Our series of online HK people profiles covers a wide range of backgrounds, careers and personalities of individuals in Hong Kong. In this instalment, we chat with LINNET MA, who is helping to make a difference in many people’s lives through her organisation, Hong Kong Charity Bazaar.
Tell us a bit about your background; is Hong Kong “home” for you?
I’m a Third Culture Kid, with parents who are also Third Culture Kids! My parents are both Chinese but Mom was born and raised in Korea, and Dad in Japan and Taiwan. Our family speaks a blend of English, Mandarin and Japanese, so people overhearing often get a surprise or they can’t follow our conversation fully!
I was born in Taiwan, raised in Japan, Los Angeles and Hong Kong, and earned my Broadcast Journalism undergraduate degree in Fudan University in Shanghai. As a kid, we moved around so much that I attended three kindergartens and four primary schools before Dad got transferred to Hong Kong for work.
It did take a toll on me, and I was so grateful to be able to finish off my secondary years here without another move. Post-uni, I came back to Hong Kong and since then I’ve never left; it’s definitely home to me as we’ve raised a family of our own here.
What do you do here? Tell us about your business.
Hong Kong Charity Bazaar came about when I had an opportunity to do something with a 4,000-square-foot space due to a closure of our family business. I had the space until the end of the contract, and as we all know that rent is sky-high in Hong Kong, we really wanted to fully utilise the space while helping the community at the same time.
Prior to Hong Kong Charity Bazaar, I co-founded a baby gifting platform with my sister. We frequently organised and hosted pop-up markets as a way to showcase indie businesses and create opportunities for family fun days here in the city. It’s an area we felt was lacking.
Our vision now is to provide a platform to showcase small local businesses and artisans, while at the same time supporting and raising awareness of incredible local charities. We donate a minimum of 20% of vendor fees to our partnered charitable organisation for events, and each event highlights a different charity. These vendor fees are inclusive of the donation to charity, and we don’t take commission – we want this to be win-win for everyone who gets involved.
I truly believe that we can all make an impact to empower the most disadvantaged through the charities that work tirelessly to support them. Every action impacts others – together we can make more conscious purchasing decisions and support local businesses.
What have been the surprises and challenges of doing business in HK?
To be honest – Hong Kong is an entrepreneur’s dream come true! You can really hit the ground running with your business here. I also have an advantage because I speak fluent Cantonese and that helps me to navigate the local landscape. Other than the obvious challenge of high costs, Hong Kong is an incredible place filled with opportunities.
Give us an insight into a typical working day for you.
I start my day with morning devotion and meditation before doing anything else. As a mother of two, it’s non-stop running around; I’m sure many parents can relate! Luckily, my kids are more independent now as they are 10 and 13. I also have the support of a hands-on husband and incredible helper, which gives me the breathing space to manage Hong Kong Charity Bazaar as well as the ins and outs of the family business.
What neighbourhood do you live in, and what do you like about it?
We’re in Tin Hau, in the middle of Hong Kong Island. It’s a stone’s throw from everything. I can literally dash to meetings and get my errands done by accessing various modes of public transportation from MTR, to buses, trams and taxis. It’s a bustling area and full of charming corners with hidden gems and eateries around.
Outside of work, what are your hobbies in Hong Kong?
I’m not sporty at all, but I’m loving that tennis is back in my life again!
Quick HK questions: what is your favourite …
Casual restaurant? Dignity Kitchen – it’s an incredible social enterprise that provides employment and training opportunities to the differently-abled and disadvantaged.
Date-night restaurant? VEA
Local food? Lin Heung Tea House
Thing to do with visitors? I love taking them to China Club!
Thing to do with kids? There are many places to visit in HK with kids; from Tai O village to going on nature walks, picnics, visits to the museums and pop-up exhibitions. We’ve recently started doing Bread Run, which is organised by Feeding Hong Kong; we collect surplus bread from bakeries near closing time and bring them to their warehouse. These bread donations are then redistributed to local charities to feed people in need. For instance, the donations go to shelters for the homeless, migrant workers, refugee support centres, children’s homes and other non-profits supporting the vulnerable.
Nearby holiday destination? We are so blessed as Hong Kong is a regional travel hub for so many nearby destinations! At the moment, it would be either Kuala Lumpur, Taipei or Tokyo to see my family who I haven’t had the chance to see in a while. I’m sure many expats can relate to prioritising seeing people who matter most in this day and age.
Photos by Venture studios
Like this? See more in HK People series in our Living in Hong Kong section!