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Joanna Hotung: The child educator with a passion for creative arts

A passion for what you do is essential to drive a business from strength to strength, writes Tracey Furniss

 

You only need to be around Joanna Hotung for a few minutes to realise her enthusiasm for whatever she is undertaking. Whether discussing her work with children in the creative arts or bringing awareness of juvenile diabetes to the fore, her energy and passion is apparent.

Founder and director of KG Group, which comprises youth arts organisation Kids' Gallery, Star English and more recently Face Productions, and co-founder of the Hong Kong Juvenile Diabetes Association, Hotung credits her mother and other positive role models for her drive.

"My mum affected my life," Hotung says. "She won a scholarship to study in the United States, but couldn't go, but she always encouraged me, especially to be financially independent."

Growing up, Hotung was also inspired by female entrepreneurs, such as Body Shop founder Anita Roddick; women who were single-minded and loved their work.

"Anita Roddick was even more inspiring in person," Hotung says. "She was single-minded and learned on the job without having a grand plan. Roddick just loved what she did, building her business, brick by brick."

In the same way, Hotung built her first venture, Kids' Gallery - now in its 15th year - from humble beginnings in a small room with a couple of children expressing themselves with paint. Today, it is an international multiarts organisation with centres in Hong Kong, China, India and Singapore, providing children with the opportunity to try their hand at all kinds of performing arts, dance and visual arts.

Excited about her newest venture, Face Productions, which includes an academy focusing on dance, musical theatre and acting for children who want to further their disciplines, there is also a talent management side borne out of frequent commercial requests for her students to perform.

"We were constantly being asked for children to perform at openings and parties and, with all the extra work and costs involved - teachers' overtime, transport to the performance and costumes - I was usually the one out of pocket," says Hotung, who has child singers, dancers, actors and voice-over artists on her books. "The children can now benefit, but we still do not charge for charity and school functions."

Hotung has a team of international professionals running and organising classes, while she concentrates on growing the business.

"The business side is just as creative," Hotung says. "Ideas form when travelling to new cities, talking to mums and from my own family."

Like most working mothers, juggling work and family was always a challenge. "My children have spent a big chunk of their lives around Kids' Gallery," says Hotung, whose eldest daughter Natasha is at university and her youngest Sophia is in the sixth form. "I had to be as organised as I could, but sometimes I felt I was putting other people's kids before my own. But I am fortunate to have a supportive husband."

Hotung co-chairs and drives fundraising and educational awareness for the Hong Kong Juvenile Diabetes Association, an organisation close to her heart because her daughter, Natasha, was diagnosed with the condition in 1999.

She's also a board governor of the Hong Kong Ballet and Bring Me a Book.

"I work six, sometimes seven days a week," Hotung says. "I love what I do."

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