Career Advice Successful entrepreneurs’ story

Hygiene Handwashing

According to Ronald Ho, general manager of Soap Cycling, the need to raise awareness about hygiene education is even greater now especially with the advent of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“It’s our obligation because we position ourselves to promote hygiene handwashing. And at such critical time, we have our responsibilities to promote that,” says Ho. “Through coordination, we provide the opportunity for the volunteers to participate in this type of work so people can avoid COVID-19.”

Established in 2012, Soap Cycling had been launched by David Bishop, principal lecturer at Hong Kong University and Fudan University, Shanghai, as a tool to empower university students in achieving work experiences. Used soaps are collected from hotels, processed, and eventually shaped into new soap bars or bottled amenities.

The driving force behind such movement is the thousands of disadvantaged children who die from preventable diseases because they were unable to afford soaps. Today, Soap Cycling has now grown into a multinational charity, which can be found in six other countries.

According to Ho, Soap Cycle in each region works differently due to various factors like the underlying relationships with their grass-roots organisations and policies. Still, students, corporates, volunteers, and other charities work together to promote good hygiene.

With degrees in business administration and over 12 years of experience working in the recycling industry in Hong Kong, Ho has had to adapt to the ever-changing landscape at Soap Cycling.

One main challenge has been generating revenue. Prior to COVID-19, Soap Cycle’s revenue came from the corporate sector where it provides training and team-building opportunities.

But with some employers asking their employees to work at home while schools have been shut since the outbreak, for instance, Ho says Soap Cycle has had to find another income stream since donations and crowd funding are not enough.

Soap Cycling works in partnership with non-governmental organisations like HandsOn Hong Kong, which helps them find volunteers. Corporate sessions have been scheduled on the weekdays while Overseas Filipino Workers, for example, have volunteered their time on the weekends. But these sessions have been cut short due to the current temperament.

“All of our corporate sessions have been stopped and cancelled with donations becoming less. We are now exploring to do more in doing the hygiene program because from the way we see it, COVID-19 will not disappear in the near future,” says Ho.

Asked about the trickling effect of fewer tourists entering the city and usage of soaps dwindling, Soap Cycling had to look for other opportunities to mitigate their challenges.

For one, with employees scheduled to return to their workplace at a snail pace, Ho says they might be inclined to know more about protecting themselves. And this is where Soap Cycling’s hygiene program will go on overdrive.

“It’s an obligation for Soap Cycling to educate them on hygiene sanitation and practices. And we hope to do that later on,” says Ho.

Another challenge that Ho has faced has been the language barrier. Soap Cycling’s website is currently only in English. This may not be a problem for Soap Cycling’s English-speaking clients.

According to Ho, having a bilingual website would further drive home Soap Cycling’s services at the local level since one segment of stakeholders that Soap Cycling manages includes the MEY program in which minorities, the elderly, and the youth are employed and whose English may be limited.

Soap Cycling is also a springboard for future leaders, especially for university students. As noted in their internship program, Ho says students should “learn leadership, management skills, and communication skills. And tasks should be interesting and meaningful to them.”

Soap Cycling has already provided over 700 hygiene kits to the public since February 2020. And by March 2020, hygiene kits will be distributed to street cleaners with the goal of distributing 2,800 packs.

Asked about the skills needed if one decides to be part of a social enterprise like Soap Cycling, for one, Ho says that first “you must have the heart to serve society and to support the social services.”

And with all the variables that are happening at a lightning speed like ageism, global warming, poverty alleviations and social inclusion, Ho says, “social enterprise is extremely demanding to support the social services of the past and of the future,” says Ho.