Minerva Cheng Ming-wai
With the benefit of hindsight, two youth local entrepreneurs told The Young Reporter how they got their business ventures off the ground confidently with assistance when financial tsunami set in.
Young people tended to be more conservative in job-seeking under the global financial turmoil according to a survey conducted by Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups (HKFYG) . Still, some of them chose to start up businesses as the first step of their career pathways.
A poll released by HKFYG in March 2009 showed only 24.2% of over 300 respondents would opt for business start-ups among self-employment, employment and business start-ups - compared with 42.1% in the post-SARS poll in 2003.
Mr Wong Kwok-tei, the centre-in-charge of Kwai Fong Centre of Youth Employment Start (Y.E.S.), said that business start-up should not be determined by economic situation but a practicable plan. One of the common problems faced by green entrepreneurs was the lack of knowledge in procedures of establishing a business.
Business starter, Mr Roy Lau Tsz-pong, even believed starting a business was “physically easy”, as he said, it only required starters to pay a visit to the Inland Revenue Department in Wan Chai.
Mr Lau is an all-rounded trainer and event organiser who is skilled in balloon-twisting and was “forced” to turn his interest into career under the gloomy economy. “Economic downturn spurred me to start a business,” he said.
As a fresh secondary school graduate in 2004, Mr Lau did not have many ideas on procedures for business start-up. Assistance of the government’s pilot scheme had helped him a lot.
The Labour Department had set up “Youth Self-employment Support Scheme” (Y.S.S.S.) from May 2004 to September 2005 to train and assist potential young entrepreneurs to become self-employed.
In recent years, there have been more services available to young people who wish to start their own business. HKFYG launched “Youth Business Hong Kong” in 2005 and the government set up Y.E.S. in 2007. Both offer consultation services, trainings, workshops, seminars and mentorship programmes for potential business starters.
Mr Lau said business start up was indeed of high risk because of uncertainties on capital and networking. “Traditionally, decent jobs plus stable income mean good career. I am lucky to have support from my family and friends, which is not common in our society,” he said.
Ms Fiona Wong Ming-yan, a mosaic-making young business starter said that Youth Business Hong Kong has helped her a lot in expanding her social network.
Networking is vital to green entrepreneurs. She commented that mapping social network offered a platform for them to share their experiences in business start-up and to reach potential clients.
“Since the decision [of business start-up] has been made, I didn’t plan to call it a halt. 1 just changed the marketing strategies and approaches,” she recalled.
Due to the novel nature of Ms Wong’s business, she has to make cold calls, check emails frequently to approach and hold every prospective customer. In order to connect with more people, she has set up an outdoor booth herself in Stanley every month.
Apart from assistance given by the government and non-government organisations, entrepreneurial spirit is also a crucial factor to be a successful business starter, said Mr Lau.
He believed that it was hard to be an entrepreneur without self discipline. “Many think you’re care-free in your own company... You can do whatever you want anytime. However, I have no office hour if you think deeply,” he said.
As a young entrepreneur Ms Wong told budding young starters to open their minds and to take actions without any regrets. “I am adventurous and optimistic, why not I try?” she said.
Edited by Isa Kwok Ling