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MBA Connect Story: Fighting for a Dream

As a hospitality graduate who studied in Switzerland, it seemed natural for Iris Leung to join her father in managing his local hotel chain in China. However, her interests were much wider than that

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MBA Connect Iris Leung

Iris Leung (Full-time, Class of 2012)
CEO & Founder, Shenzhen Evvoke Food Co.,Ltd

As a hospitality graduate who studied in Switzerland, it seemed natural for Iris Leung to join her father in managing his local hotel chain in China. However, her interests were much wider than that. Soon she was attracted to the financial industry and even toyed with the idea of setting up her own company.


Doing an MBA was a logical next step in her career, and she received offers from both Peking University and CUHK Business School. While studying in Beijing would have helped her build a network in China, she thought an MBA from CUHK could open doors in the financial industry and help her change careers.


“I wanted a Hong Kong degree because I wanted to prove myself,” Iris says. “In addition, CUHK has a good alumni system and a mentorship program. I thought I would get better guidance on how to join the financial industry, and indeed, my mentor was from Merrill Lynch’s human resources department and she was extremely helpful.” 


Her full-time MBA was an adventure right from the beginning. The Outward Bound team building program, the student-organized CSR Conference and her 10-day exchange program to San Francisco stand out as milestones. 


The four-day Outward Bound held in the mountains of Hong Kong taught her what her upper limit of endurance was and how much she could push herself. She also made friends with her teammates.


“We were from four different countries, and we learned how to respect each other and work together even before joining the course,” she says. 


Apart from the courses, she benefited from the daily interaction with her classmates and as the youngest in the class, she learned a lot from those with eight to 10 years of work experience. The CSR Conference, where she was Director of Sponsorship liaising with banks, also taught her a variety of skills in a short time. 


She trained as an intern in Merrill Lynch and BOC, and says these two companies helped her improve her communication with clients and learn new business and management skills.  


“The MBA and the two internships have helped me to understand what I wanted to be and changed my character,” she say. “I was very quiet before. Now, I had a dream and wanted to join society and do something for myself. I realized that if I keep silent, I can’t achieve what I want as I need people’s help,” she says.


In the past few years, the Chinese government has made some steps to change the food industry by offering support to some reliable companies in this field. People’s eating habits are also changing, as they are becoming more prosperous and looking for healthy products. Iris thought this might be a good opportunity for her, and after a stint with a financial brokerage, she set up Shenzhen Evvoke Food Company with its mission summed up as “sharing, love and safety”.


As a newcomer in the food industry, she is under intense pressure. Competition is tough, as manufacturing high-quality, genuine food products tested by international companies costs her two to three times more than ordinary food products. She also has to keep in contact with regulators, as rules and regulations often change.


Shenzhen Evvoke started out as an internet-only company. Experience Centers were set up to allow shoppers to see and try the products and the company is planning to open up to 10 restaurants this year, including one in Hong Kong in August. 


Browsing the company’s website is a colorful cultural experience. Traditional delicacies are listed for festivals and a variety of recipes and stylish photos help shoppers use the website’s products in new ways. 


“Three years ago the company only had three employees, one secretary, one sales and myself, and three products. Now we have 30 employees and 20 products,” she says.


The mother of a two-year old little girl, Iris believes if the mother is happy, the child will also feel satisfied. She tries to share quality time with her daughter and showed her where mommy works and what she does when she is not with her. She believes, working mothers should not feel guilty: the more professional and confident the mother, the more mature and independent the child will be.


This interview was first published in the MBA Connect by MBA Programs Office, CUHK Business School in its June 2017 issue. Please click here to read more.