In the last of our special International Women’s Day features, we speak to Emma Pike, founder of premium online butcher Farmer’s Market. Having moved to Hong Kong from Australia with her husband in 2006, this energetic businesswoman now splits her time between Happy Valley and Singapore, where she has just opened a new branch of the premium online butcher.
Tell us about yourself and your journey to Hong Kong.
We were living and working in Sydney when my husband was offered a role in Asia, a promotion. We decided that as we had no major ties to Australia we would give it a go and see what happened.
We did the typical expat thing, thinking that we would be here for two years, have a go and then move back to Sydney… 12 years later, and we have no plans to move back at all.
Steve and I married very young, and this year will have been married 20 years! We have two beautiful children – Charlie who is 11 and Molly who is 8 – and a very naughty beagle called Carrots.
I’m now living between two countries, as Farmer’s Market is expanding with the new branch in Singapore. It’s tiring at times, but I love what I do and can’t wait to get going with the Singapore online store.
Why did you decide to start an online butcher in Hong Kong?
I could see the quality of meat in the supermarkets deteriorating and the prices outside supermarkets becoming more expensive, and I wanted everyone to be able to afford quality products. Also, with all the food scandals that were coming out across Asia, I could see a need for people to know what they were eating and to know where it came from, rather than a label simply stating “from Australia” without any information about the farm or the source of the product.
What makes Farmer’s Market stand out from other online suppliers?
We only focus on one brand per product. There are a lot of great butchers, but we differentiate ourselves by being as transparent and honest as possible about our products. When a customer comes to our online shop and we don’t have what they want, I have no hesitation to direct them to another butcher that I trust to source what they need. I think customers appreciate that personal touch. We aren’t going to become a supermarket, we aren’t going to stock 100 different types of meat; we are your typical down-the-road butcher that will talk to you, educate you and help you.
What challenges did you face in founding and growing the business?
The biggest challenge we face, and I think always will, is trying to convince people to buy online without seeing the products. It’s a very hard thing and requires a lot of trust, so we just need to be patient and gain customers’ trust, which will come over time.
What do you see as your biggest success to date?
I think being able to run a family and a business at the same time. Often it requires little sleep and putting on a smile when you really don’t want to, but being able to do that day in and day out is my biggest success, I think. It’s being there for sports days, after school activities, homework etc. and then working all night to catch up that makes it happen, but I’m passionate about both, which is why I’m happy to do it.
What motivates you?
I love helping people. Some people say I say “yes” to too many people and take on too much, but I love what I do. Currently I’m supporting some entrepreneurs with mentoring as they grow their business, and watching them put them in place my ideas and suggestions, then seeing their success makes me feel so happy! I also do a lot of work helping charities and love doing that too, as it makes me feel happy when I can help someone less fortunate than I am.
You’re a mum of two children. How do you juggle work with family life?
I honestly don’t know how to answer. I don’t watch much TV and work most hours that the children are asleep to try and be there for them after school, and it kind of just happens. They are great and accept that I work, so they know that when I’m with them at an activity that I’ll have my laptop open and will be watching and working at the same time, and they are OK with that. They also aren’t too camera shy either, so love doing small ads for me every now and again. They think they are professional models and should be paid for it!
You’re very active in the community, particularly when it comes to charity – what initiatives have you have been involved in and why they are so important to you?
I try and be selective about who I support when it comes to charities, and my charity of choice is Angels for Orphans, which is run by Suzanne Sadler in Hong Kong. I’ve known Suzanne for over 10 years through squash, I know her heart is 100 percent in the charity, and I’m pleased to be able to support underprivileged kids in the region.
We organise several events over the year including our major event, the Melbourne Cup luncheon. In 2016 the event raised around HK$120,000 for the charity, in 2017 we raised HK$188,000, and we hope to build on that in 2018.
I have also played a lot of sport across Hong Kong and have kids at school, so I love supporting school fairs, sporting dinners, and often attend events to talk or just to support their growth. I think that is a big part of my business too – it’s so important to get out from behind my computer and meet people to learn about their ideas and share more about Farmer’s Market.
What tips can you give to other women in Hong Kong looking to branch out into something new?
Just do it! Don’t sit on an idea, because someone else will think of it and do it. Just get out there and have a go. Asia is a great place to start a business; it isn’t difficult, and people will listen. The other advice I would give is to expand your network and meet/ talk to as many people as you can; the bigger your network, the more successful you can be.
What’s next for Farmer’s Market/ Emma Pike?
The Singapore branch opened on March 1, 2018, which is exciting, although we won’t be pushing hard into Singapore until the end of the year, as our main focus at the moment is on getting a few new products into our Hong Kong store. I’m also considering opening another business in the near future helping small businesses get that extra boost they need in the market. I talk to a lot of people who have great ideas but just aren’t sure how to launch or how to grow their business, and I’d love to do something to help them expand, so who knows, maybe there’ll be another business opening soon…
Farmer’s Market – www.farmersmarket.com.hk