama groups, play dates, school events, kids’ centres, parks, etc. I have found that the diverse set of parents and teachers in Hong Kong are a valuable resource – and they are also wonderful people to interact with! Make sure you sign up for different networking events that help you reach out to your audience or gain more knowledge.
At this stage, if you find that the feedback for your idea is not satisfying, talk to more people. If the feedback you receive is still not satisfying, then consider reevaluating your business proposition. In an extreme case, it’s time to scuttle your idea and go back to Step 1.
I talked to at least 20 business owners and 25-30 friends before we finally incorporated. Thankfully, we have had a very good response to date. This also helped us keep improvising and refining the business idea. Our company as it looks today is very different from how it started – and I expect that it will keep changing in the days to come as I believe continuously evolving is a crucial part of a successful entrepreneurial journey.
Step 3: Registering and Legal Formalities
Once you’ve got the business idea nailed down, it’s time to register the company. Here is a summary of the three most popular types of company formation.
- Sole proprietorships: This is ideal for businesses that are small and run by a single person. You are free to make all decisions. However the sole proprietor is liable for his or her business with all personal assets.
- Partnerships: As the name suggests, two or more people run this type of company. However, general partnerships have the disadvantage that you (and your partners) are fully liable for the company. If you would like to have limited business risk, you can consider a limited partnership arrangement.
- Limited company: A lot of people who have their own businesses in Hong Kong choose a private limited liability company. Small and medium-sized businesses are often set up as private LLCs. The process is a bit complicated and overwhelming the first time, but there are several companies who can help you register this business from start to end for a nominal fee. You will need a name, one or more directors, one to 50 shareholders, a company secretary, a physical address in Hong Kong and a minimum capital $10,000 in the bank. More details on requirements can be found here.
No matter what, your first step will be to visit the Business Registration Office in Wan Chai. Here, you will fill out forms and pay a fee in order to get a Business Registration Certificate for one year or three years. Alternatively, you can email [email protected] and request for a form to be posted to your address which you can fill out, collect the necessary documents and then go to submit it in person. The cost of registering a business in Hong Kong can be found here.
Step 4: Create a Website
Sometimes developing a good website can be as challenging as starting a business itself. In today’s day and age, it’s absolutely essential to have a good website and be easily reachable by your consumers. The expense of building a good website should always be considered an investment. Talk to many website companies to get an idea of what they can deliver and their portfolio along with their quotes. Keep your options open about hiring a local company or outsourcing it to India or the Philippines. In the end, don’t necessarily choose the cheapest one, choose the one that has promise to deliver your vision and who understands where your business is headed in terms of future website requirements. Allow 7-8 weeks (at least!) for a simple website, no matter what timelines you have been promised. Keeping a buffer time to incorporate your feedback, the iterations, your response time, the new thoughts you may develop for the website, etc. while calculating the website delivery timeline is very important. Getting this right is removing half the hurdles of the start-up stage.
Step 5: Ready, set, go!
You’ve got your idea. You’ve validated it with lots of feedback and iterations, you’ve registered the company and you have your website ready!
That’s it –you’re good to go – it’s show time!
7 Final Tips
Last but not least, here are 7 top tips I’ve learned for running a successful start-up:
1. Remember that improvising is a lifelong journey of your business. Constantly re-inventing yourself is key for a start-up business.
2. As an entrepreneur, you should never restrict yourself to a “core competency”. Your business can, but not you. Learn as many new skills as possible. The power of making yourself highly knowledgeable is indispensable to your business. Some examples of very useful skills to learn are photography, digital content creation, how to run a social media campaign, photoshop and website creation!
3. Work and plan for success, but be prepared for failure. It is okay to fail, as long as you pick yourself back up afterwards.
4. Be very confident about your idea, be passionate about it and work hard… that being said, having a small amount of fear is good. It’s a very healthy attitude that will keep you alert!
5. Network, network, network. Do not underestimate the usefulness of meeting new people. They could be customers, suppliers or collaborators, if not today then maybe some time in the future.
6. As a mum, it is very crucial to balance our family and professional lives. If you’re a work-at-home mum, set clear time frames for your work schedule each day, be it one long stretch or broken-up periods. I usually work from 9am to 3pm and them 9pm to 11 or 12am!
7. Hong Kong has an amazing helper advantage that many mums choose to enjoy. Your business will be your new baby and you might be spending a lot of time on it initially. Don’t neglect your helper’s needs as they are spending a lot of time with your kids and only with their trust can we attempt to work on our businesses stress-free!
I wish you all the best to your new business and feel free to reach out to me for any further questions or comments – always happy to help a budding mamapreneur!