Six small business owners share how they got their start
12 December 2016
Hong Kong is home to some amazing small businesses – the results of entrepreneurs with a great business idea who were prepared to give it a go. The annual Prestige Fairs are a chance for these businesses to showcase their wares and for shoppers to meet and buy direct from vendors as they stock up on Christmas gifts. This year we chatted with six vendors to find out more about what they offer, how they started out, and why they love the Conrad Fair.
Snug-a-licious: Suzie Levett
I’m half English, half Irish. I was born in Hong Kong, and moved back here about eight years ago. I previously worked in Australia in women’s health and fertility. Our brand, Snug-a-licious, produces premium bamboo sleep and loungewear for children from birth to eight years of age. Our goal is to produce the softest kids’ clothing on the planet. All our products are designed with softness, style, versatility and comfort in mind. We have Hong Kong’s most comprehensive collection of bamboo babywear, which we stock in various stores here and also sell online with free local delivery. When I moved back to Hong Kong and had my son, we identified a need for clothing that was more casual and put kids’ comfort first. We fell in love with bamboo due to its huge range of beneficial properties applicable for the Asian climate. I’ve been coming to the Conrad Fair since it started. It’s great to support all the local businesses and find something unique! Outside of the fairs, we provide a gift concierge service where we basically help you select products and assist with payment, delivery and so on, all for no extra charge. I love our ready-made baby gift boxes, with girl, boy and unisex options available.
Patinova: Ben Huang
Patinova designs and makes cufflinks and jewellery inspired by Hong Kong and Chinese culture, and the historical objects and everyday local objects that have a story to tell. Patinova either preserves these objects or recreates them, adding a new and modern twist at the same time. It also serves as part of my journey of discovery and exploration of my own Chinese heritage. All the coin jewellery is made with genuine Hong Kong coins, and all the other ranges of jewellery are made with 925 sterling silver. I’ve been going to the Conrad Fair since I started Patinova in 2012; it’s a great venue to showcase and sell products. While the online sales work well, nothing beats the interaction and feedback you get from talking to clients face to face at the fairs. My favourite gift would be a Hong Kong coin from the recipient’s year of birth – made into cufflinks for men, or a charm or pendant for women. It’s a great memento of Hong Kong!
The Lion Rock Press: Claire Yates
After 15 years living and working in places such as Portugal, New York and London, I returned to my beloved Hong Kong five years ago. I’ve had two children in that time, and feel more inspired than ever to follow my dreams. The Lion Rock Press specialises in HK-inspired stationery and gifts. All of our paper products are lovingly designed and printed right here in the 852 by my family. We are besotted with paper, and have been in the business for over a century. Lion Rock was my interpretation of how to remain in an industry that we feel a great bond with, while allowing me to be more creative in bringing together my East and West heritage. I’ve recently branched out into Hong Kong gifts, which has been a wonderful, crazy journey. I’ve been visiting the Conrad Fair since I was a teenager, but I’ve been a vendor for the last four years. Definitely the most important fairs of the season for us, they give us a chance to see the size of our customer base and hear feedback. It’s always a hugely exciting day for us, and this year is especially beneficial for visitors since we’re offering a HK$50 cash coupon to spend at our stall in the complimentary bags given out at the entrance. Our favourite gift this year are the Hong Kong Christmas decorations. Hand-painted, with a red satin ribbon for hanging, these beauties make a unique and meaningful gift for all ages. There’s no better way to remember the magic of this city than with treasured keepsakes that will last a lifetime.
Mary & Marie: Laila Nasser
I studied fashion design in Sydney almost 25 years ago and I launched Mary & Marie in 1999, producing garments for over 30 different brands and Sydney designers. In 2006, I moved to Shanghai to open a sourcing office, and in 2010 my husband was transferred to Hong Kong. I then decided to concentrate on the bags. My business structure is simple: bags women will love that do not weigh a tonne. The bags have lots of clear and mesh compartments so you can see what’s where, zip-out linings for easy cleaning and a key ring so you need never lose your car keys again! I travel to China at least once a week to source fabrics and check on production. My woven fabrics are produced in Taiwan from recycled plastic and paper cartons. Using top quality leather is just as important as the bag design. When my first child Bella was born, I couldn’t find a nice-looking bag with all the compartments that I needed. My first range had a spot for a bottle and lots of clear pockets. My designs have evolved as the children have got older – these days, I offer laptop bags as well as regular, everyday bags. This will be my fourth year at the Conrad Fair; it’s such a fabulous day, but it’s also very busy – I do wish I had more time to spend with customers. But before you know it it’s four o’clock and I haven’t even sat down! I do love the feedback and personal contact though. My convertible wallet is always a hit as you can use it as a cross-body bag with its removable strap. It fits your iPhone, passport and lipstick, with loads of space for your cards and Panadol.
Kristin Green Collection: Angela Hsu
I was born in Hong Kong and I’m a mother of two boys, aged seven and five. I was a full-time registered nurse and I then became a full-time mum after giving birth to my first child in 2009. Handmade and unique products have interested me since I was young, and I started Kristin Green in 2014. I always used organic bedding, handkerchiefs and bodyshirts when my boys were babies. When they grew up, I used their organic body shirts to make soft toys and headboard decorations. Two years ago, I was assisting the kids to do a recycling project, and I did some online research on homemade fabric products. After much trial and error, we made a dress for our dog, a cushion cover and a tote bag using my husband’s shirt. After having fun with my boys on the recycling project, I started making my own handmade, eco-friendly products. I source eco-friendly fabrics from Europe and Japan, as well as GOTS-certified organic fabric from the US, as I want my products to be eco-friendly but also beautiful and useful. I design and make a variety of products for baby, kids and family. These include baby bibs, bedding, sleep sacks, cushion covers, aprons for kids, and waterproof blankets. My customers can also customise their own designs with their names on the products. I’ve been at the Conrad Fair since 2014. I enjoy the time to talk and learn from all the customers. They inspire me with lots of ideas for tailor-making unique gifts for family, kids and friends. Personalised gifts are the best for all ages!
Teresa’s Turkish Towels: Teresa Littlewood
I started Teresa’s Turkish Towels a year ago after visiting Istanbul and bringing back towels for friends. I’m British and my husband is from Istanbul, but we both call Hong Kong home. I came here in my twenties and worked at The Excelsior as Director of Sales. After meeting and marrying one of the guests, I left to enjoy motherhood and then started my own company. My business is importing these wonderful cotton towels. In the beginning, I would personally buy the towels from Istanbul, and I loved it because we’d sit and have coffee and it was very personal. After a couple of months, we went directly to the factory and were able to see so many other designs and colours, and so much more choice. I was motivated by the beauty of the product; the colours are so varied, and the pure cotton is better for the environment and perfect for Hong Kong because its highly absorbent and dries so quickly. The Conrad Fair is great for the range of unique products, things you don’t see in the shops, plus I like to support small businesses. I’ve been a visitor for many years and this past spring was the first time I exhibited. I especially love our Sultan towels; they're made from a heavier, softer cotton and can be used as wraps, scarves or throws. We can personalise all our towels with an embroidered name – in a choice of 16 thread colours and six different fonts – for a truly memorable gift.
The final Prestige Fair is on at the Conrad Hong Kong on 14 December. For more information, visit prestigefairs.hk.
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