Started from the bottom now we’re here…
Hong Kong’s startup scene is booming, from kitchen table companies and mumpreneurs to FinTech firms. There have never been so many new businesses trying to showcase their wares. #goalgetters
According to InvestHK, there was a 46% increase in the number of startups in 2015 compared to 2014, while the number of co-working spaces has also ballooned (Editor’s note: shout out to our co-working space, Garage Society!).
People are getting bolder about making their ideas a reality but it is still a daunting decision to do it alone. We’ve sat down with the experts to get tips on how they started their businesses and what they learned along the way. And what better way to start off something new than in the new year!
The Successful Entrepreneur
Luke Grana set up his eponymous clothing store, Grana, less than three years ago and all the girls at Sassy HQ couldn’t be more thankful! He arrived in Hong Kong knowing no one and began cold calling angel investors. Now his store is seeing an increase in sales of up to 40% each month and is backed by some of the biggest venture capitalists in retail and has amassed millions in funding. This includes a cash injection from Alibaba’s US$130 million Entrepreneurs Fund for Hong Kong.
Luke says: Tip number 1: It’s imperative to conduct your own market research and develop a quality product and service that is in demand from consumers. I’ve been an entrepreneur for over a decade now and have learned timing, having a skilled and passionate team, an energetic culture, and a strategic location as the company base, are also essential to launching a startup in the first phases. Tip number 2: Be dedicated and patient when it comes to investor outreach as you can send out 200 emails and only receive 1 or 2 responses.
The Public Relations Supremo
Linda Petrie has over 25 years of expertise in the hotel, travel and luxury lifestyle communications industry, in a career that has spanned Europe, Asia and the Middle East looking after renowned clients such as Raffles Hotels & Resorts, Swire Hotels, and Sandals Resort. She set up her own boutique firm Petrie PR in Hong Kong six years ago, specialising in communications strategy for the luxury lifestyle, travel, property, and design sectors. She now has offices across the continent.
Linda says: I would advise any business startup to have a trusted mentor to inspire and encourage you through the many ups and downs of a business startup and as an independent advisor. In my case, my father has been a constant supporter, inspiring me every day to do my best. I was taught from a very early age that there are no short cuts in life and that the road to success is only achieved through hard graft, determination, focus and dedication to the job in hand.
I also believe it is essential to work on developing a strong business and personal network to provide the encouragement to push out of your comfort zone and beyond to explore new opportunities in business whether opening an office in a new market or in new fields of expertise. Although it might be daunting at the beginning and carry financial risk, I come from the mindset that if you don’t try you will never know and even live to regret it. You will find that the support is there and as a result you will develop many new contacts which will lead to new business in many cases.
The Tech Gurus
CEDCommerce, one of the biggest e-commerce development firms in Asia says it’s easier than ever to set up your own website. Where once you needed a team with coding and graphic design skills, now it is quite simple to create a professional, stylish site by using WordPress and then simply employing one firm to help you develop it.
Co-founder Abhishek Jaiswal says: Most people can start up with a basic site on WordPress, and firms like ours step in to allow ordinary people, not well-versed in coding, graphic design or website curation, to create themes, features, and add plug-ins to their specification. Something that could have cost thousands of dollars and require multiple agencies, is now possible for a few hundred. The bonus is you also just deal with one firm, or even one individual so you can develop a really good working relationship.
We’ve seen a tenfold increase in customers this year, as more and more people realise this is something straightforward. A strong website is important these days to stand out from the crowd, and making sure you have the right people on your team – including web development – can make a real difference. It is worth investing in as your website is often the front line of business.
The Networking Masters
Mettā is a members-only platform and working space for startup entrepreneurs to call home, aiming to connect people, ideas and resources. It brings together founders and startups, investors, educators, and hosts events and talks. Keshia Hannam, head of content and brand partnerships, says the key thing organisations such as this can do is help people get where they’re probably going to get eventually, quicker, by means of linking the right people up from the get go.
Keshia says: Just how valuable is the right connection? The simple act, the one of cultivating authentic connections, is possibly the most important, valuable resource a startup can gather. If approaching another individual or business to collaborate, know and state clearly what you’re giving back and how. It should be double what you’re asking, whether promotion, product or insight. It’s important to give as much as you get. Too many people nag influential, well-known, expert types asking for their time, IP and products. Not only is this annoying, it does more damage to their brand than anything else.
The Legal Genius
Veteran lawyer Daniel Walker built up his career in the UK and Asia, before founding Dragon Law in Hong Kong three years ago. It has since expanded to Singapore, Malaysia, and New Zealand.
The firm is on a mission to shake up the way businesses meet their legal needs. It provides cloud-based legal tools that help businesses draft and negotiate their routine legal documents, get basic legal support or access independent legal advice in a way that is simple and cost effective.
Daniel says: There are five fundamental legal issues which are often overlooked by startups:
- You’ll need to separate the legal identity of the business and the individual to protect your private assets.
- The Shareholders’ Agreement is a necessity, not luxury as it fleshes out key issues relating to the ownership and the operation of the business and will formalise your business relationship to prevent any issues.
- Protect your Intellectual Property. Register your trademark right from the start, it is your most valuable commercial asset.
- Fund your Business. You won’t be able to grow without funding. Different types need different documents.
Here’s to making your business ideas a reality this year, mamas!