EHK Chats with Beauty Entrepreneur Angela Wong
Tips on staying at your full-time job while launching a startup
For many of us, having a full-time job is stressful enough, especially in Hong Kong when a 9-5 workday is more like 7-11 and Saturdays. So staying committed to your day job while starting your own venture may strike many as a preposterous idea, but this is what Angela Wong set out to do in 2013 when she launched organic skin-care e-commerce site, Little Things in Life Hong Kong (LTILHK).
“People told me it would be crazy to have a full time job while starting your own company. But I didn’t quit because I wanted to have the financial freedom to do what I want. At such an early stage, if I’d had gotten investors, I’d have to give up ownership,” Angela says.
Having financial security is why many entrepreneurs choose to start their own businesses while still employed, particularly in a city where the cost of living is just as high as the fear of failing.
Though Angela has a strong asset: She enlisted the help of younger sister and now partner, Annie Wong. “I’m lucky because I happened to have a sister who I could coerce into joining the start-up,” Angela laughs.
For those who are unable to employ full-time staff, Angela suggests finding other ways to outsource, such as seeking freelancers or contracted help.
As for if she ever foresees a day when she would commit to just one job, she predicts that day will only come when she is no longer learning or gaining skills from her full-time job. However, she also suggests clearing with your employer first to make sure there’s no conflict of interest.
In the end, Angela — a Hong Kong native who has worked all over the globe — maintains that Hong Kong is one of the easiest places to start a company, in terms of the business registration process and gaining traction by word of mouth. As long as your expectations are adjusted and you aren’t afraid to seek help, it’s possible to have the big, and little, things in life.
The products sold on LTILHK are tested first on the Wong sisters, who both have sensitive skin.
7 tips on working full-time while launching a startup:
Angela coerced her younger sister, Annie, to jump on board after realizing she needed to have someone else run things while she was at work. The two now split the day and evening shifts (sometimes both).
“You end up realizing you can’t do it yourself when you start a company, especially if you’re still working full-time. Everyone needs someone to bounce ideas off of. I asked Annie because her background is much different than mine. She’s great at managing the non-logistical aspects of the site while I run more of the business side of things,” says Angela.
2. But know when extra help might be a financial and emotional drain.
The whole point of outsourcing is to save on time, but choosing the wrong people to work with can also take a toll, financially and emotionally. Avoid working with anyone who you normally wouldn’t do business with, or anyone expecting a hefty salary. It’s a startup after all! The two sisters split what they can do, logistics and marketing, between themselves. Other necessities, like backend site development and content creation, were outsourced.
“I have another sister who I’d clash with, professionally. Annie and I work well [together] because we communicate effectively. I don’t have time to micromanage. She knows I’m on a budget, so we have the parameters set,” Angela says.
3. Narrow your clientele and focus, from the beginning.
From the beginning, the duo knew that they had a niche demographic in mind: Women who experienced sensitive skin and had difficulties finding beauty products that didn’t aggravate their condition. Though there were many possible directions to go — catering to men, sourcing additional beauty products — LTILHK aimed to keep their mission pure and simple.
“We have a really clear idea who our audience is, and we accommodate their needs. On the downside, gaining initial traction could be slow, as the market is niche. But diluting your brand and mission, especially in the early stages, may confuse your clientele,” says Angela.
The sister duo, Annie Wong (L) and Angela Wong.
3. Make mistakes early on and learn from them.
Making mistakes early on isn’t a bad thing, as the lesson is learned at a relatively lower price. One of the greatest trials and errors they’ve faced is fine tuning their inventory.
“One mistake we made was ordering a certain type of lip balm. It’s amazing, but it doesn’t survive in Hong Kong’s humid weather. I bought a small enough batch, so it didn’t cost us too much!” says Angela.
4. Flesh out your business plan.
Though your business plan may change, go through as many drafts as possible. With a background in banking and fundraising, Angela had comprehensive knowledge of how companies operate. Putting her plan in writing helped elucidated business potential and growth opportunities, while clearly outlining foreseeable challenges.
“You need to really flesh out the logistics. You need to account for everything, from branding, to the target market to a projected budget, the latter which will often multiply.”
5. Network a lot, and network effectively
Hong Kong word-of-mouth can be very powerful, and networking can often be the best tool for small companies looking for support.
“What is networking? Knowing people and how to connect them.” Angela says. “Sometimes this means I need to force myself to squeeze in a lunch meeting or something, but you’ll never regret it. Plus, you encounter really cool people. The community in Hong Kong is very helpful!”
LTILHK carries a range of organic and natural cosmetics.
6. Provide personalized customer service
Personal sales works best for startups, and providing very hands-on, or in this case, lotion on, service can build familiarity.
“People believe me because I have very sensitive skin, and these are products I use. The customers I’ve had at the very beginning become very long-term customers. We also offer personal consultations,” says the task juggling entrepreneur.
7. Implement some sort of structure
Just because you work at home doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all. Be disciplined and committed to having additional work hours. For the Wong sisters, sometimes this means meeting up after work and eating dinner while chatting inventory, starting their work after most people are just about to unwind.
“It will honestly eat away at your personal life as there’s not enough time in the day. But that’s why it’s important to view all the extra time you have as valuable,” advises Angela.
This interview with was conducted and condensed by Hannah Leung of EntrepreneurHK (EHK).