Empowering Entrepreneurship:Launching a Eco-Friendly and local Brand Store in Yuen Long

When you travel to Japan or Taiwan, have you ever felt envious of how the locals seem to be self-sufficient when it comes to food and daily necessities? If you take a closer look, you’ll realize that Hong Kong also offers a variety of local brands and agricultural products. Despite not having the same resources as big corporate brands, they continue to work quietly to preserve Hong Kong’s agriculture and local products. To sustain these local brands, there needs to be a supportive community.

In the latest issue, BBOLD magazine interviewed a woman named Katie, born in the 90s. During the pandemic, she decided to leave her job as a designer and courageously ventured into the world of “ecopreneurship.” Starting with experience in eco-friendly retail, she took a further step in July 2023 by managing a neighborhood store called “Eco Corner Grocery,” which focuses on selling sustainable products and local niche brands. Some products are sold without packaging, allowing residents to bring their own containers for purchase, aiming to cultivate waste reduction and minimize packaging waste habits among Hong Kong people.

Impulse to Change Careers Due to Awareness of Excessive Waste

After working in society for a few years, many people pay special attention to their friends’ career paths. Sometimes they find that some people’s careers progress smoothly, while others take a particularly “jumpy” path. After several years of work, many people ask themselves a question: “Is my current job suitable for me? Should I continue? Or would I be better off starting over in a new field?” Thinking about this, they realize that choosing to leave their old profession requires more courage than persevering.

Katie’s career change was mainly inspired by her work as a designer. She noticed the constant turnover of promotional materials and felt it was a shame to see the design setups abandoned after each event, despite the fast-paced consumer and promotional culture in Hong Kong.

As she grew older, Katie realized that while people have more means to enjoy material wealth, true happiness doesn’t come from possessions but from one’s attitude towards life.

The beginning of a second life

For Katie, transitioning from a designer to working in eco-friendly retail felt like a fresh start. She recognized that Hong Kong’s convenience sometimes leads people to find environmental protection bothersome. Even those who understand its principles may be reluctant to take action: “Hong Kong people aren’t pushed, so they won’t keep talking to their friends about environmental protection… how to be environmentally friendly… unless their friends are interested. Otherwise, very few will bring it up with their friends. I think it’s better to focus on myself first.”

Katie aimed to instigate change from within, gradually adjusting her daily life and personal habits. Transitioning from an employee to a business owner, her store “Eco Corner Grocery” in Yuen Long held special significance for her, as she grew up in the area. She aspired to have more package-free stores in the neighborhood, offering quality and sustainable products for the local community.

This new phase of life brought her many surprises, and she found joy in engaging with various customers. “Many residents express their thoughts directly, some mentioning that Hong Kong brands are indeed expensive, while others are very supportive of package-free purchasing.”

With more material possessions, it’s easy to overlook happiness beyond material enjoyment. Life can be simple, and so can happiness. Through her focus on environmental protection in this new phase of life, Katie learned that using fewer items leads to a better life.

Challenges Faced When Opening a Store: The Reality of Entrepreneurship

Due to limited funds initially, she had to opt for a more affordable upstairs shop. However, after running the business for six months, she noticed a lower foot traffic upstairs, which required her to put more effort into online promotion. When the editor took on the role of a shop assistant for a day, they observed minimal foot traffic outside the shop and few customers entering, which was disheartening. Despite this, Katie remained undeterred, believing in the value of trying everything once, learning from the experience, and making necessary adjustments. Currently, she is dedicating more effort to capturing high-quality product photos and crafting detailed introductions for each item on her Instagram page, aiming to attract more customers through online promotion.

As a sole proprietor, she handles all aspects of the business herself and has come to realize the challenge of maintaining food quality: “I’ve previously attempted to sell certain products, only to find that they are prone to molding in Hong Kong’s humid weather. Not all items are suitable for open display. Through trial and error, I’ve learned how to store them effectively and which ones are better suited for open display.

The Ones Who Stayed: Perseverance Amid Challenges

In her new chapter of life, Katie prioritizes quality over quantity. She recognizes the challenges faced by locally crafted brands in Hong Kong, including land scarcity, high rent, labor shortages, and intense market competition. Despite complaints about the expense of Hong Kong brands compared to mainland China and other cities, she attributes the higher costs to limited land and manual production methods.

Katie acknowledges the tendency for Hong Kong people to criticize local brands for their perceived poor quality and high prices, especially during and after the pandemic. However, she hopes that the hard work of Hong Kong people won’t be overshadowed by the reputation of a few brands. She emphasizes the perseverance of those facing various challenges in local production and expresses concern that these brands may not endure, leading to the potential disappearance of Hong Kong’s agriculture.

At “Eco Corner Grocery,” one of the featured products is ecological rice, which directly addresses environmental concerns. The production of this rice in Nam Sang Wai has nurtured diverse wildlife and contributed to wetland conservation. Although the initial focus was on enriching the wildlife in the wetlands, changes in the situation have led Nam Sang Wai farmers to continue traditional agriculture and eco-friendly farming practices in nearby farmland in Ho Sheung Heung.

Supporting local rice not only aids wetland conservation but also highlights the story, significance, and importance of local production in Hong Kong agriculture.

Katie’s store has always believed in supporting local brands in Hong Kong, giving them the opportunity to showcase their stories and products to the community.

LaiGreen Christmas Gift Ideas

Fari Organics organic cane sweets  $98

The organic cashew sugar from “細味公平” is a member of Fairtrade International and is carefully prepared by local women in Kwai Chung, using high-quality organic cashews from India and sweet organic cane sugar from Paraguay. It’s free from preservatives and additives, making it a must-have for Christmas parties.

beetales lower honey $250/225g $350/450g

The honey from “#陀地養蜂人” IG@beetaleshk in Hong Kong is created through beekeeping, harvesting, and bottling. It’s 100% natural raw honey, with no extra processing or heating. Extracted straight from the honeycomb into the bottle, it retains more nutrients – truly from hive to bottle.

LoCoFARMS  $108

Furthermore, “曾媽媽” in the New Territories crafts locally grown stewed tangerine peel lemon using a traditional family recipe, emphasizing the quality of locally sourced ingredients. This genuine #港產陳檸 aims to promote the essence of local craftsmanship and support Hong Kong farmers.

Source : Laigreen

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