Interview with Lily Huang and Helen Scott: founders of leading fresh meat and seafood retailers, MM Fresh
Can you tell us about MM Fresh?
We supply fresh, wild and sustainable fish from New Zealand as well as grass-fed lamb and beef also from the region and a selection of handmade gourmet pies through our company MM Fresh Food. We have a home retail and delivery business and also sell wholesale to top tier hotels and restaurants across Hong Kong and Macau.
What inspired you to launch the business?
There seemed to be a real gap in the market for fresh, high quality meat and fish and we were increasingly anxious about what we were feeding our young children. We wanted to be sure of the provenance of our goods and the only way to do that was to be in control of it supply chain!
At MM Fresh we only source pasture-raised beef and lamb, from small boutique Maori-consortium farms in New Zealand, where the animals are treated humanely and raised without the use of hormones or antibiotics. As for the fish, all of our produce is sustainably sourced from the clean waters surrounding the New Zealand coastline, taking into account criteria such as fishing quotas and bycatch, plus most of the wild fish is killed by ike-jime, the most humane method, which also ensures it is sashimi-grade.
What is your background? What industry did you work in and what was the catalyst to striking out alone?
Helen previously worked in banking but found the travel schedule incompatible with raising small children. She had long harboured a passion for food, so begun her HK foodie website Mango Menus in which she featured MM Fresh as one of her preferred vendors based on the quality, freshness, sustainability and prices versus competitors.
Lily was formerly a management consultant and increasingly frustrated with the lack of top quality fish and meat offered in Hong Kong, despite the high retail prices for it. Shortly after having her son, she left the corporate world to set up MM Fresh as a means of sourcing high quality NZ produce for friends and family. She met Helen at about the time she was ready to expand the business beyond this and it soon became apparent that the two had complimentary skill sets. Helen and Lily went into partnership in 2013.
What have been your biggest challenges?
The main challenge is predicting consumers’ spending patterns and eating habits e.g. ordering enough fresh fish to satisfy needs without incurring wastage or estimating how many Alba white truffles the Hong Kong market might want at Christmas.
What’s your favourite part of the job?
We have the opportunity to meet the city’s top chefs and find out what makes them tick. We were extremely lucky to receive a private lesson from Chef Jaakko Sorsa of Finds restaurant in TST on how to cook the perfect scallop! We also love experimenting with our produce at home in the kitchen. Currently I (Helen) am slow-cooking our NZ beef short rib in Merlot for dinner!
What do you miss, if anything, from your corporate role?
A predictable income stream and an IT department on hand ready to give technical support!
Where do you see your business in five years time?
We see MM Fresh as a major player in the high end food delivery businesses in Hong Kong.
How do you retain a work/life balance?
It’s important to eat meals with your family and remove technology from the table.
Helen tends to work most evenings when her children are asleep, allowing her time to breakfast with them and drive them to school.
What are your go-to time saving resources?
Cooking one meal for the family rather than different things for different people! If we’re making something spicy, we will just do two batches, and leave the spice out of half.
Making a large dinner so that the whole family can eat leftovers for lunch the next day.
It’s also quite incredible how much work one can get done from one’s iphone. On my last long haul flight I wrote 64 emails, saved to my outbox, which were sent on landing. Social media is also a quick and easy way to market with one button enabling us to tweet, instagram and facebook a single photo of a product or recipe.
What advice would you give other women who are considering striking out on their own?
Be prepared for setbacks and to get your hands dirty but keep your eye on the ultimate goal and remind yourself why you started it in the first place.
Never decline a meeting with anyone. You never know where it might lead. HK is a small place and it thrives on networking and collaboration amongst individuals and businesses.
To find out more about MM Fresh, visit their website