KPU Students Bring Hong Kong Nostalgia to Marpole

“Entrepreneurial Leadership” students discuss challenges and risks of starting your own business
Tristan Johnston, Contributor

Aurelia Au and Wayne Poon have taken ‘homework assignment’ to the next level by starting their own business. (Tristan Johnston)

For Aurelia Au and Wayne Poon, the decision to start an original company as part of their KPU Business practicum came naturally.

Together they co-own and operate Snackshot—or 糖百府 (tong baak fu) “sugar house”—which is located at the south end of Granville street in Vancouver.

“We couldn’t find a company that was qualified for doing consulting, so we thought, ‘Okay, why don’t we open our own snack shop?’” says Au. “Our intention wasn’t for a restaurant, just a snack place.”

“Everything is challenging. Everything is not like school,” she adds.

Au says that their professors at KPU were very direct in their criticism regarding how she and Poon were planning to run Snackshot. They acknowledged Carlos Calao and Chamkaur Cheema as particularly inspirational and helpful when finding out that they were serious about starting a business. Calao helped them develop their business ideas.

Au acknowledges that they’ve put a lot of work into making Snackshot run efficiently, but dealing with government red tape and human resources proved to be very difficult. Regardless, business is going well for the duo—it’s not unusual to see lineups running outside of the establishment from 7:00 p.m all the way until midnight.

“It’s more powerful than before,” says Poon. “CBC came and interviewed us, but it’s probably [less effective] than social media.”

The food itself lives up to its Instagram fame, such as the Vitasoy Milk with Red Bean Bulldog, which features sweet red beans with Vitasoy along with its bottle poking out. (Tristan Johnston)

Social media has played a big part in establishing their company’s reputation. Au and Poon say that they have no advertising budget to speak of, but have arranged aspects of the restaurant that will likely spread via word of mouth and online sharing. Their tables are arranged to mimic picture frames, and desserts and drinks are served with peculiar flair. The interior design might appear familiar to visitors who have been to restaurants or bus stops in Hong Kong, but there is also a good deal of 60s and 70s influence in the decor on the walls as well as music playing from the speakers.

Au says that it’s difficult to find an eatery like Snackshot in Hong Kong due to large chain restaurants taking business away from smaller ones. The pair considers authenticity to be critical enough that they bought the dishware for Snackshot while in Asia during their winter holiday.

As business owners, their workload remains heavy. For the first four weeks of its operation, Au, Poon, and one of their friends were the sole employees at Snackshot, with one covering drinks, another on food, and the last on customer service. Although they lost money from waiting for the city to approve paperwork while paying rent on a storefront they couldn’t operate, they are happy with the amount of business they are currently getting.

“During the first month, we only slept for three to four hours maximum per day,” says Au, noting that they spend considerable time making sure their products—such as bubble tea—were freshly made. “We don’t want to use powders. People can taste the difference.”

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