(Interview with Michelle Kwok and Francis of Eldertreks)
GL: It’s been over a year since you’ve started, what’s the biggest change you’ve noticed in yourself?
MK: Definitely more confidence when we present. When we won, we had just graduated, we had the idea, but that was about it so it’s really been good experience. I would say we’ve gotten a lot more practical as well, especially when it comes to forecasting our plans. Communication is also very important, as so much of our work is about telling stories. When you’re in a rush, so much can be miscommunicated and that can cause lots of friction in the team.
GL: What’s changed with the project?
MK: So many things have changed from what we submitted in the proposal. Until you try it, you actually don’t know if it’s going to work and we tried a lot of different ideas, and how to do the tours to attract more people. It’s taught us to always be flexible and adaptable, and that’s the only way to move forward.
GL: What was the hardest part about all of it?
MK: It was sometimes hard to explain what I was doing, especially to my parents, especially when I decided to dedicate my time to Eldertreks instead of taking a job offer at Google after I graduated! There were a lot of ups and downs, but I always had a happy mindset because we also believed in our mission.
GL: What is your main impact of Eldertreks?
MK: I would say it’s to give people a chance to tell their story. One uncle who is a retired taxi driver, when we first approached him, he didn’t think his life story was unique in any way, but once we dug out the stories, he grew in confidence and loved sharing stories. I think it’s all about giving people a chance to recognise their own unique story and that each person has a story worth telling.
GL: How did you convince your parents that you were going to do a start up social enterprise?
MK: All parents show love in different ways. Ultimately, they’re concerned about your future. So of course when you say you won some sort of competition and going to do a start up without almost any pay at the start of your career, then of course they are worried. They want to know that there is some plan there and that you’ve thought it through. How I got through it was that I told them I would give myself a year to give it my all, and if after a year, I would reassess the situation. That seemed to work!
GL: Any funny moments?
F: There was the time when I believe the police came up to the Good Lab looking for us and asking if we had a tourism licence to operator… sorry about that… (insert emoji)
GL: What’s next for Eldertreks?
F: We’re going to keep our tours running each month, while in full time employment. This is a happy balance with everyone involved. Both Michelle and me have gotten full time jobs now, at the same time we’re deeply passionate to keep Eldertreks running over the weekends. We’ll see where it can develop from there.
GL: Reflections? Life lesson from the past year?
MK: Starting up Eldertreks has definitely been the best thing in my life so far, and what I’ve learned is don’t always listen to what society tells you to do.
F: Be brave. I’m definitely more confident from the whole journey, and I think confidence is something really important to have especially at our life stage.
Michelle, Francis and Leon have all taken full time jobs now, and will continue Eldertreks and their tours guided by retired citizens across Hong Kong.
You can reach them here and go on their next guided tour!