Helping teens pays - in a way the stock market does not

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 November, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 November, 2009, 12:00am

For Ted Kwan Chi-hong, a finance lecturer, investing in a social enterprise has been a more rewarding decision than investing in the stock market.

The 39-year-old, who teaches at and runs a school to help people get the qualifications needed to work in the financial sector, spent HK$140,000 on shares in the Fullness Christian Social Enterprise last year. The organisation runs three hair salons, the first of which opened five years ago.

'If I had used that amount to buy stocks, I would have ended up losing at least 20 to 30 per cent. Our salon made a single-digit profit last year. Plus, our business is giving former young offenders job training - that is a return that a traditional investment cannot bring me,' said Kwan, who is involved in the salons' daily operations.

The salons broke even in the first year and the profits made each year since then have been used to fund the organisation's expansion.

'We are quite hopeful that some of the profit will go into our pockets in the future,' he said. 'It is good to see that our investment is snowballing, as the business develops. The more donors learn about an organisation's mission and operations, the more they are willing to make regular donations.'

But for Kwan, who also donates about HK$30,000 a year to other organisations, it is not just about the money.

'I think of the returns that cannot be measured in terms of money and I feel very happy knowing I am helping troubled teens. I see that their relationship with their families improves,' he said.

'I am now a regular customer at my own salons, and I have introduced my friends and family as well. I've tried washing people's hair to get a taste for it and it's not an easy job.

'I've learned to appreciate the effort made by the youngsters who work in the salons.'