Starting one’s own business has always been a dream of many young people in Hong Kong, but for those who actually took the plunge, many found it is not as rosy as it looks.
Edwin Lee Kan-hin, founder and chief executive of BridgeWay, a local business brokerage that helps people purchase or sell small businesses, mainly in the retail industry, talked about his experiences and how he started up his own company.
Back in the late 1990s, Lee was an investment banker and subsequently he worked at Wall Street from 2000. Unfortunately, he was laid off soon after the US was stricken by the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2000.
Lee returned to Hong Kong in October and founded the city’s first business brokerage firm BridgeWay in 2001.
Lee said the first couple of years of starting up one’s own business are usually the most difficult period.
“I know that many young people, like me back in 2001, quit their jobs and tried to start their own businesses. But there will be temptations from their old jobs, and their friends and relatives may also try to persuade them to go back to their old jobs,” he said.
“I got calls from headhunters and they asked me if I wanted to work for investment banks in Hong Kong, and it would be a lie to say I was not tempted,” said Lee. “By that time, I was already 29 years old and I knew that if I turned down the opportunity, there would be no turning back as it was the last chance for me to work for investment banks.”
However, Lee chose to stick with his own business.
He said many Hong Kong people wanted to start their own businesses, and recently, he has noticed that more and more young people are launching online stores as their startup businesses. Lee believes this might be a trend as rents in Hong Kong are too high and more and more people are shopping online.
For those who want to open physical stores, small restaurants and tuition centers are the most popular startup ventures.
“For small restaurants, I recommend that they sell takeaway food, like pizza and sushi, which means they can provide services to more people with a very limited space and with fewer employees,” he says.
He also noted it’s becoming increasingly important for such store owners to promote their wares on social media, or even open e-boutiques online.
Lee suggested that young entrepreneurs avoid starting something that is “too novel”, and advised them to integrate their creativity into businesses that people are already familiar with — like a café, a pet store or a clothes shop with creative elements.