I know I say all my dates are fun, but my date with Josephine Lau of Centre O, was particularly fun!
I don’t know if it’s because we ate ridiculously yummy blueberry muffins, she has such cool interns or the fact that I realised I REALLY judged my accountant (Jo) by her purple cover! (She’s far more than a kick ass accountant!).
But in all seriousness this interview was extremely insightful as I got to learn more about Jo’s business background, (which started out in the fierce world of fashion) and despite the fact that she has multiple successful businesses she still has days where her self-confidence isn’t riding so high!
Take a read and learn more about Josephine’s thoughts on clarity, confidence and connection in life and business. Enjoy!
OK JOSEPHINE, GIVE US THE 411! I’D LOVE FOR YOU TO SHARE WITH US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF.
I was born and raised in Hong Kong and then went to the UK to study Business Management and Tourism.
After my studies I came back to Hong Kong and worked for a few fashion related companies including major Swedish brands.
This career path resulted in a lot of travel, which was both exciting and tiring! I would regularly fly to Sweden and Europe and I also spent time in Madagascar and inner Mongolia when I worked for a cashmere factory.
My time within the fashion industry was interesting as I was exposed to the client side of the business (mainly when I worked at Harrods as an Assistant Merchandiser), and I learned a lot about product development and manufacturing.
But finally I had a wake up call, (from my mum), and I realised that this type of career and the lifestyle that came with it wasn’t for me.
You see, I LOVE shopping and one day I saw a watch in a magazine that I wanted, so I marked it out and made a note to my mum asking her to buy it for me as I just didn’t have time to go shopping!
It took my mum calling me and saying “Josephine, you love shopping. There’s something seriously wrong with your life if you can’t make time to go and buy a watch!”
So I ended up leaving my career in fashion and completing a Company Secretary course. One day I was looking for office spaces to rent as I wanted to start my own trading company, but by accident I saw a gap in the market (it wasn’t an easy process!) and as a result my core business, Centre O Business Centre was born!
WHAT DOES ‘CLARITY’ MEAN TO YOU? WHEN YOU’RE LACKING CLARITY IN LIFE OR BUSINESS, HOW DO YOU GET ‘UNSTUCK’? WHAT PRACTICES OR STRATEGIES DO YOU USE?
Put simply, to me clarity means I know where I’m going in my business.
However, over the last 6 years I’ve often felt lost and had no idea what I was doing. I still worry if I’m on the right track and if I’m capable of keeping the business growing.
But when I feel like I lack clarity in my business I get out there and talk to others – colleagues, business partners, clients, friends over a coffee or a glass of wine(s). I find that after I have these discussions I’ll be up and running again!
I’D LOVE FOR YOU TO SHARE A TIME WHEN YOUR SELF-CONFIDENCE HAS BEEN AT AN ALL TIME LOW AND WHAT YOU DID TO PICK YOURSELF UP AND GET BACK OUT THERE.
Two years ago I experienced an incident that really left me in shock.
We had an unexpected visitor, a man from a much larger business centre walk in to my office (uninvited) and start knocking on the walls and furniture and openly tell me how small my business was in the industry. He literally told me that I should close the business down and that I was targeting the wrong client market.
He tried to knock my confidence even further by showing off and telling me figures of how many office branches he had at that time and naming the big international corporates they had in their business centres.
As soon as he left the office I had a moment of completely losing my self-confidence and I also became very angry! I asked myself why didn’t I fight back or simply ask him to leave?
I was lucky because that same afternoon, my very first business partner, Stephen Barnes from Hong Kong Visa Centre came in to use our conference room. I told him what had happened and that I felt so uncertain about my business. He gave me a very good answer and said, “you must be doing something right that a big competitor has to come all the way to your office with 2 assistants to check you out. They must be afraid of you.”
His comment really helped to put things into perspective for me!
HOW DO YOU STAY CONNECTED TO YOUR PURPOSE AND YOUR PASSION?
My business purpose is to help entrepreneurs start and run their businesses in Hong Kong.
I’m an entrepreneur myself so it’s very easy for me to identify their business needs and put myself in their shoes so I can understand and help them.
I really stay connected to my passion and purpose when I see my clients happy faces, receive compliments and also get a number of referrals from happy clients!
WHO AND/OR WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Every entrepreneur inspires me in many different ways.
I love hearing their stories, good or bad, problems and happiness.
They’ve given me lots of business ideas as well!
WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU AND YOUR BUSINESS?
Currently I’m working on an exciting project to help a skincare brand develop their HK, China market which includes HK company incorporation, logistics, hiring local employees, marketing and events management.
It’s so much fun and I get paid while learning new skills everyday.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT LIVING IN HONG KONG?
I really love the business vibe in Hong Kong – the speed, the kindness of people who are willing to help each other.
It’s so much easier to get things done in this city.
MY WORDS OF ADVICE FOR YOUNG WOMEN ABOUT TAKING THE LEAP AND FOLLOWING THEIR DREAMS WOULD BE….
Follow your gut instinct!!!
AND FINALLY DO YOU HAVE A QUOTE OR A DAILY MANTRA YOU USE TO KEEP YOU FEELING CLEAR, CONFIDENT AND CONNECTED WITHIN YOUR BUSINESS AND LIFE?
Keep calm and purple on! (Hence the poster!).
Born in Hong Kong, Josephine Lau completed her studies in England. She returned in 2004 and worked within the fashion industry, having started her first business in 2010. She has met many inspiring people in her social circles and they inspired her to be a non-stop business starter! Currently, Josephine has multiple business projects on the go, including her core business, Centre O Business Centre, that provides business support services. She has also partnered with a local business person on an IT business, and she has developed her creative skills through starting a dogs sportswear brand.
Josephine thrives on the constant challenges of being entrepreneur. She is well versed in client management, organisational skills, company secretarial services and local business knowledge. Josephine’s willingness to excel and to be of service to her clients has resulted in many of her clients and business partners turning into good friends. She is highly proactive and likes to create a win-win situation for all.
Josephine is also a huge foodie who loves cooking and trying out new restaurants. You can always find her working out feverishly in the gym just to get ready for a hearty meal!