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Enactus HomeTaste

Cuisine is the way to bridge cultures divides and conquer the world
An interview with the founders of the Enactus award-winning project “HomeTaste”
 
You are a culture lover.  You love in-depth travelling.  You want to taste homemade food.  You want to go to local homes of the region you visit and talk to the people living there.  So you take out your smartphone, open an app, find a local family to stay with for an evening, to have dinner with them, and to get a taste of local culture.
 
This whole idea comes from a group of fourteen students of the interest club Enactus, nine of them from the BBA programme.
 
They developed this idea into a project called “HomeTaste”, which brought them the championship of Enactus China Regional Competition (Hong Kong Region), and the Enactus Hong Kong Social Business Super Bowl.

We interviewed six of the them – Ming Kong, Annie Lai, Verna Leung, Tracy Liu, Kelvin So, and Aquila Tam – to find out how they come up with this award winning idea.
 
To be connected around dining tables
“ ’HomeTaste’ is an online platform that connects travelers to local citizens in Hong Kong,” said Ming Kong, Year 2 student majoring in Human Resources Management (HRM).  It enables tourists to get access to local host family and to have a home-meal with them for a fee.
 
It all started with observations of the social needs of people around the community.  “Survey shows that there are around 660,000 stay-at-home housewives in Hong Kong.  Many of them want to work, but unable to find jobs as they have to take care of their families,” she said.  “And we also observed that in-depth travelling is the growing trend, especially among young travelers.”
 
Inspired by the success of mobile apps like Uber and Airbnb, the team decided to tap into the rise of sharing economy, and developed a platform to link up the two parties in need.  “This platform can help housewives, especially those from low income families, to earn extra income by offering unique homemade meals to travelers.  At the same time, visitors can get a chance to get in touch with authentic local cuisine and culture through direct interaction with citizens,” said Aquila, Year 4 student of the HRM concentration.  “We aim at bringing about social impacts and facilitating cultural exchange.”
 
“We hope to connect people through this platform,” Ming added. Growing up in the era of the internet, the group found that distance between people gotten further.  “I used to grow up in public housing estates with close neighborhood relationships.  Now I moved to newer estates, neighbours seldom talk to each other,” said Ming.  “We hope that this platform could make a difference by offering a chance to connect people around the world.”
 
More than just a meal
Every new project faces a range of difficulties.  For “HomeTaste”, the most difficult part when it comes to execution, the team revealed, was to attract local host families.
 
“Many families worry that their little flats are not good enough to receive guests, and they do not speak English well enough to communicate with travelers,” Kelvin, Year 2 student from Information Systems and e-Business Management concentration, analysed.
 
“Chinese people tend to be less open and passive when it comes to meeting new people and receiving guests,” said Tracy, Year 2 student of HRM concentration.  She also shared with us her experience of being a host.  “It was special,” she said.  She interacted with travelers from different parts of the world, cooked them local food, and guided them to pass through the community she was living in, making the whole experience more than just a meal.
 
To motivate local hosts to participate in the project, the team has come up with a wide range of strategies, from conceptual framework, such as brand building and culture creation, to implementing strategies like referral programme and member identity verification procedure.
 
“We need to build a positive brand image,” said Kelvin.  “We have to build trust.  It is more than just service and money.  It enables you to meet new friends and facilitates cultural exchange.”
 
Challenges that come along innovation
Converting an idea into a successful business model is never easy. “HomeTaste” is the only idea that survives and among a bunch of ideas the team has come up with.  Among them, there were also ideas like wedding photo taking services for ethnic groups and distributing unsold food to charities, for instance.
 
Yet, just like other sharing economy companies that prosper in recent years, “HomeTaste” is facing a variety of challenges – payment method, taxation, food safety, security, legal issues and more.  The student team is tackling these a step at a time: providing food safety guidelines and paying visits to host families to ensure security and food safety; limiting the number of times each host receives guests to avoid abuse of the platform, and they are even actively seeking advices from legal professionals via our alumni and School’s network.
 
“Our courage and confidence are all that matters.  It is all we got.”

Enactus Competitions are a showcase of how students are transforming lives and enabling progress through entrepreneurial action. 
The team sweep numbers of awards at the Enactus competitions with their creative business plans.
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