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Woman Business Owner Puifung Leung, CEO and Founder, Fairtaste

Puifung Leung (PL): When I started to operate FairTaste full-time, I must say, I’m learning everything from scratch. I don’t know how to run a business really. The investor asked me about what’s your stock situation? What’s the cash flow? What’s the profit and loss? And all these new terms to me. It’s like, “Er, what you’re talking about?”

I born in Hong Kong and grew up in Hong Kong, study in Hong Kong. I think my family is very similar to many other families in Hong Kong. My parents are born in China, and they come to mainland China when they’re young. I myself come from a very poor family. My mother is taking care of us at home – my father is a tailor. I still remember, I was still in the secondary school. At that time there was a famine in Ethiopia, and it’s like millions of people is starving. And that’s why the teacher is needing us to start a fundraising event. That’s how I first started to really learn a little bit more about what’s the problem of poverty and feel that we can actually do something to change it.

After college, Pui-Feng went to work for Oxfam, an international relief organization.

From that work I actually learned a lot about you know how trade actually not helping the poor people. Say for example um farmers they have just a small patch of lands producing some products. They can actually are not able, to negotiate the price with the people who buy the products. The prices a lots of time is being set in the future market or the stock market. Sometimes they even have to sell to products at a loss. And that’s why I always wanted to bring Fair Trade more into Hong Kong.

In 2004, Puifung started Fair Taste

PL: The hope is to make fair trade a solution to the unfair trade situation in the world. In essence, we pay a fair price to the people, to the producers, to the farmers – to buy their products in raw materials and then we make them into Fair Trade products – a pack of fair trade coffee, a pack of fair trade tea, some chocolate. So hopefully, the farmers, through fair trade they can get back their cost of living, and also a decent living standard. At the very beginning, I just get the money from my own pocket, from my own saving. And I also write an email to some friends and telling them what I’m trying to do. And one of the friends is very good and she said, okay, I will give you some initial start up money. I also get another donor who donates the first year’s rent. So when I first started, I didn’t know how to run a business really. I didn’t know how to keep stock. I don’t know how to import things even. Because I don’t know, I just ask. I’ve got lots of mentors, got lots of people who give me advices. They also give me lots of encouragement, saying that, “Well, when I first start our own business, we also faced the same situation. It’s not the end of the world – just fix it slowly.”

The future of Fair Taste

PL: Over the past 3 years, we have learned a lot and build a lot. So the operation itself is already really quite meaningful. We hope to make Fair Taste a brand in Hong Kong and also sell it to other parts of China, maybe Taiwan. And we just started to sell to Singapore, so we hope to expand both in terms of geographical location and also in terms of product variety.

I think it is important for Fair Taste, as a social enterprise, to make profit. When there is a profit, we have to make sure that no less than 25% of the profit will go back to the producer. And then 50% stays with the operation to make the operation bigger. And then not more than 25% of the profit will go back to the investor. I hope one day (I don’t know how long), one day they will get back their investment.

Advice for beginners

PL: You got to be brave. You don’t know what will happen and you have to face it with courage. You are bound to face lots of problems. It is just normal to face problem. So if you don’t have the courage, and if you don’t have the determination, you won’t have the ability to continue. And the most important thing is, you got to take risk. When you face a problem, you have risk. When there is risk, there is opportunity. Once you gone through these difficulties, you are– you are bringing yourself into next stage. And then you see that you’re-you’re on top of the valley and you see the sun rise again.

Credits

Producers – Victoria Wang and Sue Williams
Director – Sue Williams
Editor – Merril Stern
Director of New Media and Outreach – Karin Kamp
Director of Photography – Jerry Risius
Production Assistant – Erika Howard
Assistant Editor – David Scorca
Graphic – Robin Brunelle
Music – Killer Tracks
Photos Courtesy of:
United Nations Multimedia

Oxfam Hong Kong

© Ambrica Productions

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