Many people in Hong Kong do amazing things for others in need through charity work. We look at one such organisation here, Cookie Smiles, and chat to co-founder JO SOO-TANG about its aims and hopes – and how it has literally sold a tonne of cookies in HK!
Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.
I was born in Hong Kong to parents of Japanese, Shanghainese and Polynesian descent and grew up in HK, the UK and Australia. My career started as a paralegal for PwC, which was Coopers and Lybrand back then. Then I moved on to a marketing role at AT&T and returned to Hong Kong with the company. After a career with several PR firms, I went into consultancy to have a flexible working schedule when I had my kids.
What prompted you and Agnes Chin to launch the enterprise?
Cookie Smiles wasn’t planned at all. I had been involved with a private hospital foundation and wanted to do something of my own, while Agnes had this idea brewing in her head for a long time. One day, in April 2020, she shared the idea with me, and Cookie Smiles was born. It was the right project at the right time!
What’s its chief mission or aim?
Cookie Smiles is a social enterprise under the Edible Artists Global Academy Association (EAGAA) whose purpose is to help support our chosen charities per year via fundraising, offering training opportunities for the disadvantaged and providing jobs for the physically impaired.
What’s your role there? Give us an insight into some of the work you do.
I’m the Co-Founder of Cookie Smiles, which means that I handle most of the marketing and business development. Being the spokeswoman of a social enterprise is hard work!
What do you get out of this work?
Mostly my own satisfaction and joy! At the end of the day, it comes down to what I’m passionate about these days: eating and cooking!
Are you a foodie, or do you have a food background?
Yes, I would consider myself a foodie. But I don’t have a food background.
Do you have a favourite Cookie Smiles cookie?
My favourite by far is the Coconut Crunch!
Tell us about some of Cookie Smiles’ key achievements to date.
We’re proud to announce that the charity has raised over HK$100,000 for its annual beneficiaries, Splash Foundation and the Hong Kong Down Syndrome Association. That’s over one tonne of cookies, or equivalent to almost over 6,000 bags of cookies sold citywide!
What does the Cookie Smiles Bake Challenge involve?
It’s a challenge that is completely open to the public, with each competitor having to create and develop their recipe from the list of ingredients provided. The recipe must include one of these special ingredients: Hysan’s Urban Rooftop Garden Rosemary or Peppermint. We held our first Bake Challenge in 2021.
Can readers volunteer, contribute or help in some way?
We’re always looking for volunteers to help with events, graphics, photography or just by spreading the word.
New for Cookie Smiles – The Shining Star Programme
In mid 2022, Cookie Smiles partnered with leading hotel The Landmark Mandarin Oriental to provide a Trial Work Placement Scheme (Internship) programme for students of the Shine Skills Centre, a member institute of the Vocational Training Council (VTC). The programme takes students from a number of Shine programmes – for example, Certificate in Fast Food Operation (QF level 1); Bakery and Café Service; and Catering Service – and finds placements for them within The Landmark. The Shining Star Programme aims to provide real-life working exposure for students with disabilities and prepare them for open employment. To aid students, the hotel will also implement a buddy system to provide guidance and support during their work placements. The first cohort of students started their work placements in June 2022.
Like this? See more in our Hong Kong Charity Focus series in our Living in Hong Kong section