Momtrepreneur of the Week

Since I started running the “Momtrepreneur of the Week” piece on my blog, I have spoken with a long, long list of fabulous ladies full of energy and entrepreneurial spirit.

Closing out the Hong Kong chapter, I needed to finish with someone special. Who better than Megan Olinger who created Handmade in Hong Kong?

So I did a little Q & A withe the lovely Megan:

Where did you grow up?

I was born in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois in the US.

We lived there until I was 13 years old and then we moved to a very, very small town in rural Iowa. Iowa is mostly farmland, but luckily we lived near Iowa University, which is a very liberal college town. 

What brought you to Hong Kong?

I moved to Hong Kong in 2002.

My Mom was transferred to Hong Kong for her work, so she and my Dad invited my sister and I to join them.

I had graduated university and was doing freelance film production as a camera assistant. I was really into Wong Kar Wai (a HK film director) so I was keen to come to Hong Kong and check it out. 

What did you work at?

I was a camera assistant (also known as focus puller) on film productions.

I started working before film went digital, so it was interesting to be witness to the change of formats and working styles. 

You have a family?

My husband, Justin Sweeting, is from Hong Kong and we met here.

We have three children (the younger two are twins). 

What do your kids think of their entrepreneurial Mum?

I don’t think that they necessarily notice it as being anything interesting at the moment because they are young (ages 8 and 6) and it’s all they’ve ever known.

I think they do appreciate (and will so more as they get older) that my time can be more flexible, but also I think they find it challenging to explain what I do when anyone asks, “What is your mum’s job?”

Tell us about Handmade in Hong Kong

Handmade Hong Kong is a market platform for independent artists, crafters and small businesses. 

It started in 2009 with a very small happening at a local cafe/bar called Senses 99 with 12 vendors. 

Megan (2nd from right) with the Handmade in Hong Kong team
Where did the idea come from?

The idea sparked when I was visiting my sister in Chicago in 2007 and I went to the Renegade Craft Fair. I was so inspired by the event and all the amazing indie crafters and artists!

I had been into the DIY craft and makers scene that was getting going through early blogs and podcasts and spent many nights in Hong Kong at home alone, or with my friend, sewing and crafting and I was really keen to find a community of other crafters.

 So really the idea was inspired by Renegade, but was motivated by trying to find a community of crafty folks. 

What’s the biggest challenge you have running Handmade? 

Finding venue space that is affordable and has good foot-traffic

What gives you the most satisfaction running Handmade?

The community of amazing creative talented people that I’ve had the chance to meet and get to know. 

Any expansion plans? 

We are always looking for new venues. 

What do you look for when you are reviewing vendor applications for a market?

We prioritize handmade made or designed items, as well as items that are locally and / or ethically sourced.

It’s really important for vendors to write good descriptions of what makes their items unique and including good photos or a website / social media always helps too. 

Based on your experience, could you offer your Top 5 tips to vendors to help them maximise their sales on market day?

  1. DISPLAY

Attention to how you design your display and decorate your table is so important to catch customers’ eyes.  

2. PERSONABLE INTERACTION

Finding that fine line between engaging the customer and not being overbearing is key.

I can be really shy, so if you’re shy it helps to bring a friend who is more chatty.

You could do some craft work while you’re sitting there – it can be an icebreaker or give you something to do so you don’t feel so awkward. 

3. PAYMENT OPTIONS

Having a variety of payment options is great, so that you don’t have to rely on cash on hand. 

4. MARKETING MINDSET

Adopting the mindset that the market is a marketing opportunity helps to build longer relations with customers and takes the pressure off the goal of making sales on that one day. I cannot always shop on the day of the market, but I will take business cards and note items that I like and I often get in touch with vendors after the actual market to make my purchases.  

Also, offering something small that customers can take with them or a sample to try is a great way to stay memorable and to potentially make a sale after the market day. 

5. COMMUNITY BUILDING

Being personable and developing relations with the other vendors is so important. It’s so helpful to be able to ask other vendors for advice or suggestions about business, or other venues and markets, or anything really! Making those friendships and business relationships is key.

Also, as we are an all-day outdoor market, it helps to just know a few friendly faces to get through those boiling hot days and rainy days, and to know that there’s other vendors there to lend a hand when you need it. 

Handmade in Hong Kong – Discovery Bay
If vendors out there want to find out more about upcoming markets, who should they contact?

All of our information is on our website and there’s a contact form for any specific questions:

www.handmadehongkong.com 

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Megan also lives in Discovery Bay and recently volunteered her time to come to speak to our local “Discovery Bay Momtrepreneur Club”. She was most helpful sharing her experience and market tips and answering our endless questions.

She has been a market vendor herself and so has a unique insight into the experience as a vendor, a customer and a market organiser.

She completely gets the love and passion (and often frustration and stress that goes with this) that these vendors put into their businesses.

She knows the vendor’s feeling of hopefulness that its going to be a good sales day, the thrill of making a sale (while of course trying to play it cool inside) and of sometimes the disappointment when it doesn’t go so well. All mixed with rain or blazing sun, depending on the day, of course!

A big thank you to Megan from all us vendors for giving us a showcase for our businesses.

And, don’t forget:

So that’s it from the Hong Kong Momtrepreneurs.

Coming soon – meet the Irish ladies……….

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Thank you xx

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