A generous landlord believed in his dream
Investment banker turned furniture recycler Alan Chuen Wai-lun says he is grateful for the help of his Taiwanese landlord, who was not seeking maximum returns from the rent on his warehouse.
"The key to the success of the furniture business is space, and rental is a major challenge," said the 34-year-old entrepreneur.
Luckily, he found a landlord who seemed to share his vision.
"When I met the landlord, he asked me what I was going to do with the space. I told him and then he said it was going to be very tough for me. He then asked what he could do to help," he said.
The landlord, who Chuen said spoke to him like a father, decided to lower the rent from HK$7 per square foot to HK$6, which was 14 per cent below the bottom end of the rental market.
Chuen was among Hong Kong's financial elite for 10 years before he made a detour in his career.
He once worked for Goldman Sachs and was a director of a Swiss bank in Hong Kong, overseeing the regional operations and managing about 40 people in Shanghai and India.
But after a while he needed a change of pace.
"I won't say I've quit the finance world forever. But spending two to three years on this passionate plan is worth it," he said.
Chuen, who forked out about HK$300,000 in initial capital for the furniture recycling business, said he had no idea whether it was going to work.
"I thought about the risks, like whether we could actually break even. But in the end, I believe there are other returns which are difficult to evaluate quantitatively," he said.