Our series of online people profiles covers a wide range of backgrounds, careers and personalities of individuals in Hong Kong. Here, we meet SARA YOUNG and find out why she’s known as the ‘Book Lady’!
Where are you from originally?
I was born and raised in Norwich, a wonderful city near the north Norfolk coast in England.
What do you miss about it?
Firstly, I miss my family, but I also miss autumn, the stars and the coastline. I’m an outdoorsy person – I love being surrounded by nature and water.
Tell us about your expat “trail”. When did you first come here? Where else have you lived?
I moved to Hong Kong just after SARS in 2003 with my now husband. We came here on a two-year contract. Three years later, we moved to Singapore, and two years after that, we moved to Perth where my eldest daughter was born. We returned to Hong Kong in 2009, and my second daughter was born here. We’ve been here for over 10 years now.
Is Hong Kong ‘home’?
Yes! It’s where my friends are. It’s where my children go to school and where my business was born.
What do you do here? Tell us about your business.
I’m known as Hong Kong’s ‘Book Lady’! I’m the founder of Book Wise, an online bookstore for children up to 12 years of age. Book Wise is home to thousands of high-quality books from bedtime stories and chapter books to tween novels and the classics. My focus is on offering a personalised service to families, so I carefully vet and select every single book for my store.
Book Wise is not only an online book store. I also offer personalised monthly book subscriptions – the first of its kind in Hong Kong. Based on a child’s age, reading level and interests, I handpick books that I believe they will enjoy, and deliver them directly to their doorstep each month. We also offer gift bundles for baby showers, newborns and birthdays.
Our party bags do really well too. I’m on a mission to ensure every child derives the incredible physical, mental and emotional benefits of reading! All at an affordable price.
Give us an insight into a typical working day for you.
The beauty of being your own boss is you can find ways to balance your work and life commitments. On a typical day, I will go to the warehouse, sort through all the orders and post them. Then I embark on the endless admin tasks including bookkeeping, sales, marketing, researching new releases and updating the website.
I will also select books for the monthly book subscription package. Then I come home to spend time with the family and relax. I usually go for a brisk walk before dinner. Even though my youngest daughter is now 10, she still likes me to read to her in the evenings. We are currently reading The Creakers by Tom Fletcher.
What have been the surprises and challenges of doing business in HK?
Hong Kong is a wonderful place to do business. I’ve met fantastic people at various markets who have become loyal customers. I actually met the lovely ladies from Expat Living at the Conrad Fair. We’ve formed a great community and I’m always blown away by the positive feedback. I absolutely love receiving photos of happy children with their new books from happier parents. This makes what I do feel worthwhile.
In terms of challenges, I see obstacles as learning opportunities and moments to be more adaptable. At this time, for example, I’d typically be in the UK relaxing with family and friends. But we’re here in Hong Kong and everyone is wondering what to do with their kids, so I’ve adapted my business to reflect changing customers’ needs. 2020 has been an unusual year to say the very least. Hong Kong is very much a ‘word of mouth’ city and so the main
challenge this year is to keep the business going without the wonderful markets that take place every month.
What neighbourhood do you live in, and why did you choose it?
We currently live in Pok Fu Lam – only a 15-minute drive to Central and my warehouse in Wong Chuk Hang. We’re close to the sea and the sunsets are spectacular.
What are three things you like about your neighbourhood?
* Cyberport Waterfront Park – somewhere for the girls to skate and cycle, and great for sundowners.
* The community – kids are coming and going all day long. During the summer, parents have organised movie nights, board game afternoons, water polo and arts and crafts. We even have a book club (for adults – a change from my normal reading material!)
* The feeling that you are not living in a huge city with millions of people on a tiny island.
Describe your home to us.
We’ve recently moved so our home is a work in progress. I would describe it as bright, inviting and filled with friends. My daughters love reptiles and we have two iguanas and a bearded dragon in the living room.
Outside of work, what are your hobbies in Hong Kong?
I play cricket for the Hong Kong Cricket Club. I was wicketkeeper for five years and I’m now training to become a spin bowler. I’m also nifty with the bat, with a top score of 76 not out!
The highlight of my cricket career was definitely the Hong Kong Cricket Club tour to the UK in 2018. Our final match was played at Lord’s Cricket Ground and against the MCC. It was a memorable day, which I was able to share with my father and husband. We used the away dressing room, had drinks in the Long Room and walked down the famous Lord’s walk out to the middle of the cricket pitch. Amazing!
Quick questions about Hong Kong: what is your favourite …
Casual restaurant? Oolaa on Bridges Street.
Date night restaurant? Tango Steak House.
Bar? The Hong Kong Cricket Club.
Thing to do with visitors? The Lamma hike followed by lunch at a seafood restaurant and the speedboat home.
Thing to do with kids? My girls got into rollerblading over the summer and I’m planning to take them to Lai Chi Kok skatepark when it gets a bit cooler.
Nearby holiday destination? Singapore. It’s Universal Studios for us every time! We’re adrenaline junkies.
Like this? See more in our Living in Hong Kong section