The People-First Philosophy of EntrepreneurshipQuintina Leung’s pursuit of happyness
On the first Monday morning of 2022, Quintina Leung’s office, though empty, showed no sign of desolation, thanks to the glamourous photos of the iconic boy band adorning the cubicle walls.
‘This cubicle belongs to a “Keung Candy” (nickname for fans of a boy band idol), and the one who sits there is an “AK fan” (nickname for fans of another member of the band). Many of our young partners have a full-time job during the day and take care of their business here after work. Ninety percent of our partners work on a part-time basis. Here at Amazing, we promote the integration of work and life. You see, young people like to make their office feel like home,’ said Quintina, Executive Director of Amazing Group, who is used to calling members of her company ‘partners’, rather than ‘subordinates’ or ‘employees’.
Stepping into the activity room on the same floor, I was impressed by a chalkboard wall with colourful and refreshing drawings of summery blossoms. Three cheerful ladies came in and greeted us. ‘Our team consists of young members, as well as housewives, professionals and many others. This is a place where people create opportunities for their lives,’ Quintina said.
Not only do opportunities favour the prepared mind, but also those who endeavour to strive for better.
In the late 1990s, with the increase in the popularity of the Internet, enterprises competed for tech talent to help drive corporate computerization, as well as to deal with the then-imminent ‘millennium bug’ problem. Eager to develop a career riding on the technology wave, Quintina chose to study Information Engineering at CUHK.
‘IT talent were the hottest in those days. Everyone in the world was optimistic about the tech industry. I was interested in science and maths. I fell in love with the beautiful CUHK campus instantly the first time I visited it. So CUHK’s Information Engineering was an obvious choice for my JUPAS application.’
As the saying goes, ‘Time makes heroes.’ Heroes, unfortunately, do not make time. Never would the top student who entered university with perfect grades have expected that the beginning of the new millennium would mark a series of devastating events. First came the bursting of the dot-com bubble and the 9/11 attacks in 2001, triggering a global recession. Then it was the outbreak of SARS in 2003 that brought an even stronger blow to the economy worldwide. In just a few years, the rosy future of IT talent was completely shattered. Although Quintina was lucky enough to get a job of system engineer at an international bank soon after graduation with a benefits package more attractive than those offered to most of her fellow graduates by their employers, the huge gap between expectations and reality was too much to take for her.
‘It was only then did I realize how cruel reality was. At work, nobody would do you a favour for nothing. Every day, I worried about making mistakes and offending my boss. I wanted to quit every single day. But it took a lot of courage to give up a secure job during the economic downturn,’ Quintina said.
Yet, unwilling to settle for less, she was determined to venture out, with the support of her family and friends.
Quintina was born to a family in the squatter area. Her parents were hawkers. Starting with nothing but a determined effort and great perseverance, they eventually built their own business by running a cha chaan teng (a Hong Kong-style café), and later a dai pai dong (an open-air food stall), and were able to purchase their own properties. The Leungs told a classic Chicken Soup for the Soul story under the Lion Rock.
‘When I was small, I had to take care of my siblings and help with my family business. I’ve learnt from my parents that as long as you aim high and go all out, fortune will finally come to you. Being an employee of a company is not the only way to succeed. Perhaps I have inherited the entrepreneurial DNA from my parents. I had thought of following their footsteps and opening a restaurant. But the market was unstable and the investment risk was so high that I wimped out. How did I become a direct distributor? I reckon it was destiny.’
So destiny it was. Indeed, the crossing of destinies between Quintina and her close friend at secondary school who ended up being her CUHK Women’s Volleyball teammate was how it all started. Just as Quintina felt most confused about her career prospects, her friend, who was then a promising direct distributor, encouraged her to learn more about direct selling. She even lent her a copy of Rich Dad Poor Dad, the best-seller which shocked Quintina with mind-blowing perspectives on personal finance. ‘That is how rich people think!’ she recalled her reaction when reading the book for the first time.
Direct selling is far less popular in Hong Kong than in the US and Taiwan, and is rarely considered by graduates as an option to develop their career. ‘Direct selling means selling products from manufacturers directly to consumers, without going through intermediaries in the supply chain like retailers, advertisers, distributors or agents. It is as simple as that. But people know nothing about it.’ Quintina thinks the general misunderstanding of direct selling has arisen from the rotten apples in the industry who operate their business dishonestly. The media usually focus on reporting those scams, attaching a stigma to the whole industry.
