Elaine Tsung, Co-Founder of Eaton House and Garage Society

Ever wondered how Hong Kong co-working spaces came about? You can thank Elaine Tsung. The serial entrepreneur is behind The Hive, Garage Society and Eaton House -- to name a few. 

Each space has its own personality and aesthetic, aimed at varying subsets of entrepreneurs. For instance, her most recent project Eaton House is a FinTech hub for entrepreneurs and thought leaders.

The Hongkonger shares a few words about her entrepreneurial journey and the art of the co-working space. 

a happy coincidence

My first entrepreneurial venture was a business called European Gourmet -- we import foods from Europe, including cooking products and chocolate.

Getting involved in co-working was a coincidence. I actually wanted to go into the real estate market, and then I met with the investor of The Hive.

He came to Hong Kong to get a co-working space started and I felt like it was an interesting project, since we didn't have any space in Hong Kong yet. I joined as the founding director of The Hive and spent about three years there. 

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Three years later...

After three years of experience, I felt inspired to start my own co-working business. That's how Garage Society came to be. Garage Society has been around for about three years now and I have been lucky to be offered another opportunity on a new project for the Great Eagle Group, who own a lot of real estate and hospitality spaces around the world.

Last year, we launched Eaton House. The concept is like a social work club. It's not about entertainment but connection and business collaborations. 

LEARNING CURVE

When I started seven years ago, I was honestly pretty clueless about co-working. I did a lot of research and studied co-working spaces and the philosophy behind them. It's very interesting to think about the business from both the hardware (space), we well as software (programming) perspectives.

Co-working spaces are like a hipster version of a serviced working space. The hardware is built in a way that is more like an open plan -- so there is more opportunity for collaboration.

How you work with other people depends on the personality of the business. There are a lot of co-working spaces all over the world, from boutique to the big business ones like WeWork. And what differentiates between one space to another is the community, which is curated by the programming initiatives the cowork space implements.

KNOW YOUR MARKETS

We wanted to find something to suit the Hong Kong market. Garage is founded to cater of the international tech companies, SMEs and local startups. Whereas for Eaton House, since Hong Kong is a financial hub and we are located in one the most expensive real estate buildings in the world, a fintech-focused coworking space made sense.

Getting the space finished is only step one out of a hundred. I'm quite lucky to have two hats on: Garage Society is more startup oriented, where as Eaton House, given that we are in a top tier banking building, is focused on financial technology.

We started curating a platform for the investor orientated community -- I hope in the future we can see opportunities between the two co-working brands.

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THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX

Hong Kong is a very finance-dedicated city, but given that we have been comfortable as a finance hub for around three decades -- at times i think we have become complacent.

We think there will always be banking jobs available or other property you can buy to make a fortune out of them -- I think that's kind of what deters Hong Kong from reinventing itself to become more connected to the tech world and the new economy world.

FINDING A BALANCE

In a city like Hong Kong, we have crazy hours and we tend to get a lot done. Work life is quite intense but in the last few years we’ve started noticing that a lot of people want to strike a work-life balance. 

People are quitting their corporate jobs and to start a new venture to get more work-life balance, they're becoming freelancers or consultants.

Very interestingly, a lot of these people are starting a project that they enjoy. It's about bringing work into your lives so it's more integrated.
 

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LOVE WHAT YOU DO

I haven’t taken a holiday for two or three years. I'm setting up new projects overseas and whenever I fly to a new location, I may take an extra day off but I actually don't think I need it.

I'm relaxed on a daily basis -- I love what I do. My work hours aren't the best but I don't complain about it because I enjoy what I do.

I worked in the corporate world long enough. When you don't enjoy your job, you can't wait to get off work. I used to buy crazy expensive things to justify the hard time I spent in the office to make myself feel better.

Now, I don't feel the need. Even when I'm working or doing business plans in the middle of the night, I don't mind because I love my work.

MIX AND MINGLE

My advice for new entrepreneurs is to get involved in as many communities in Hong Kong, go to meetups and go to work spaces.

There are at least 20-30 events every night in Hong Kong so you should pick the one that is relevant to you -- you can't do them all. Focus on your core work and pick relevant and strategic activities to get involved in.

Work with the right community and the right people. Pick the right workspace -- if they share the same mindset you will be able to work more efficiently.