James Horace To, Business Development Manager of Lai Sun Dining

“I want to connect people and make things happen.

I'm keeping myself updated, empowering myself with first-hand knowledge”

- James Horace To

James Horace To is now the Business Development Manager at Lai Sun Dining. Before, he has worked in various MNC and startups. Also, he is an HKUST alumnus (Master of Business Administration (MBA), Bachelor of Business Administration(Marketing)).

How does the journey start?

James majored in Marketing in college but started his first job as a flight attendant. He joked this is owing to the discount tickets, while this bridged him and Japan. Learning Japanese from a young age, he worked in Japan and collaborate with the Japanese. In Cathay Pacific Airways, he assisted boarding and check-in for Japanese VIPs. In San Miguel Corporation, he frequently stayed in Japan for the development and launch of innovative products, creating “ice-cream like” Frozen Beer with Japan that strategically captured female consumers, he has successfully brought a revolution to the industry and up-lifted Kirin Ichiban’s premium image. In Airbnb, he started the Airbnb business of Hataka, Fukuoka, Japan. Within 3 months, He has dominated the region by establishing over 100 listings. By helping the hosts get 10 times their normal revenue after joining Airbnb, he finally brought the result of 2500 guests per month on average. 

As a beer-lover, he met a Japanese craft beer brand called Hitachino Nest Beer. Then he self-recommended leading a team of 5 and overseeing the general sales and marketing activities of 5 premium craft beer brands in HK, Macau & China. In the tenure, he strategically established Asia’s first “split-level” craft beer brewery in HK to supply craft beers into China, organized brewery tours & educated the general public on Japanese craft beer knowledge and culture, even co-launching “Starbucks Evening” with 2 gimmick customized coffee draught brews with Starbucks.

What now?

James has done great personal branding. He feels proud that his personal values have reflected on how he worked these years, hoping that he could have his own business one day. Although he might not be deep expertise, he is definitely an expert as a generalist.

Student Takeaway

“Thank you for James’ enthusiastic sharing about his past work experiences 🙂 What I think is really cool about James’ experiences is that he managed to work and be involved in different career aspects, such as marketing, designing etc, which really aligns with his #fearless mindset that you should always try something new and push your boundaries, and do not be afraid to fail at a young age #resilience. In addition to that, what I thought was very inspiring and important to note with entrepreneurship is the importance of identifying threat points ie, with his experience working in marketing, if frozen beer is advertised in summer, how would they appeal to customers in the winter? And how they could continue to expand and maximise the marketing impacts. As a person studying Biotechnology and Business, which combines Science and Business, it’s always important to identify how your product and innovations will be able to solve a problem, but also how you apply business knowledge to advertise your product to an audience and how it would appeal to them.”

Avelyn Sin - Student from ENTR1001

“Thank you so much James for sharing your career experience with us. I find it very interesting the opportunities you decided to take on and the path it led you down. You highlighted the fundamental importance of connections and relationship building skills which I very much agree with. This core theme is something I am still struggling and trying to come around, achieving these objectives will surely open more doors for me in life and allow for more opportunities down the line. #passion #fearlessness”

Hugo Ngan - Student from ENTR1001

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