Think small, gain big
Spending most of his childhood in Canada, Kevin She came back to Hong Kong to work in the family business after he had completed a degree in Economics.
The business, which involved trading raw materials and chemicals, was not going well, leaving She without a vision of what his future might be like. While looking for a new job, he decided that an MBA was the solution – the networking opportunities particularly appealed to him.
“I was 28 when I did the MBA and thought nothing of being the second youngest – but looking back, I wish I’d had more work experience,” he says. She advises having eight to 10 years of experience, which should include managerial roles. “Our company was small and I didn’t have many people under me, so I didn’t have the same experience to share with classmates,” he admits.
With Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, as his alma mater, She stayed in Hong Kong, only travelling to the US for the final part of the course. However, it required discipline. “You can’t do this without dedication, working all weekend from Friday night to Sunday night – it’s hectic,” he says candidly.
However, the MBA didn’t lead She to the sort of new working experience he’d expected. A large Kwun Tong factory owned by a family business was no longer needed, so She decided that dividing up the building and renting it out for storage would be a good side project.
SC Storage has its head office located in Kowloon Bay.
“It was soon after 9/11 and the economy was bad. But downsizing businesses needed storage,” he recalls. “Talking to my customers, I realised that this was a good time to be in the storage business.” He rented 60 spaces while looking for the job he really wanted.
“I thought the MBA would help me get a job, not create one, but I applied what I’d learned about marketing and strategy and did some analysis,” She says. “There was no other full-time professional storage company. We were the first to have two locations and to consider our pricing structure – we’re 25 per cent lower than everyone else.” Relocating his call centre to Shenzhen also helped save costs.
In fact, SC Storage didn’t have many serious competitors. She noted that most storage companies were run casually, by older men who didn’t work weekends. Not only was SC Storage the first to have a real website, but She also applied his skills and foresight to introduce Hong Kong to a whole range of new services.
“Expansion, network and systems took all of my focus and it worked for me. I grew because I wanted to – so now I have a 30 per cent market share with about 40 stores and plenty of staff in each location, making an almost 24-7 service,” he explains.
Among the options SC Storage offers is mini storage, giving convenient 24-hour access to a space. “I bought that model over from the west, but we don’t own warehouses. We rent floor by floor, close to MTR stations,” She says.
After noticing that most of his facilities had wine shops nearby, She realised that the removal of the sales tax on wine had created another opportunity. “Lots of Hong Kongers and mainlanders lack room to store their wines. We have two wine stores – and only one competitor,” he adds,
She poses for a photograph in To Kalon Vineyard in Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville, California in the United States.
She also noticed that a lot of people rented spaces to store their bikes, so he decided to open specialist bike stores. “Our custom-made centres include showers and a workshop. You can ride from one to the other if you want to,” he says.
She keeps on top of trends by making sure he’s not always tied to a desk. “I walk the floor and talk to customers. I don’t just crunch numbers – how can I do good business that way?” he asks.
And despite the fact that She hadn’t planned to start a storage business when he was studying, his networking paid off handsomely. “I met a lot of real estate company directors from large firms who were quite high up. After 18 months of studying, they introduced me to a great industrial building at a good price and I took it over. That really changed my business, and it wouldn’t have happened without the MBA,” he admits.
She now also works with a number of CEOs from department stores. He admits that although he would have met them anyway, being in the storage business, the fact they were alumni benefited him greatly.
She is awarded the Young Entrepreneur of the Year in the DHL/SCMP HK Business Awards in 2011.
“I feel lucky – but the two main reasons I have had such success are getting the right strategy and doing a competitive analysis so that I could offer a better service, high quality and lower price. We focused on that and have done well,” he says.
She’s best piece of advice is to take risks. “At the time I started SC Storage, I was against the wall; I had to succeed. We opened about eight or nine facilities a year in the beginning. It was risky but I felt I had to grow.”