Our series of online people profiles covers a wide range of backgrounds, careers and personalities of individuals in Hong Kong. In this instalment, we chat with Brit Joanna Baker, who is helping keep the babies and toddlers of HK entertained with her fun and lively dance classes at Rhythm and Rhyme!
Tell us a bit about your background; where are you from, where did you grow up, and is Hong Kong “home” for you?
I’m from Leicestershire in the UK and have been in Hong Kong for almost six years. This definitely feels like home for my family. Despite only having been here for six years, my children were so young when they arrived they’ve grown up here.
What do you do here? Tell us about your business
I launched Rhythm and Rhyme Music and Movement to offer something that I felt the HK market was missing – that is, baby and toddler music and dance classes without the need for ‘packages’. This term was so alien to me when I first arrived in Hong Kong. I get it, overheads are high but not everyone has $300 to spend on a single class, and if they do, some are reluctant to sign up for termly activities with ever-changing baby schedules.
So I looked into various premises and found that the LCSD actually allows you to book their dance studios at very reasonable rates. Of course, the system is tricky to navigate and you can only book online at 7am, seven days prior, but after all that the rooms are great and affordable! This allows me to keep my classes pay-as-you-go and affordable as well.
What have been the surprises and challenges of doing business in HK?
Gosh, can I say COVID?! When the LCSD buildings closed I moved my classes outside and many people asked me to go to their homes. I found there is a constant need to adapt to the changing environment. To be willing to adapt is absolutely essential!
I felt that by evolving from ‘drop-in’ group sessions and supplementing with private sessions I’d ‘COVID-proofed’ my business. Sadly, further rule changes meant that visiting people’s homes wasn’t allowed so I have currently moved to Zoom. These classes aren’t as popular, understandably, as screen time is an issue for many parents of young children. But hopefully this is temporary!
Another thing is that in my line of work no matter how much marketing you do nothing beats word of mouth from a happy mama where babies are concerned!
Give us an insight into a typical working day for you.
On a normal day, I’d get up and get the kids ready for school then do some sort of exercise – paddling, running or going to the gym. I find this gets me in the perfect head space to go out and do my thing! Then I’m home for a shower and out again – some days I do a public class straight to a private class, home for lunch and then out again. Luckily, I love my job. A taxi driver once said to me that it’s a ‘happy job’ and he absolutely nailed it!
What neighbourhood do you currently live in, and why did you choose it?
We live in Happy Valley and always have done. We originally ended up here because my husband had colleagues living here but we couldn’t imagine living anywhere else!
What are three things you like about your neighbourhood?
We love the diversity it offers, the sense of community and being able to sit outside at the pub and watch the world go by!
Describe your home to us.
I am fortunate to have a comfortable home with lots of light; so even when there’s not much to do, it’s pleasant to hang out in!
Outside of work, what are your hobbies in Hong Kong?
I am a founding member of the Renegades dragon boat team and I also outrigger with the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club. I enjoy hiking and keeping active generally.
Quick questions about Hong Kong: what is your favourite …
Casual restaurant? Maison Libanaise and Chaiwala are two of my faves.
Date night restaurant? Potato Head.
Bar? Jay Borowski.
Local food? There’s a fantastic dim sum place in Happy Valley but I don’t even know what it’s called!
Thing to do with visitors? Pink Dolphins, Big Buddha, Happy Valley race night.
Thing to do with kids? Kayaking in the Geo Park, hanging out at the beach.
Nearby holiday destination? So many to choose from! Cambodia is up there for me.
Like this? See more in our Living in Hong Kong section!