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Silver is the new gold
Life throws us a curve ball once in a while, and sometimes, if we can step up to the plate, a challenge is turned into an opportunity. Aries Lee, co-founder of HOHOLIFE, discovered this while working in banking, when her mother suddenly had a stroke and was in intensive care for a few months.
Fortunately, she survived, but during rehabilitation, Aries found it was hard to find the right products to aid her rehabilitation. “There were many products to be found in Taiwan, but unfortunately not in the local market,” she says. It was this revelation that led her to found HOHOLIFE, a business with the social twist of helping elderly people but also “promote active ageing and raise public concern for the needs of elderly people.”
The consumer goods market is dominated by products for young people, and Aries decided that she didn’t want her company to be like that. “I was hitting 30, I wanted something different, so I decided to sell products for the elderly from overseas.” With her partner they started HOHOLIFE from scratch in a small Sai Ying Pun store in April 2014, without knowing much about how to run a retail business – talk about grabbing the bull by the horns.
Dark clouds threaten the business
When a black rainstorm flooded the shop right after opening they knew a huge challenge was on their hands. “We didn’t know what to do, so we got on our hands and knees to clear everything up ourselves – it was a biblical situation,” she says. That moment showed Aries that when running a business, you need a Plan A, B and even C.
From that moment, things moved upwards, and HOHOLIFE build up strong personal trust with customers, including the famed actor Kenneth Tsang (曾江). “When he first visited my store, he remarked that it must be impossible to pay rent for the business considering we were selling all the goods for under HK$100,” Aries says.
An MBA graduate in 2011, Aries used the skills learnt from her studies to focus on increasing profit margins by trading higher-price goods including electrical beds and mattresses. Running any business is a struggle in Hong Kong, and Kenneth Tsang’s comments have a sense of prescience. Aries business has moved locations in search of cheaper rent, from Sai Ying Pun to Kennedy Town, and Tsuen Wan. Happily, loyal customers continue to follow her.
People over profits
For Aries, business is about putting the wellbeing of the community before maximizing money. “If profit is the only motivation, it will not last long,” she says. Aries believes it is best to have experience before jumping into entrepreneurship. “In the workplace, there are many unwritten rules, understanding work culture will help you operate a business well,” Aries adds. Ultimately, one must take the plunge and accept risk when starting anything. “As long as your intentions come from the heart, you have a chance to succeed – why not take it?”