“The biggest risk you can take is not doing something that you believe in”
This week we’re featuring our first That Girl of 2016 – the fabulously fun, creative co-founder of Garage Society, Elaine Tsung! Elaine’s enthusiasm and entrepreneurial spirit is contagious, and you can see it reflected throughout Garage Society. This collaborative, creative approach to work inspires all the different businesses and entrepreneurs that work at Garage every day, and we’re always happy to see Elaine in the office. We truly admire her work ethic and positive outlook!
We sat down to chat to Elaine about all things Hong Kong, her creative side and how she built such a strong team at Garage…
Tell us about your background and where you’re from.
I’m a local girl! I was born and bred in Hong Kong, then went to the States for college. I came back to Hong Kong straight after graduation. With work, I started off in investment banking but moved on to start my own businesses after I realised that I wasn’t suitable for corporate jobs.
Where do you live? How have you made your home your own?
I live in an older housing estate in Kowloon Tong. I’m quite keen on home decor, so I shop a lot for my home, especially when I’m on holiday. You wouldn’t believe the number of vases and kitchen utensils I’ve brought back from all over the world!
How do you describe your personal style? How does it evolve and change?
My style is definitely more fun and relaxed than it used to be! When I worked in corporate, it was all Armani and Gucci (ouch on the wallet!), but now I go for a mix of high and low end fashion… with a lot of crazy sneakers.
Where do you shop in Hong Kong? Any secret finds you can let us in on?
I don’t shop too much in Hong Kong but I do quite like COS. I also shop online, mostly on Net-A-Porter for shoes and accessories, J.Crew for staples and ASOS for some funky items.
What are your must-have beauty products? Where do you go for hair/nails/maintenance?
I have been using LaMer for quite some time. I do my own nails and I married my hair stylist! 😉
Describe your perfect weekend in Hong Kong.
My perfect weekend includes a visit to a Hong Kong dog park, cooking at home and a nice bottle shared with family.
What’s your favourite place in Hong Kong?
Simply – my home.
What are your favourite restaurants and bars in Hong Kong?
I love interesting, smaller local operations. For wine, I love going to LQV, sushi is my favourite and I’m a regular at Kenjo at Hart Avenue. I also love spicy food so I NEED to go to Golden Valley every now and then!
Tell us about your career and why you decided to start Garage Society.
As I mentioned before, I can’t deal with corporates (and corporates can’t deal with me either!), so I decided to become an entrepreneur.
It was a conscious decision for me to get involved in the real estate industry, as it’s a key sector in Hong Kong, but it was more a coincidence that I started doing co-working spaces.
You definitely side have a strong creative side – you even designed the interiors of both Garage spaces yourself! Have you always been interested in interior design and do you have any other creative hobbies or interests?
Yes, I’ve always loved interior design and I did contribute quite a lot to the design of both Garages. Since I have no formal training but a lot of ideas, the contractor team helped a lot in making my ideas turn into something real.
You’ve got such a fun personality – how do you inject fun into the workplace?
I think the key is being able to enjoy life, including what you do and how you do it.
Your team at Garage Society are all so knowledgeable and helpful – what do you think are the most important factors for building a strong team?
I trust my team and believe in their potential. Being from the “older” generation, I’ve noticed that sometimes people tend to criticise the younger generation, but to me it’s just a matter of perspective. If you can put yourself in their shoes and understand things from their angle, you’ll be amazed at how smart our younger generation is. And remember, you don’t “manage” people, you “work with” them!
There are so many different/quirky places to work in Garage Society (the hammock, offices, terrace) – where do you feel you work most productively/feel inspired?
I love my hammock as I feel like I’m in my own creative sphere! That being said, I’m more productive when I sit down and work from the co-working space. The terrace is really good for quick meetings with my team since it’s got a more chilled out, relaxed vibe.
What are some of the most memorable moments of your career – do you have any favourite events or projects that you’ve worked on? Any milestone moments?
The most memorable moments are all about people. We do team dinners every now and then and it’s really great to see the team growing, be it the size of team or just how much my team members have developed.
We hear you’re a big fan of dog adoption in Hong Kong – what other causes do you support/are you passionate about?
I am a dog person and do have a dog related social enterprise that I want to get started in a few years. Being an animal lover, I’m of course against animal cruelty and have started opting for a more vegetarian focused diet, which is difficult for a Chinese food lover!
I’m also trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle since I think there is so much that we consume and buy that we don’t need. Again, it’s not easy!
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs in Hong Kong?
Don’t be afraid to take risks, the biggest risk you can take is not doing something that you believe in.
What do you think is the next big area for start ups in Hong Kong – the next start-up trend?
I think the big trend for Hong Kong in general, which we need, is to have MORE and MORE start ups. With more support from the public as well as the government, I can totally see this happening soon.
What inspires you and what do you do to fix a creative block?
I’m all in for development, I love learning and believe there is always so much one can learn. When I’m stuck, I tend to talk with people and get their advice.
What are your hopes and dreams for the future – where do you see yourself and Garage Society in five years time?
I hope that our team, as well as the Garage Society community, can all grow together. Maybe many more Garages, (which I can help design!) in Hong Kong as well as other parts of Asia at least!