Possibilities Unleashed
 

Viola Pak is one of the rising Hong Kong designers in recent years. Since childhood she has been enthusiastic about drawing and her dream was to become a teacher. Yet destiny took a detour, turning her into a brand designer. Viola joined a small but enthusiastic design firm instead of the highly in demand 4A advertising agencies, upon graduating from design school, Hong Kong Polytechnic University. She later worked for a Christian youth organization as a designer with more than 200 employees (design department with more than 20 employees), responsible for planning and implementing design works such as pamphlets, posters, venue decoration, media promotion, teaching materials, illustrations, and web, which involved working across many departments with various in-house and external projects of different scale.

Four years afterwards, Viola transferred to the souvenir department of the organization, responsible for planning, creative development, and promoting various characters, gifts and premiums in more than ten series and over a thousand products of different categories, among which are several character brands that are still very well received by the market. The position had also provided her with the opportunities to learn about production, marketing, promotion and sales. More importantly, she reckoned that the ultimate indicator for the success of a product is its sales. This has been a lesson she takes to heart throughout her entire career.

After another four years, Viola left the institute to work as a freelancer while giving lectures at university as a part-time employee. A flock of clients soon became regular that the number of her assistant increased from one to three within a very short period. Since her workload has been escalating, Viola quit the job as a part-time lecturer so as to concentrate her works at “Eggshell Creative”, her own design firm.

As the old adage goes, “A thing begun is half done.” The initial stage of Viola’s career was first and foremost an uphill battle. Among the various difficulties, the tiny workshop with an area of 125 square feet was a major barrier. Accordingly, she applied for a government-run “incubation program” sponsoship and successfully got a rent-free office at design centre for one year. In addition, the application procedure has provided Viola with the opportunity to revisit her past experiences, orientating her business direction to focus on branding consultant works.

In order to secure more capital supports, Viola took actions to improve her marketing plan and budget, winning grants from Youth Business Hong Kong (YBHK). Second, through the monthly gathering organized by YBHK for its award receivers, Viola was able to gradually develop her network.

When Viola first started, apart from making good use of available government resources, she would take on any project that she could possibly get her hands around without discriminating the origin. This let her secure a foothold in the field as well as building up a broad network of contacts. Her clients during that time included non-profit and commercial organizations such as Emperor Group, Hong Kong Trade Development Council,

Médecins Sans Frontières, and The Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups, Despite of the relatively lower profit margin, she was still able to promote the brand name of Eggshell due to the tremendous exposure of the company’s trademark received from engaging in so many different design projects.

Viola said,“A lower profit margin is fine. I insist in overseeing every detail from size of the logo to wordings of the advertisement. Even if I can’t earn money, I can earn reputation.”

In addition, Viola is blessed with a humble and studious attitude. She said that she was assiduous to learn all the knowledge related to entrepreneurship. Within a couple of years, Viola was already a rising star among local design industry, being the target of media reporting and seminars.

Nevertheless, Viola still faces a lot of pressure and challenges. Among one of them is looking for new clients. Viola is willing to retain her non-profit making clients, yet at the same time cultivate more lucrative commercial clients.

Meanwhile, Viola is refining her strategy, trying to gradually focus on specialized market segments. She would first embark on some pilot schemes and then choose several winning sectors. For instance, one of her targets is catering industry. She now already has five to six clients from this industry, which includes Bird and Basket Dim Sum Specialist, Maxim’s Group and the restaurant “Cooking mama 360” under Café de Coral.
Viola has also identified clients from some particular industries, hoping a long term partnership could guarantee a stable business. She said, “For instance, the fashion industry has a seasonal rhythm, as the catalogue has to renew quarterly. This will ensure a stable income. Besides, building a long term partnership involves not only loyalty but trust, which is mutual beneficial.”


Yet it takes time to accumulate the number of clients. Sometimes, unstable client relations could result in cash flow problem which caught Viola off-guard, especially at the expense of her expansion plan.
Previously, Viola tried to open an office in Shenzhen for the sake of promoting mainland market. However, the great deal of red tape, the shortage of manpower and the lack of capital have all hindered the progress.

The lack of abundant financial resources sometimes even brings chaos to management. For instance, she blamed the lack of capital as responsible for the firm’s old fragmented computer filing system. Since all the staffers are too busy to synchronize the information, conflicting data once led to catastrophic result in a particular project and cost Viola dearly.

Following the incident, viola set up a set of company servers and adopted some new filing systems to cover areas like administration, quotation service and clients relations. However, as the three systems are not mutually compatible, plus it costs a lot to integrate them, sometimes staff has to repeatedly enter the data.

The full utilization of new computer systems has been crippled by inertia among colleagues, but Viola found that efficiency should come along with patience. She said, “It is hard to force an employee to get used to a new system. However, when an employee finds that the new system can really help in practice, he or she will adapt to the new system in no time.”

Viola is now concentrating on team building. One of her priorities is to hire experienced designers, which means she must be ready to pay higher salary. This again trapped Viola in another dilemma.

Viola, however, is not frustrated by these problems. She is now inviting more investors and looking for more partners. In the long run, a better company portfolio will eventually strengthen her firm’s bargaining power when hiring talented designers.

The full utilization of new computer systems has been crippled by inertia among colleagues, but Viola found that efficiency should come along with patience. She said, “It is hard to force an employee to get used to a new system. However, when an employee finds that the new system can really help in practice, he or she will adapt to the new system in no time.”

Viola is now concentrating on team building. One of her priorities is to hire experienced designers, which means she must be ready to pay higher salary. This again trapped Viola in another dilemma.

Viola, however, is not frustrated by these problems. She is now inviting more investors and looking for more partners. In the long run, a better company portfolio will eventually strengthen her firm’s bargaining power when hiring talented designers.

She said, “Previously I believed that I could go on with my new projects once I found investors. Now I realize that it is a naïve thought. No people will invest unless I have a convincing portfolio. Therefore, I have to work out something solid first before I can bargain... It’s kind of interesting since clients will look for you once you have become famous with a particular aspect.”

Whether or not young designer like Viola can overcome future challenges depends on her wisdom and determination.

 
 
 
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