HONG KONG'S downbeat economy may be less conducive to the culture of entrepreneurship - but luckily there are still a few get-up-and-go individuals on the ground. Stand up Lesley Merszei, executive chairman of the Hong Kong chapter of Jeeves of Belgravia, dry-cleaners to the tai tais and Exchange Square fraternity. Business at Jeeves, which is run by Mr Merszei's wife, Filomena, is booming. Rather than buy new frocks and suits, Hong Kongers are taking better care of the clothes they have, and Jeeves' turnover is rocketing. Expansion beckoned, but the banks refused to play ball. 'Every time bankers hear the word 'retail' they go running. They all have their tails between their legs. This is why retailers are going out of business at the moment,' Mr Merszei says. After 20-odd fruitless meetings explaining why his business was different and, indeed, counter-cyclical, he gave up on the banks and decided to raise funds himself. He is now writing his own bond issue. The convertible bond will raise just HK$15 million-$20 million ('peanuts, really') and will be distributed among Jeeves' own client base. The convertible element raises the possibility of a full equity listing further down the line or, more likely, purchase by a bigger company. A straight listing by Jeeves of Belgravia, which holds the franchise for Hong Kong, would probably mean extending the franchise beyond Hong Kong and into the region. However, opportunities for the sale scenario abound, Mr Merszei says. An enlarged, but still Hong Kong-focused, group would be attractive to big listed companies in a range of industries: clothing, dry-cleaning, garments or fashion. 'Fashion is a multi-billion dollar business worldwide, and we ride the coat-tails of the fashion business,' he says, adding that service businesses catering to the fashion industry could also be prospective buyers. Jeeves of Belgravia in London was sold to Sketchley, the listed British mass-market dry-cleaner, and subsequently sold on to a public company controlled by Mr Minute, whose business revolves around key cutting and shoe repairs. However, that's five years or so down the road. Now Mr Merszei is in the throes of discussions with the Securities and Futures Commission over his coming bond issue. His experience with banks' commercial lending divisions made him determined he would not seek their help on the capital markets side. He says banks' blanket ban on retail leaves them blinkered to the more modest needs of small and medium-sized businesses. 'Nobody thought very much about lending billions to Peregrine [the collapsed pan-Asian investment bank], and obviously someone did not do their homework. When the amount is so small, maybe it's not worthwhile for them to do their homework,' he says. 'So it forces us to try to come up with new means.' Even with the new means, his struggles are far from over. The Securities and Futures Commission, perhaps unsurprisingly, is not geared up to meet the needs of small fund raisers. 'The SFC has some of the tightest regulatory policies of any such body in the world and it's not easy for a small company to satisfy all their requirements,' he says. There is a 27-page checklist, and requests for financial audits and other information call for it to be presented in a specific format. Disclosure is not a problem per se, he says, but without access to teams of in-house lawyers and number crunchers, the format issue is time consuming. So he - and, presumably, other small businessmen fighting through recession - are hoping for a lenient ear from the SFC. 'We are keeping our fingers crossed that they are going to look at us as a small company, that they will hopefully help to get us through this. We want to satisfy all requirements, it's just quite burdensome and we don't have the resources that larger companies have,' Mr Merszei says. He had appointed lawyers earlier in the process, but is now dealing directly with the SFC. Once the battle with paperwork is over, Jeeves is looking forward to expanding its Hong Kong empire - creating jobs and enhancing its services. The group's growth ambitions are to add at least another three outlets, buy a few more delivery vans, and to invest in new machinery and equipment to enable it to offer clients a fuller range of services. For example, Jeeves would like to be able to offer cleaning services for leather clothes: the only way this can be done at present is by sending goods off to Paris, London or New York.