Of late quite a lot of social enterprises (SEs) have been aiming to create job opportunities for ex-mentally ill people. But how can these SEs stand out and achieve sustainable development given the keen market competition? Higher Diploma in Accountancy students at the Kwun Tong Campus of the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education (IVE) recently applied what they have learnt to propose developing an SE into a Book Café that could become a “must-see” destination for young people. They also mooted guided eco-tours and a work exchange programme to encourage the ex-mentally ill to re-integrate into society. The students’ creative solution earned them a number of awards in the 12th ACCA Hong Kong Business Competition organised by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants Hong Kong.
More than 300 teams from universities and tertiary institutes participated in the Competition this year. The IVE (Kwun Tong) team formed by four Higher Diploma in Accountancy students was the only sub-degree team shortlisted into the final eight and eventually won three prizes: Creative Excellence Award, a Merit Award, and My Favourite Team.
Contestants were required to submit business proposals for an SE targeted at providing job training and employment opportunities for the ex-mentally ill, so as to maximise the business impacts of the following areas: catering, retail and direct sales, ecotourism and promotion of well-being.
Creating a “must-see” hot spot for young people
IVE (Kwun Tong) student LAM Ka-yee, leader of the winning team, said: “The operating cost of an SE that provides ex-mentally ill people with job training is on the high side, and so the most important thing is to reduce costs, expand the clientele and raise visibility. What we have learnt at IVE about budgeting and cash flow statements was of great use here.”
As young people like to take snapshots of food for uploading to social media platforms, the team proposed turning the catering outlet into a Book Café. “The Café is furnished with a large green wall that is uniquely decorated, attracting young people to take photos. BookCrossing events will also be organised to draw book fans,” Ka-yee explained. The team applied their marketing knowledge to analyse the strengths and positioning of the SE and further proposed launching an organic menu and vegetarian buffets to cater to the quest for healthy living among Hongkongers.
Creating job opportunities
“Our team thought of different ways to help the ex-mentally ill re-integrate into society and enhance their competitiveness, so as to achieve the objective to ‘Give them a chance and let them shine’,” Ka-yee added, citing an example. “The SE can collaborate with travel agencies to mount eco-tours that allow trained ex-mentally ill people to serve as docents escorting tourists to organic farms and then back to the restaurant to sample delicious food. Through experience-sharing and exchanges, the ex-mentally ill will be able to re-integrate into society. In addition, we proposed a job exchange programme allowing staff to be redeployed so that they could learn different skills like coffee barista work, food preparation and catering services.”
Vowing to join a social enterprise
Meanwhile a team of four Higher Diploma in Accountancy students at IVE (Tuen Mun) was also ranked in the Top 20 and received a Judges’ Commendation Award. They proposed that the SE should sell healthy mooncakes and host a carnival to allow the ex-mentally ill to showcase their talents.
Commented team leader LAU Sin-tung: “In the course of the Competition, I came to understand that an SE has to create employment opportunities for the disadvantaged and face market competition, while making ends meet or even record a profit. I would like to join an SE upon graduation to use my professional knowledge to help it become self-sustaining.”
Teacher-in-charge of the project, IVE (Kwun Tong) Senior Lecturer in the Department of Business Administration, Kenneth WONG, noted that the organiser arranged for industry veterans to be mentors of the students and provided input for improving their business proposals, thereby helping them raise their practical skills.
“Accounting work is not confined to financial accounting,” he observed. “Practitioners have to grasp knowledge of an enterprise’s operations, needs and marketing requirements so that they can effectively discharge their responsibilities of financial planning and management. To meet industry requirements, starting this year, the IVE Business Administration Discipline is making available a module on ‘Design Thinking and Entrepreneurship’ in all its higher diploma programmes. Students will learn how to develop creative solutions based on enterprise requirements.”