When a group of 19 students from Heep Yunn School decided to reach out to the elderly in their community, they knew they had more than just their time to offer. They had a knack for innovation, passion for social change, and an eye for a good business venture. With these characteristics, they were able to create something that can truly change the lives of elderly people in Hong Kong.
“The hustle and bustle of city life sometimes blinds us from the needs of other members of society,” says Eunice Poon Tsz-Hang, the 15-year-old CEO of the group’s new start-up, Ignite. “But just because we don’t pay enough attention, it doesn’t mean the problem does not exist.”
Most of us think nothing of picking up a pencil or mug, but in old age, that becomes increasingly difficult because we lose the ability to grip hold of things properly. The students wanted to come up with a solution. Through a business programme run by educational organisation Junior Achievement Hong Kong, they created their own company from scratch.
The product they came up with was Hold Me Tight, a hand strap with a soft pad that rests on the palm of the hand, making it much easier for the user to make a fist and hold things.
The team showcased their product at the Junior Achievement (JA) trade fair Chater Garden on December 15, where it won the Best Offering award.
“This issue affects my grandpa,” explains Eunice. “He used to enjoy pouring tea for all of us when we went for dim sum. But in recent years, he stopped doing that, and I started to wonder why. I later learned from my mother it was because his hands were weakened.”
She adds that not being able to hold things properly can make everyday tasks, such as holding onto a handrail on the MTR or gripping a knife, difficult and even dangerous for elderly people. As a result, they can end up being confined to their homes.
A device that can help them carry out these tasks would therefore improve their quality of life.
The team knew their device would support a good cause, but as a company, they also had to make sure it would sell. As Minnie Leung Wai-ting, 15, the team’s human resources director, explains, not everyone on the team felt Hold Me Tight would be profitable. “Our capital came from other people’s investments, so as the owners of the company, we also have a responsibility to our shareholders,” Eunice adds.
The students bounced ideas off one another until they finally settled on creating a range of side products, including files, stickers and memo pads with quirky designs and inspirational quotes on them, to help them reach a wider market.
Still, the team knew that elderly people were not their only targets. “We knew that with the festive season coming up, Hold Me Tight could make a practical gift for young people to give to older relatives and friends,” says Eunice.
Winning an award at the trade fair was the validation the team say they needed.
“We lacked confidence in our product, and at times even felt ashamed of it since it wasn’t as visually appealing or ‘mainstream’ as the products by other JA companies,” says Eunice.
“But after receiving the award, we started to feel proud of Hold Me Tight. The award was confirmation that we were on the right path.”
The experience has taught the students to never be afraid to try. “All journeys start with the first step,” says Eunice.