Winter Term 2014: Secret Ingredient, American Chamber of Commerce – Hong Kong and Hongkong International Terminals

Friday, January 17, 2014

Visits overview

Morning: HIT (Hongkong International Terminals)

Hong Kong is the fourth busiest port city in the world.  HIT is situated in the Kwai Tsing container terminal. A member of the HPH trust, HIT is a provider of logistics and port operation.  HIT plays a key role in the continuing development of the port of Hong Kong, ensuring the port has the resources, facilities, and people required to achieve smooth and efficient handling of container cargoes.


Afternoon: AmCham HK (American Chamber of Commerce – Hong Kong)

The American Chamber of Commerce – Hong Kong is an organization built to foster commerce among the United States of America, Hong Kong and Mainland China, and enhance Hong Kong’s stature as an international business center.  AmCham HK is structured around a set of core values, consisting of: private enterprise, free trade, rule of law, ethical and responsible business practices, transparency and the free flow of informations.

AmCham HK’s objectives are:

  • To represent a diverse membership on issues of common interest,
  • To provide a forum for networking and access to information,
  • To serve as a trusted and influential advocate with governments,
  • To encourage civic-minded participation in the Hong Kong community, and
  • To promote the Chamber’s core values.


Evening: Secret Ingredient

Secret Ingredient is a revolutionary start-up in the Hong Kong food service industry.  Its focus is on fresh, quality ingredients, delivered to your door.  The catch…you get to cook your food.  Given ten step instructions, labeled and portioned ingredients, and the need for the most minimal of kitchens (which Hong Kong is in abundance of), you can prepare your meal in ten to thirty minutes.  That’s much faster than waiting to be served at a restaurant, probably healthier, and at a cost that is well worth it.


So You Want to Start a Business in Hong Kong

Starting a business in Hong Kong (HK) may be one of the easiest things to do in the world…well, at least when it comes to paperwork.

The HK government, AmCham and Maximilian von Poelnitz of Secret Ingredient all state that it only takes three days to file paperwork and receive your permits to operate in Hong Kong.  The HK government has recently taken to promoting business ventures in HK, especially of the small and medium size (Small and Medium Enterprises or SMEs).  HK is striving to maintain its presence as a leading global economic hub.  Organizations, like AmCham and various programs through the HK government are available to help businesses break into the HK markets.

WOW! Three days is no time at all.  I’m sure you are thinking, “Where do I sign up?”  Hold your horses.  It’s not quite as simple as the websites promoting business in HK make it seem on the surface.

Funding is a key element to starting any business.  Although there are a plethora of programs available through the HK government offering funding to SMEs, the funding is extremely difficult to obtain.  Banks are always an option, but with the level of competition in HK, funding through a bank may be a little difficult.  According to von Poelnitz, there are a number of HK residents with a surplus of personal funds that are always looking to invest in a good idea.  This is how he acquired some of the funding for Secret Ingredient, along with a large personal investment.  Often known as Angel Investors, they are a great source of funding for start-ups in HK.

Rumor has it that the HK government isn’t exactly interested in helping out the small, small business.  It is more interested in companies that are considered small and medium but make big revenues and big profits.  But hey, it’s just a rumor.

Another catch to starting a business in HK is the need for a bank account.  Yep that’s right, you need a HK bank account to have a business there and make that three day paperwork happen.  Sounds simple enough, right?  To get that bank account you have to be in Hong Kong and have the right visa.  This can be tricky because you need the business visa usually to be a viable candidate for the proper accounts at the banks.  There are ways to get around all of this red tape, but we aren’t here to advise you on that.

The best way to go about getting around the red tape, and keeping it legal, is to hire one of the many consulting firms to help you through the entire process.  Of course knowing the right people never hurts.

Networking is one of the most important aspects of starting and maintaining a business in HK, and Mainland China for that matter.  Be it through social media, like Facebook®, or through organizations like AmCham that strive to create a network of community and business persons, networking is playing a vital role in the business climate of HK.

So do you still want to start up a business in HK?  It can definitely be done, but it may be a little more complicated than originally anticipated.  Isn’t starting any business that way though?

If you talk to the crew at Secret Ingredient, you will understand that it’s not too hard to operate a small business in HK.  It takes a lot of hard work, determination, a good attitude, quality product and service.  Oh, and don’t forget the three day registration period.


A big thanks to Max and Jesse at Secret Ingredient; Dr. Richard Vuylsteke (President) and Sally Peng of the AmCham HK; and the staff at HIT for a wonderful chance to get a brief look inside these organizations and for taking the time to talk with us.


Written by: James Campbell, Elon MBA Candidate




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