Tell us about your business:
I have several businesses. The most well known are my catering company, Go Gourmet, Private Kitchen, Magnolia and San Francisco burrito bar, Little Burro.
Our newest venture is HKG's first culinary incubator, a co-working licensed commercial kitchen space for food entrepreneurs.
Kitchen Sync helps artisan and start-up food entrepreneurs, as well as emerging chef talent, to launch and grow their own food businesses. One of the biggest obstacles for starting a food-related business in Hong Kong is the extremely high cost of setting up a commercially licensed kitchen or ‘Food Factory’. The Kitchen Sync Culinary Incubator exists to help food entrepreneurs overcome this obstacle by providing an equipped, commercially licensed, shared-use kitchen.
Our mission at Kitchen Sync is to lower the risk threshold for budding food entrepreneurs. We make launching a successful culinary business accessible to more than those with plenty of capital.
Our goal is to have an affordable, flexible, pricing structure to allow members with limited resources to start a culinary business. We also aim to encourage members to design a business model that is realistic about the cost of operating a culinary business in the market place.
We are also launching a social enterprise component helping low income and ethnic minority women start their own food businesses by providing mentoring and seed capital.
When you first decided to start your own business, how did you define what your business would be?
None of my businesses were planned in the traditionally though of way of getting a business plan done, financials, etc. With most of them, I merely saw an opportunity in the market and decided to go for it. If my initial calculations seem like the business would be profitable, I'll usually do it. I don't like to over analyze as that sometimes leads to paralysis or missed opportunities.
What was the best piece of business advice you were given when you were starting off?
Get the little things right and the big stuff will fall into place. Also, to take care of your staff as if your business depends on it (it does!).
What was the most difficult part of starting your business?
By far the hardest thing has been bootstrapping the businesses. I chose to retain equity until the businesses were profitable, but this definitely leads to some super lean times!
Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned in running a business?
The biggest lesson I've learned is to just keep swimming. As an entrepreneur, there are inevitable times when things seem bleak and you want to give up. It's at those times, when it's hardest to do, that you must summon (or fake!) courage and keep going. It's not easy, but it is necessary. The struggle may be real, but it won’t last forever.
What has been the biggest sacrifice you’ve made in starting your business?
The biggest sacrifice I've made is not being able to go back home and visit family as often as I would have liked while my daughter was younger. I definitely have 'mom guilt' about her not seeing her extended family, cousins etc. more often. With grandparents on two continents, it's not always easy to get those trips in when you're trying to build a business.
In your opinion, what are the top three things someone should consider before starting their own business?
Think about what makes your product or service special and is going to make it stand out in a crowded marketplace. I meet a lot of people that want to bake or do a lunch delivery business and I always ask them, what's so different about yours?
Secondly, how will you finance the business and support yourself if things don't happen as quickly as you'd like.
Finally, not everyone is cut out for entrepreneurship. It can be a tough, lonely proposition if you are not prepared to go through tough times. Make sure that you are mentally and emotionally prepared to gut it out, and if all else fails, have the courage to cut the business lose. Remember, the business may be a failure, but you still rock!