Hi Emma – please tell us a little bit about your background.
I’ve lived in Hong Kong for 12 years, but I grew up in Sydney, Australia. I’m the second youngest of five kids, and while my siblings went on to be lawyers, doctors, finance directors and senior managers, I guess I was the odd one out! I left school at the age of 15, as I just couldn’t wait to make my own way in the world.
So what came next?
After graduating from secretarial school (my original plan was to be a tennis coach, but my mum insisted I have something to fall back on, which in hindsight was very smart!), I started my first company, “Emma’s Typing Service”, aged 16. After being interviewed on the radio, I received a call from the second-in-command at Australia Post, inviting me to come and work with him. He was such a great mentor that I was able to employ my first full-time staff at the age of 17. Those three years between leaving school, to running a business of 15 people taught me the most about how to operate a business.
How did you end up in Hong Kong? And what did you do next?
At the age of 27, my husband was offered a transfer to Hong Kong. Both of us just thought “why not?” and headed off for a new adventure.
After having my children, now aged 11 and eight, I began coaching squash at Hong Kong Football Club and the American Club, as well as launching a web design company called Up N Go Design. I actually hadn’t originally intended to start a web company, but after a number of friends asked me to help them to create simple websites, I found people kept asking for my help, so it was an easy decision to make.
So, how did Farmer’s Market come about?
I knew nothing about meat five years ago, but could see that it was becoming super expensive in Hong Kong, and that the quality wasn’t what it used to be… unless you paid a fortune for it, that is! From there, I began thinking about creating an online store specialising in high quality products that were traceable – customers could find out exactly where they were from, how they were farmed and the grade of the meat – all the while keeping costs affordable.
That’s how the idea for Farmer’s Market developed, and it’s been so well received since its launch in December 2016 that I’ll be opening Farmer’s Market Singapore later this year. I also plan to expand our product range in Hong Kong, and spend more time meeting our customers to understand their needs.
Tell us more about your small business mentoring – what motivates you to work with start-ups?
I love to help others! I don’t go out looking for people to mentor; they usually come and ask me if they can pick my brain about some of the things I’ve done, and I tend to say yes if I feel I can help them. It’s genuinely really satisfying to watch advice that I have given propel a business forward.
What are your top three tips for start-ups in Hong Kong?
Be dedicated to what you are doing. If you think you are “too busy” to grow your business, then look at how you are spending your time outside of work.
Nothing is impossible. Go out and meet as many people as you can and get as connected as you can.
Don’t try and be everything in your business. Be honest – there will be some things that you aren’t so good at. By investing and outsourcing these tasks, it frees up your time to focus on growing your business!
In addition to your growing business and mentoring commitments, you are also very active in the community. Can you tell us a little more about some of the charitable work that you do?
I donate a lot of time and funds to Angels for Orphans, which is run by a friend of mine, Suzanne Sadler. The charity helps children across Asia in a variety of ways, and I was drawn to it due to its small size, the fact that I know and trust the management, and that everyone working there is a volunteer.
I’m always thinking of fun ways to raise money and awareness for them, so in 2016 I challenged myself a challenge to try 40 different sports in the two months leading up to my 40th birthday! I contacted coaches and sports clubs, and was able to get everyone involved to donate their time for free. For every sport I tried, I donated $100, and a number of other people joined me, also contributing $100 each, raising nearly $26,000 for Angels for Orphans at the end of the challenge. Not only did we raise money for charity, but it also gave me the opportunity to promote those who had donated their time, helping to drive business their way.
For the past two years I have hosted a charity luncheon on Melbourne Cup Day. This year, we raised just under $200,000 for charity, which was awesome! It’s always a great day, with everyone making an effort to dress up… and the drinks start flowing from 10am, which always makes for an entertaining after-party!
Aside from my charity work, I also create websites for various groups and sports clubs, for example Hong Kong Ladies Tennis, the HKFC and HKCC squash sections, and the Hong Kong Gaelic Association; and I regularly donate prizes to schools and sports associations to assist with their fundraisers.
You’re clearly a very busy person – what would you say to those who tell you to slow down a bit?
I’ve always pushed myself at anything I do – whether in sports or my work – I think I’m just a very dedicated person. When I enjoy something, I want to be the best at it, which means I’ll always push to achieve more. I think it’s part of my nature; I’m driven to always work harder, and this has made me a stronger person who isn’t afraid of taking on a challenge.
Speaking of which, I do have a new personal challenge in mind for 2018, so watch this space!
Emma brings her enthusiasm and personal integrity to everything she does for Farmer’s Market. She has sourced the best of the best Aussie meat and fish producers to bring the highest quality produce at affordable prices to Hong Kong. All the products are completely traceable and free of hormones and antibiotics. Follow Farmer’s Market on Facebook @farmersmarkethk