Hong Kong is a city where start-ups and entrepreneurs can really thrive. And thanks to Chivas and their global initiative The Venture, social entrepreneurship now has a platform from which aspiring entrepreneurs in Hong Kong and all over the world can accelerate their business and make their cause heard.
Over the past few months, Hong Kong entrepreneurs have submitted their business plans to The Venture in hopes to secure a spot in the global finals in New York City where up to US$1 million in funding will be up for grabs. Five finalists were shortlisted to represent Hong Kong and after an inspiring but gruelling series of pitches and Q&As with industry experts, the winner, Xania Wong of JobDOH, was announced last night at The Venture finals after-party at Duddell’s.
Ahead are the five finalists and the incredibly touching stories behind their social enterprises:
Xania Wong, founder of JobDOH
My social enterprise was inspired by… a desire to solve business problems for the exhibition and hospitality industries and improve the ways jobs are distributed. As we started running, I saw how the platform could help to financially improve and empower mothers and the less privileged working population as a whole.
JobDOH… is a smart hiring booking platform to help temporary workers connect with and find the right jobs anytime, anywhere. With a location based and data-driven screening mechanism, workers have been able to start work that fit their needs and ability within 1.5 hours.
While employers can enjoy both speed and quality, workers benefit from the flexibility to earn an income quickly and an improved upward mobility by recording and showcasing their track record directly in the app. We currently collaborate with NGOs and cater to underserved communities such as mothers and visible minorities.
Hong Kong is good for business… given the proximity to other Asian countries and how easy it is to set up a company here.
My advice for aspiring entrepreneurs… is to find a problem that you are passionate about solving.
Pierre-Louis Abell, founder of BON VOYAGE for all
My social enterprise was inspired by…. an unexpected encounter while I was travelling in the Philippines in July 2014. I met a young Filipino called Robin who was working as a waiter in a little beach restaurant in Palawan. He was 18 and had recently dropped out of university because he couldn’t afford it anymore. He was earning two dollars a day on a 10-hour shift. After conversing about our lives, he said something that triggered something in me: “You are really lucky to be able to travel.”
BON VOYAGE For All…. is about transforming lives for both ends of the tourism spectrum travellers from developed countries who are keen to share the life of remote communities, and young locals from these communities in the Philippines who need skills and learning opportunities through sponsored travel, which they can then apply to their home environment.
Hong Kong is good for business… because of its diversity, dynamism and potential. Hong Kong is a vibrant city where everything is still possible. The collective optimism here makes it a perfect place to start something new and make a difference.
My advice for aspiring entrepreneurs… would be to not fall in love with your first idea and always question ‘why’ you are doing what you are doing and what is the real impact. Starting your own business is a unique opportunity to do things differently and be innovative. Don’t reproduce the rules of current large organisations but design an organisation that you would love to work for and set your own rules.
Laura Cheung, founder of Lala Curio
My social enterprise was inspired by… our passion to preserve traditional artisanship. I grew up with Chinese traditional crafts. As a third generation in antiquity in decorative arts, I spent two years visiting different workshops in remote parts of China and realised the urgency of these national treasures being forgotten, artisans declining, new generations uninterested to adopt the skilled crafts. Traditional artisanship needs to be made attractive again.
Lala Curio… reinvents traditional chinese artisanship for future generations through technology and gives them an online platform through creating a sort of global marketplace.
I started my business in Hong Kong… partly because my family is here and partly due to its proximity to China where I spend a lot of my time exploring the different crafts.
My advice for aspiring entrepreneurs… would be something that my mentor has told me — that grit is the most important value of an entrepreneur and I cannot agree more.
Pol Fabrega, co-founder of Rooftop Republic
My social enterprise is inspired by… the urban farming movement around the world that is pushing us to recognise and re-embrace food production as an integral and vital part of our urban environment. Hong Kong is a food insecure city where food imports account for over 90 percent of the food we consume (mostly from mainland China) and where farmland has been reduced in the past decades.
However, growing concerns over food safety and broader awareness on the environmental impacts of conventional agriculture is increasing the demand for local, healthy and organic food.
Rooftop Republic… is dedicated to advancing a deeper understanding of sustainable living and urban farming by establishing and maintaining organic farm set-ups around Hong Kong in under-utilised urban spaces. We also want to cultivate a sense of community through interactive workshops and events.
I came to Hong Kong… looking for new professional opportunities. I would never have imagined I would be co-founding a social enterprise to promote urban farming in one of the most densely populated cities in the world, but I guess that’s what Hong Kong does to you.
My advice to aspiring entrepreneurs… would be to surround yourself with great people and remain flexible. Chances are that your original plan or idea will have to be modified as you go along and being able to constantly adapt and evolve will be essential.
Lou Chan, founder of tel-ME
My social enterprise was inspired by… a shared view that we want to put our experiences into a startup with a heart and we all recognised a global problem with smartphone apps and how they don’t cater for the visually impaired at all.
tel-ME… is an AI-backed phone line connecting users to online applications securely with just voice. The user calls and asks for an Uber, our AI then handles the request and responds in natural language.
I stay motivated… because of my passion to learn and solve problems, my love to groove with music as well as my family and friends.
My advice to aspiring entrepreneurs… would be to stick around and team up with interesting people that you can respect professionally — imagine forming a band, you need someone with the right groove but not too showy — and always fact check with yourself by answering: “Why? How? What?”