Mentors help entrepreneurs avoid pitfalls It takes more than just money to help young entrepreneurs launch their businesses, says a group that has supported 27 start-ups by people aged 18 to 35 and claims a 95 per cent success rate. As well as an interest-free loan of up to HK$100,000, Youth Business Hong Kong provides mentorship, networking and professional advice and closely monitors the venture. The scheme's secretary-general, Louisa Lau Wai-yi, said the high success rate was due to the non-monetary support given to the young entrepreneurs. 'The biggest challenge is of course the lack of funds,' Ms Lau said. 'But other factors are whether they have people advising them on how to deal with business-related problems and if they have a good network so they will get business opportunities referred to them.' The scheme, set up by the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups last year, chose 27 projects from 260 applicants. The successful applicants had to start paying back the loan in instalments after six months. Most had maintained a stable revenue and had been able to make the repayments. Eva Chiu Man-wa, who started an umbrella-advertising company with a partner, said the support from her mentor was important when the business was desperate and did not know how to deal with a client who refused to pay. 'We managed to get most of our money back in the end,' she said. Alex Tam Wai-kit, who started a waste-recycling company with a partner, said referrals from other businesspeople they met at networking functions were a major part of his business. Andrew Devenport, the executive director of Youth Business International, a world-wide umbrella group for programmes like Ms Lau's, said the usual success rate for an adult starting a business and keeping it for three years was about 50 per cent. By contrast the overall success rate of businesses supported by his organisation and its 39 umbrella groups, with 15,000 young entrepreneurs, is 72 per cent.