The founder of Treasure Island Group shares the secrets of her success
My business covers outdoor education, teambuilding, food and events, and charity. We’re based on beautiful Pui O Beach and, at its heart, Treasure Island Group (TIG) is focused on outdoor education and recreation – getting Hong Kong kids out into nature in a safe and educational way, and giving them the knowledge and confidence to enjoy themselves in the natural world. When they first enrol on our camps, a lot of the kids are scared of getting mud on their hands but by the end of the week, they are covered in it, with massive smiles on their faces.
We work with many of the main international schools in Hong Kong and Guangdong during term time, and in the school holidays we run surf and adventure camps. At weekends our facility transforms into The Beach Club. Local residents and Hong Kong islanders can relax in the restaurant and bar, and watch some truly amazing sunsets.
TIG is a success because we are consistent about developing the core business – that’s our focus. But at the same time, we make sure we can ride the highs and lows of being a seasonal operation by seeking out complementary business solutions.
To succeed in business, you need to locate an opportunity to do something that you love… and then seize it! I saw an opportunity in the outdoor education and recreation market 24 years ago, and I’ve never looked back. In the beginning, I ran camps out of my van and used the public campsite in Pui O. Then years later, I convinced the local village
chiefs to allow me to convert a large parking lot into a campsite and operate out of the existing beachside facility. Success is all about being in the right place at the right time, and it’s about being prepared to take a leap of faith – in yourself, in your location, and in the people working alongside you. I got lucky and I’m very grateful for that every day.
My advice for someone looking to start up a business is to work very hard and refuse to give up. You need to have an understanding of every part of your business and know how to do every job yourself. Having people management skills is very important, and you need to do your market research properly.
When setting up TIG, I focused on Lantau’s natural ‘treasures,’ so many of which are on offer on incredible Pui O Beach. I also played to my own strengths. Even as a young woman, I knew how to write outdoor education programmes and curriculums because I’d studied Leisure and Sport Management at university in Canada.
The thing that interests me the most about my business is developing young leaders. Every year we have a new wave of amazing young adults from all around the world, who
come and work for us. Nurturing their talent and their passion for the outdoors is the most rewarding thing about my work.
When hiring staff, I always ask: “Why do you want to work long hours in the outdoors with lots of kids?!”
The greatest challenge I’ve faced has been the combined pressure of the protests and COVID-19. But I’m confident we will make it though the other side even stronger than before. Afterall, the typhoons that come in and regularly destroy much of the facility haven’t stopped us. We have now had to rebuild whole sections of our building three times.
My greatest achievement is the number of barriers I have broken through since starting Treasure Island 24 years ago. I am proud to be a female entrepreneur in the outdoor education industry, which remains male dominated to this day. It has often felt like an uphill struggle and yet here I am standing proudly on the beach.
My plan for the future is to continue doing what I love and to keep running this wonderful place, sustainably, for as long as possible. This means playing an important role in the community, inspiring kids to learn about the outdoors, while gaining confidence in it, and, of course, working with our crew of passionate young leaders.
The entrepreneurs I most admire are Serena Williams and Yvon Chouinard. Serena is an outstanding athlete, and a mum. She’s smart and powerful, and she stands up for gender equality in sports. Yvon is the owner and founder of Patagonia and I have the upmost respect for his integrity, direction and drive, particularly in making his business
sustainable, responsible and impact investing (SRI).
My favourite social-media platform is word of mouth. When kids rave to their friends about their adventures at TIG, and encourage them to sign up for one of our camps, well, that is the best testimonial we could ever hope to get.
My personal motto is ‘keep it real’ and be kind.