What makes DB the perfect launchpad for small businesses? Kate Farr sits down with three local entrepreneurs to find out.
Chatting to Discovery Bay resident Sharon McEneff of business management consultancy T8 Consulting, it’s immediately clear that she is passionate about supporting the local community in their business ventures. T8 began organising the monthly DB Entrepreneurs Networking Breakfast in 2016, taking over from a similar group managed by a former resident.
Sharon explains, “When the previous organiser relocated, we thought it was important to continue supporting the local entrepreneurial community, of which T8 is a part. This coincided with our move to an office in DB North Plaza, and expanding our client services. Organising the networking breakfasts helped T8 spread the word of our growth, and it continues to help other small local businesses establish themselves.”
When asked why she thinks DB is such an entrepreneurial hub, Sharon replies, “Discovery Bay is different from many Hong Kong neighbourhoods in its villagelike atmosphere and close-knit community. Many people choose to live in DB because it is better for their families, and this family-first perspective also influences their professional lives and endeavours, in that they actively prioritise their work-life balance.
“Being an entrepreneur and small business owner gives people the creativity and flexibility they need to succeed both at work in their professional lives and also at home in their family lives.”
Ability to launch
One such small business that has benefited greatly from Discovery Bay’s close-knit community is AvoninDB, run by nine-year DB resident, Renu Malani. Born and bred in Hong Kong, Renu signed up with Avon during a stint in the UK and brought her remaining stock with her on her return to DB. “A few DB friends wanted to see what I had, and fell in love with the products,” she says.
It was one product in particular that acted as a surprising springboard for Renu’s business, turning it from a hobby into a fully-fledged career. “One day someone asked me if I knew that Avon Skin So Soft Dry Oil spray keeps away mosquitoes and sandflies. I tried it and it worked… that was the day everything changed. This is no longer a side
job; it is my only job.”
When asked for advice for anyone launching their business, Renu stresses the importance of good mentors, as well as a laser focus on your customers’ needs. “Do your research, and take advice from people whose business models you want to emulate. I was so lucky to be able to align myself with some really hard-working business owners here who taught me so much and broadened my horizons.
“Great customer service elevates your business and its reputation. In a place like Hong Kong, it’s not the price point that determines whether a client buys from you – and most importantly, returns to buy again – it’s whether they have a good experience with you.”
A brand-new DB business that is equally focused on customer experience is bespoke fashion brand, LvO Boutique. A passion project of German-born journalist Lisa von Ortenberg, the label aims to offer busy Hong Kongers an affordable alternative to highstreet styles. Lisa explains, “LvO Boutique definitely started with my mummy friends in Discovery Bay – one said she would love my wardrobe, to which I replied I would be happy to help her!”
Lisa began by sourcing made-to measure items – both for herself and her growing list of clients – before hitting upon the idea of launching her own fashion label.
Although the label is still in its startup phase, feedback so far has been positive – something that Lisa attributes in no small part to the DB community. “People here are generally very stylish, and they love to support local small business owners. I launched this business to provide a custom-made alternative to the ubiquitous high-street chains, so that women of every shape and size can look great.”
Future plans include partnering with a Cambodian charity to create a ready-to-wear collection, and creating an e-commerce shop that Lisa hopes will expand the brand’s reach beyond Hong Kong.
So where should wannabe entrepreneurs start on their journey to launch? Sharon believes that the secret lies in networking. “At the networking breakfasts, we finish with an open question-and answer session for people to raise issues or ask questions. The group then brainstorms solutions, solves problems or provides a contact for someone who can help.
“It is incredibly rewarding to step back and watch the entrepreneurial community growing and working right before your eyes.”
Images: Courtesy of T8 Consulting and Kate FarrTags: discovery bay, entrepreneurs, lisa von ortenberg, renu malani, small business