CUHK Launched University Social Enterprise ChallengeFostering the Development of Social Enterprise
Two teams of university students have beaten 68 teams formed by more than 300 students to win the “Hong Kong Social Enterprise Challenge 2007” in May — the first business case competition on social enterprise involving eight universities in Hong Kong. The two winning teams are from The Chinese University of Hong Kong and The University of Hong Kong.
Organized by the Center for Entrepreneurship of The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), the competition aims at encouraging students to realize their entrepreneurial spirit through the achievement of both business and social objectives and enhancing public understanding on social enterprises.
Mr Mingles Tsoi, Project Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship, CUHK, thought there is still much to learn about social enterprise development in Hong Kong, “With the strong support from the government, we can see quite a lot of social enterprises being developed in recent years. Most of these are in the form of co-opt shops under the supervision of NGOs. Though many people may agree that this could be a viable solution for addressing social needs, yet could we have a broader scope for social enterprises? What exactly is social enterprise stands for? What mission could they achieve? Is social enterprise necessarily only relate to poverty alleviation? All these are questions worth for more in-depth discussions. Through the competition, we aim at encouraging young people to think more about possible direction of social enterprises, especially thinking beyond the existing boundaries.”
The competition is sponsored by the Commission on Poverty. The two winning teams are granted a three-month internship award of HK$240,000 to actually start a social enterprise based on their business plans.
One of the winning teams, Hand-by-Hand Laundry, comprises five undergraduates of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, including Veronica Lam, Winnie Lam, Steven Cheng, Mandy Chau and Susan Kwok. Their project idea is to set up a laundry shop in Aberdeen to provide additional hand-wash service on top of ordinary laundry services. With the help of a NGO, Fu Hong Society, this localized shop aims at employing non-skilled housewives in the district, who are either unable to commit a full-time job or bear the transportation cost to work in other district. The shop will provide flexibility for these housewives to work for a few hours a day with negotiable schedule.
Another winning team, Planadol Catering, is a team formed by five undergraduates of the University of Hong Kong, including Karen Wong; Andrew Tang, Silvia Hui, Timothy Tam and Ronald Cheng. The team proposes to set up a catering company to provide tailor-made nutritious meals for the elderly, with special attention to their individual needs such as nutritional requirement due to health reasons. To start with, the team will approach elderly homes as the first batch of their customers and invite professionals to help design healthy menus. Moreover, they are also in the process of forming a partnership with a private catering company which will help prepare the healthy meals basing on their menus.
In sharing his views on the development of social enterprise, Prof. Kevin Au, Associate Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship, CUHK said, “We are much impressed by the enthusiasm and commitment of the students. They have done a good job in formulating a comprehensive business plan. Yet, implementation of their plan to set up a social enterprise will obviously be an even greater challenge. The primary challenge, like other for-profit new ventures, is to raise seed funding to start up the company. At present, 85% of the social enterprises in Hong Kong receive seed funding from the government directly or indirectly through grants to NGOs. This is similar to overseas situation. Such funding modes may constraint the expansion or sustainability of social enterprise, as it is quite impossible for the society to continue supporting them in the long-run. Therefore, the way forward would be finding some other funding sources, such as debt, bonds or angel funds to fill the investment gap. Unfortunately, multiple sources of funding are not well developed in Hong Kong. To achieve this, we need efforts to match prospective funding with good business ideas, more robust ownership and governance structure for social enterprises, and even more important is the nurturing of entrepreneurial spirit among social enterprises to enable them to run a business with a good balance between profit-making and serving of social objectives.”