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The Making of a Rising Start-Up Star: BBA Student Shines on the World Stage of Innovations

05 Sep, 2017
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From winning a regional student competition, to beating the Harvard student team and some seasoned entrepreneurs at a Google entrepreneurship programme, to representing Hong Kong and outshining 72 other entries in an international convention for innovations, what is so special about this start-up project – HomeTaste, and Kong Chak-ming (BBA Human Resources Management, Year 4), the co-founding brain who has been leading a team of seven to bring the project to the world stage?

“It was an idea inspired by a spontaneous experience during my internship in Beijing, where a local friend invited me to his home for an authentic dinner. I thought to myself that it'd be awesome if more tourists could have such an opportunity to connect with local families for in-depth conversations over a local meal!”

Eyes beaming with confidence all the time, Ming talked about how she came up with the HomeTaste idea in the first place, and how it has evolved since then. “I brought this idea to my Enactus team back then after returning from internship. The team loved the idea, and agreed that it was something we could and should pursue to make social impact through business.“

Enactus is an international organisation that brings students, academics and business leaders together from around the world, to deploy entrepreneurial action to make social impact. HKBU is one of its member universities with a team on campus, and Ming has been active in it since Year 1.

Make the world a better place through business

A true advocate for participating in business competitions and activities inside and outside of the University, Ming is no beginner to the business world. “Running HomeTaste is not my first business experience. When I first joined Enactus, we had a pilot project called ‘Hoolove Box’. We hired some housewives to create gift boxes containing traditional food and items of different cultures for our international students who felt homesick. This allowed the housewives to make some extra money in their spare time, and it also helped our international students to ease their stress and homesickness.”

It is just natural for Ming to have new ideas running inside in her head from time to time, where she always tries to turn ideas into actions with social impact – the belief she has adhered to from studying and being an active member in Enactus. “I believe there is no contradiction between making profits and creating social value. It may not be easy, but it is definitely feasible, and worth every effort to make it happen.”

Evolving from a student project to a real start-up business, HomeTaste targets tourists coming to Hong Kong at its initial stage. The team was inspired by Dr. Y.S. Cheng, Head of Department of Economics and the mentor of Ming’s Enactus team, and decided to partner with some local charities to reach out to low-income families who may use the opportunity to earn extra income for supporting the family, by hosting homemade meals for tourists and promoting cultural exchange.

A great mentor leads to possibilities  

“Ming and her team are so innovative and inspiring,” Dr. Cheng recalled his experience as an international student in Australia some years ago. “Back then when we were not yet in the digital age, it was the dream of every international student to have a platform like HomeTaste, so that we could have had the chance to taste the authentic flavours at local families with such convenience.”  

With his experience in running non-governmental organisations, Dr. Cheng believes the benefits of students creating businesses of their own are beyond imagination. “Though students generally lack experience, they have mentors and advisers to support them. The opportunity cost for students to start their own business is also low. Implementing a real business plan allows students to apply what they have learnt in the classroom to the real world. So when they have such a good idea, why not move forward to turn it into a sustainable business?”

“Indeed, running a business can never be just one or two people’s efforts,” Ming said with a cheerful face, “Other than the team, Dr. Cheng has given us so much support along the way, from analysing the constraints and costs and benefits, to identifying potential competitions, conventions and crowdfunding events for us to compete for funding, to introducing us to his networks of NGOs and business veterans. Such assistance meant a lot to us as a start-up business without much social network and connections”

Sportsmanship matters in business

An entrepreneurial journey must be full of trials and errors. Once a soccer player in the Hong Kong Youth Team, Ming understands how a collaborative team can make a difference. She met Tony Tsui, co-founder of HomeTaste and an alumnus of HKBU Faculty of Social Sciences, at Enactus. Great minds think alike, Tony was as eager as Ming in participating in business-related activities on campus, and was the first Chairman with a non-BBA background at HKBU Enactus.

“The win at Google’s Empowering Young Entrepreneurs Program among 250 teams of international competitors was the turning point for the HomeTaste team. It gave us the confidence to set up a company and run HomeTaste as a real business. With the resources from Google, we’ve learnt a lot about the start-up landscape in Singapore from the overseas field trip, and how to get over the hurdles of setting up a business from other start-upers who have been through the journey.”

Now the HomeTaste team consists of seven members from different backgrounds – business, IT, and social sciences etc. Four of them are from HKBU, and three are from other universities in Hong Kong. Ming believes they have a good mix of expertise, knowledge and skillsets that complement each other.

“Each of us knows our role well, and we are all passionate about and confident in the business. When we were competing at the World’s Genius Convention in Tokyo, a member even learnt and practised some common words in Japanese ahead of the trip and the consumers and judges were really impressed!”

It all begins here

Step by step, the big moment for the HomeTaste team is about to arrive – HomeTaste will be launched soon as a pilot programme from HKBU and other universities that the team is connected with. “HKBU fellows will be among the first to ‘taste’ it – stay tuned to the campus activities and we will see you very soon.” 
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