At Compass, we love supporting entrepreneurs. That’s why we are starting a new feature called #CompassEntrepreneurs, where we ask entrepreneurs for their honest advice and insight on how to start a business in Asia.
We chat with Jessica Lam Sai-man and Hinz Pak Yu-hin, the founders of Jou Sun, an O2O grocery shopping and delivery service based in Hong Kong. Jou Sun, which is Cantonese for “good morning,” launched mid-2015 and matches potential customers with owners of stalls selling fresh produce and vegetables.
The duo, who met through a pro bono project, started Jou Sun to bridge the needs of customers and brand owners alike. Though Hong Kong is a shopper’s paradise in many ways, high rents means that many smaller grocery stores and market do not have everything in stock. Therefore, shoppers often have to visit multiple shops to gather ingredients. At the same time, Hong Kong’s digital commerce landscape is still in its growing phases, which means online shopping services is a relatively new concept.
After working in finance, strategy consulting and luxury retail overseas, Jessica saw huge unexploited potential for e-commerce business in Hong Kong. Working with retailers at Jou Sun has allowed her to enable brick and mortar retailers and brand owners to sell direct to customers. This not only allows companies to increase margins but also build direct sales information. As an avid online shopper herself, she is driven to offer diverse, high quality and well-priced products to Jou Sun’s customers.
Hinz, a designer brand consultant, worked in creative agencies in Hong Kong and at the Design Institute for Social Innovation at PolyU, where he focused on bridging community with design. At Jou Sun, he strives to empower housewives with shopping jobs, connect fresh market, digitize local farms and enable individual specialty partners to go online.
Because both founders believe in a shared economy, instead of stocking merchandise themselves, Jou Sun digitizes the Wanchai wet market and brands by listing fresh produces and grocery items from these shops onto the website. After customers place orders, trained staff does grocery runs and arrange bikes and van drivers to deliver orders the same day. Jou Sun currently operates on Hong Kong Island and Kowloon.
We chatted with the duo and asked them about starting a business in Hong Kong. Below are edited and condensed answers.
What does a typical workday look like for you? Are you a morning or night person? When do you do your best work?
As a startup, it means that there is no day or night. We are just excited to bringing changes to the digital landscape in grocery shopping in Hong Kong.
What are the challenges of starting a business in Hong Kong (if applicable, and expanding to other markets)?
The challenge of starting Jou Sun, a new type of online business in HK, has always been communicating with partners who are not digital savvy. You can probably imagine how difficult it is to explain that her customers can shop for her fruits online. It’s as hard as explaining to your grandma how to use Whatsapp on an iPhone!
What are your goals for the next five years?
We will expand our team and capabilities to become even more effective in enabling brands to sell online. This spans everything from providing a beautifully designed digital platform for them to sell, superior customer service support, marketing consulting services and last mile home and delivery support.
What advice do you have for striving entrepreneurs?
Enjoy, have fun, and do what you like.
If you could do it all over again, would you have done anything differently?
Startup means being a problem solver for us. We see a problem in getting fresh produce with promising delivery and a gap between fresh market and internet. I think we will start the same thing, changing the way customers shop for groceries in Hong Kong.
Follow Jou San on social media!