‘That’s why I need to conduct training to sincerely explain to people what direct selling is all about.’ Selling quality products to people helps to enhance their quality of life. But what Quintina emphasises the most are to build a lasting and trusting relationship with people, and to inspire them to improve their communication skills and boost their confidence with her own experience. ‘To me, direct selling is not just a way to create wealth, but more like a bridge between me and other people for sharing our experience and encouraging each other to mature. My ultimate goal is to help people achieve whole-person development,’ Quintina explained her passion for training activities.
Apart from selling commodities like healthcare products, kitchenware, and cleaning supplies, Quintina’s team is also actively engaged in a wide range of training activities, like beauty and make-up classes, cooking and nutrition lessons, arts and music workshops, and fitness programmes, to promote the importance of physical and mental health, as well as encourage participants to improve their self-image and change themselves for the better. Quintina has worked as a direct selling entrepreneur for almost 20 years now. With a splendid sales record, her team is expanding gradually with over 100 current members sharing a co-working space that occupies four storeys of a commercial building.
As a direct selling entrepreneur, Quintina has witnessed many partners transform into better persons and live an improved life. They have become more confident and optimistic. These real stories of people, one after another, are what fuels her enthusiasm in her career. ‘True stories always touch my heart. Just like the movie, The Pursuit of Happyness, which my husband and I like a lot, is based on a true story too. Even after seeing it many times, we still feel inspired by the uplifting story of the businessman Chris Gardner striving for happiness when he had nothing at all.’
Looking back at her road to success as an entrepreneur, Quintina said despite the many setbacks along the way, she always encourages herself with a saying she has learnt from the CUHK Rowing Team: ‘Pain is temporary. Victory is forever.’ She holds strong to the belief that every failure makes her become who she is today. She never lets frustrations drag her down, and does not regret past mistakes or blame others for her own failure. When things go wrong, she tries to reflect on how she could have done better.
Quintina spoke of the COVID-19 pandemic as an example. At the onset of the outbreak, when the training activities of her team had to be moved online all at once, without much experience of hosting virtual activities, she felt helpless even though she was an IT major. But when she calmed down, she remembered why she started a business in the first place—to make positive changes to her own and other people’s lives. Doesn’t her role become more important than ever during the pandemic? She began to look for solutions to embracing such challenging times and strengthened the technical support for her team. Now, she can stand in front of a computer camera in a room with no live audience, composed and confident, and speak fluently for hours when interacting with training participants online. And the truth is that the surge in the global demand for healthcare products and cleaning supplies in 2020 helped her reach a career high in sales figures. A stumbling block or a stepping stone? It’s all your call.
Young people feel lost in the gloomy social atmosphere in recent years. The future looks bleak to them. With no hope, they don’t want to work hard at all. As the sixth President of the CUHK Alumni Entrepreneurs Association (CUAEA), Quintina highly encourages young people to start their own business and take charge of their lives. Through an array of activities, CUAEA connects CUHK members who are planning to start a business and those who have successfully started a business, providing an exchange platform to create opportunities for young people to become an entrepreneur. The Association even opens some of its activities to the public to help cultivate an entrepreneurial ecosystem in society.
‘There are many ways to start a business, opening a cha chaan teng, selling your own handicrafts online, to name but a few. Entrepreneurship gives endless possibilities. But all business owners could use the same courage, perseverance, and earnestness to learn from others. CUAEA lets the younger generation learn about entrepreneurship from their seniors and equip themselves for their career,’ Quintina said.
Years after her graduation, Quintina still reminisces about her college days. ‘I really lived my life to the fullest at CUHK. I kept myself busy every day with activities of the Rowing Team and the Volleyball Team, and of course those of the College, Departments, clubs, and hostels! They gave me precious opportunities to expand my social circle and make so many good friends who have helped me grow. I still remember what a famous entrepreneur had taught me at a Friday assembly of Chung Chi!’ As she recalled her lovely memories at Chung Chi, her eyes brimmed with gratitude and love for her alma mater. Now I see why she even had her big day at the Chung Chi College Chapel!
The bright smile on Quintina’s face reminds me of the movie title she mentioned, The Pursuit of Happyness, in which the word ‘happiness’ is intentionally misspelled, with a letter ‘Y’ instead of ‘I’ in the middle. Perhaps the way to happiness looks nothing like a straight path. In the pursuit of happiness, one should pluck up enough courage to take the helm of life and explore the endless possibilities at a fork in the road.
Photos by Eric Sin