In honour of International Women’s Day in March, we’re celebrating the incredible achievements of women around the world, including in Hong Kong. We chatted with half a dozen talented and dynamic female entrepreneurs of different ages and backgrounds about the unique businesses, initiatives and projects they’re involved in here – across fashion, books, homeware, wine, composting and plant-based food! In this instalment, we shine the spotlight on BAILEY CHERRY, founder of reBooked, a platform to reuse preloved children’s books.
Could you introduce yourself for our readers?
I was born in Singapore and moved here when I was six months old. My parents are from the USA and the Philippines and my younger sister is from HK. It’s a truly international family, but I consider myself a Hongkonger at heart! I’m now 16 and a Grade 11 student at Li Po Chun United World College, a boarding school in Ma On Shan.
When and why did you start reBooked?
In early 2019, when Marie Kondo’s decluttering became a trend, my mom encouraged our family to do some spring cleaning. We noticed all the wonderful children’s books we had outgrown – cherished titles of excellent quality that we wanted to pass on to other young readers. But there were limited sustainable and convenient options for sharing preloved children’s books in HK. I saw an opportunity for a platform to do just that.
Soon after, I came up with a rough idea for reBooked, creating a simple website and social media pages for my project. In October 2019, I won a community outreach pitch competition organised by a local NGO (Kids4Kids). This is how reBooked got its initial funding, and I also received valuable mentorship to kick off the project in a bigger way. We have since collected almost 80,000 preloved children’s books and placed them in the hands of young readers (instead of in landfill)!
We also have a reBooked shop in Central, run mostly by students like me. Last year, we hosted 18 free storytelling sessions at the shop with local authors, illustrators, librarians and literacy specialists.
We’ve also shared over 12,000 children’s books with charities and NGOs across HK and the Philippines.
What is your vision for the project?
As a booklover, I want to promote the joy of reading with as many children as possible, and I fully believe in the potential of books to change lives. Today, reBooked has evolved to be more than a secondhand bookstore, and it has certainly become bigger than my family’s original spring cleaning project! My vision for reBooked is that it will be a powerful agent for literacy, sustainability and community service.
As a student, how much time do you get to spend working on your project?
I try to devote about two hours to reBooked every day during school week – answering emails, planning marketing, Zoom calls and more. I’m grateful to have a great team of predominantly students who help manage the day-to-day operations of both our online and retail store.
On weekends, I usually work at the store in Central – tasks include sorting donations, sterilising and pricing books, fixing displays and more. I enjoy meeting customers; as an avid reader, l never pass up the opportunity to talk about books with other kids, teachers, parents and booklovers!
Tell us about some of your other projects and achievements.
I’m also busy with EcoGo (home.ecogohk.org), the company I co-founded with other high school students; it’s an award-winning e-directory for sustainable brands. The goal is to make information on sustainable businesses more widely accessible, by encouraging others to live more “green”.
In addition, I am co-host and producer for Never Too Early (anchor.fm/never-too-early-podcast), a podcast featuring youth changemakers globally, and I’m also involved with other organisations such as Kids4Kids as part of their advocate leadership team, and as youth ambassador for LaunchX among others.
How has the pandemic affected the business?
I started reBooked in 2019, just before COVID. It was actually when classes were suspended and libraries were closed, that things really took off because our online bookstore became a source of value-priced, high quality English books for many families. To this day, parents write to thank us for saving their children from boredom and from losing their sanity staying indoors!
COVID aside, what have been some surprises and challenges of doing business in HK?
One pleasant surprise I’ve found in doing business in Hong Kong is the acceptance and openness most people have for youth-led initiatives such as reBooked. In the early days, I wrote to the media and different organisations and was initially not optimistic that I would get a response, let alone receive support. Hong Kongers tend to be very busy! To my surprise, from Day 1, many folks have been generous with offering advice and practical support. Indeed, ReBooked has reinforced my belief in the goodness of people.
What are you excited about in 2022?
I’m excited to grow reBooked’s reach to include building a mobile library to benefit underprivileged children in the Philippines, as well as launching in Brazil and Turkey!
As an incoming high school Senior, I’m also getting ready for exams and university applications. This will likely be my most challenging endeavour in 2022!
Outside of school and work, what are your hobbies?
I love a good game of pick-up basketball, appreciating Hong Kong’s beaches and going thrifting for great sustainable and bargain clothes.
Like this? See more in our International Women’s Day series in our Living in Hong Kong section.
This article first appeared in the Spring 2022 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.