Springing to life
Dad’s advice adds firm backing to Brandon Chau’s bed venture, writes Wong Yat-hei
Not many people have heard of Brandon Chau, but when they are told he is the son of the late Chau Kai-bong, a wealthy solicitor known for his unique fashion sense, it rings a bell.
Chau Kai-bong and his wife dazzled the crowds – and gossip-magazine readers – with their flashy outfits and eye-popping cars when they attended various social gatherings. But according to Brandon, while the media was keen to feature the lavish lifestyle of the Chau family, he saw his father as a caring man who provided him with guidance and not wealth.
A number of business tycoons choose to donate their wealth to charity after they pass away because they believe that the money will leave their children with little inspiration to make their own living. Kai-bong, on the other hand, believed that there was nothing wrong with inheriting family wealth, as long as one knew how to manage it properly.
“There are loads of reports in the media that suggest my father was a big spender and led a lavish lifestyle, but I don’t think that is true,” Chau says. “From a young [age], he was very strict with how I handled my money. If there was something I wanted to buy, he would ask me to save up my pocket money and buy it. He wanted to teach me the correct attitude towards handling money.”
When Chau went to boarding school in Britain, his father challenged him to do his own budgeting. “I was 11 at that time and he said he would only send me money once every term. He made it very clear that I had to live within the budget. If I went over the budget, he would not provide me with extra cash. This inspired me to value money and to not be a spendthrift,” he says.
Following in the footsteps of his father, who was a solicitor, Chau went on to become a barrister. “My first ambition was to be an interior designer, but I found that I am not talented at drawing. I had to pursue something else, so [I thought], why not try to do what my father did? When I was 16, I began to intern at my dad’s practice, but I found the paperwork of a solicitor quite boring, so I decided to pursue a career as a barrister instead,” he says.
Chau got a master’s degree in law from the University College London and became a barrister in 2009. “After I graduated, I returned to Hong Kong to attend to my ailing father. I really missed my family a lot during my years studying overseas,” he says.
Chau’s father passed away in 2010 at the age of 75. One of the saddest things for Chau was that, just as he had never got to meet his grandfather, his sons also never got to meet theirs. “I was not able to meet my grandfather, Sir Chau Sik-nin, who was a prominent figure in the local political and business scene. Although I never met him, he will always be my idol. What makes me more disheartened is that my two sons also never got to meet their grandfather. There seems to be a curse in the family,” he says.
Chau started practising as a barrister in Hong Kong, but he initially found that the job was a lot to handle. “I was losing sleep for a long time because of pressure from work. The career of a barrister is tough. My decisions determine the fate of a person and the immense pressure was too much for me to handle. I tried many solutions like aromatherapy, massage, Chinese medicine, but nothing seemed to work. I finally said goodbye to my sleepless nights when I came across the Vi-Spring, a luxury bed brand from Britain. The brand uses 100 per cent natural material to make its products, and I slept well on their bed,” he says.
After his experience with Vi-Spring, Chau read up on how quality sleep is important for a person’s health and realised how serious an issue this was in Hong Kong. “I think that there is a demand for quality beds in Hong Kong, a fast-paced and highly stressed city where lack of sleep is a common problem,” he says. He saw a business opportunity and last year became a distributor for Vi-Spring, opening a showroom in Happy Valley.
A Vi-Spring bed can cost half a million dollars, but despite the price tag, they have become an instant hit among the upper class. “There are not many brands in the world that produce beds from natural materials and are hand-made. The market reaction has been better than expected. Most of my clients are businessmen in their 40s and 50s. There is also a lot of demand from the mainland, and my next step is to open outlets on the southern part of the mainland.”
As a new business owner, Chau says he has a lot to learn, but is following his father’s advice. “My father taught me that whatever I do, I have to be hands on, and I am taking his advice as a barrister and a businessman,” he says.
Chau feels blessed that his two careers have flexible hours which he can juggle, but going forward, he is looking to put more focus on his business. “The work of a barrister is really demanding. Doing business is simpler. I’m happy to see clients feeling satisfied with the products I sold them,” he says.
BUILDING A DREAM BUSINESS
Brandon Chau gives tips on creating a thriving company
Be a hands-on boss “The boss needs to know every aspect of the business, set an example and decide on the standards of the company. If you don’t care, how do you expect others to?”
Think from various angles “Look at the business from different viewpoints. Put yourself in the shoes of the boss, the employees and clients and you will learn a lot more about your business.”
Care for staff “People management is the most difficult aspect of business operations. I talk to staff every day and I make them feel valued and part of the family.”
Constantly look for improvement “Business changes quickly. Keep improving or you will soon fall behind.”