"Before you move on to the next stage, you have to unlearn the learnt first"- Winnie Lee
Winnie Lee, the co-founder of Spread-it began her journey of entrepreneurship during her university years. With her background of Business Administration major at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, she joined several trainings and business competitions that inspired her the pursuit starting her own business.
It is inevitable that graduates often find themselves lacking the confidence or hands-on experience to kickstart their career when they first begin to search for their occupation. However, Winnie took a completely different route to look into this “disadvantage”, instead, she considers the ignorance and rawness that youngsters possess as the advantage for learning and growing.
No later than her graduate year, she teamed up with her friend Timothy Ng to launch the first generation of “Spread-it”. Originally, Spread-it was a platform to design the postcards and for brands to sponsor the costs and use the postcards for publicity. 500 HKD was the money she spent on customizing the postcard and kickstarted the journey of Spread-it. However, the result of the first generation of Spread-it was not ideal, Winnie quickly switched the direction to launch a love confession platform and a food delivery service for university students. Unfortunately, neither of the business ideas succeed.
Although Winnie failed to gain significant achievement with the first two attempts, these experiences gave her the necessary insights to look into the existing market again and seek new business opportunities that rewrite the situation with Spread-it.
Based on the failure Winnie had at the two attempts, she noticed the difficulty that many brands were facing at that time when micro-influencers were just starting to emerge on social media. The existing market lacks a comprehensive model that allows these micro-influencers to be connected to the right brands systematically. Winnie spotted this junction between brands and the target audience, which the problem of such could be solved by intermediaries that provide systemized services.
Winnie and Timothy launched the second generation of “Spread-it” to match brands with “micro-influencers”, who enjoy less popularity than KOLs but maintain closer relationships with their followers.
Their idea was to recruit university students as “micro-influencers” through their websites, social media, and mobile app, invite these students micro-influencers to post content for product marketing and promotion to their followers via Instagram, Facebook, etc.
Currently, Spread-it has 30 to 40 employees, possess over 20K KOL connection, and has experience working with A-list brands and maintaining active collaboration with 500 brands. Spread-it has successfully become the biggest KOL platform around Hong Kong. Meanwhile, Winnie and her co-founder entered the list of Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia 2020.
Where there is light, there must be a shadow, although the overseas expansion and operation were deeply affected by the pandemic, Winnie believes her old habit of preparing the worst scenario and planning ahead helped her countermeasure during this challenging time.
"Stay true to your passion, but don't be afraid of changing and failing."
The fear of the unknown certainly created a lot of doubts and hesitations along the way of Winnie’s journey, but she believes that by trial and error, trying and failing is where the infinite possible begins. Her philosophy of having ignorance as an advantage rather than a disadvantage gave her the courage and perseverance that guided her through the humble beginnings, eventually kickstarting the journey of Spread-it.
"Stay foolish, but keep thinking; Stay ignorance, but keep learning."
In this video, Winnie shared her philosophy towards entrepreneurship and her management skill with the audience. “Ignoring how much effort you input and how much you are getting from it,” she says, was the most important lesson she learned along the way of building Spread-it.
Other than the life lessons Winnie gained throughout the journey, she also brought up all the hardships and failures she and her team encountered during their entrepreneurial journey. “I considered these challenges as the necessary training that allowed me to seek the right insight in the market.” She explains. Winnie further explained how she spotted the existing market lacks a comprehensive model that allows micro-influencers to be connected to the right brands systematically. By discovering this junction between brands and the target audience, Winnie developed a concrete idea to build Spread-it that provides systemized service to match KOLs to appropriate brands.
Spread-it was not only an experience that colors Winnie’s life as an entrepreneur, but it is also an inspiring and encouraging story of bravery and perseverance that leads to great success in self-achievement.
Books are a place where we can allow our imagination to run wild, at the same time filling our hunger for new knowledge. Winnie introduced two books that played a special role in her self-development. The first book is, “The Startup Way” by Eric Ries. It is a book that reveals how entrepreneurial principles can be applied to different aspects of business, which is extremely useful for developing practical skills the useful mindset for building startups. The second book is a well-known series of fantasy novels, Harry Potter by JK Rowling. Need no introduction, Winnie considers Harry Potter as her source that teaches the power of imaginary thinking ever since childhood and is inspired by its story that brings a life-long impact to her life.
I totally agree with your viewpoint that having connections with alumni and friends are indeed important in the journey of becoming an entrepreneur. On top of that, you mentioned that youths like us, who are able to take risks, should keep on trying when we can. Don’t be afraid to fail in the progress of our startup. This really inspired me to take the courage to pursue my ideas even though I might not be mature enough to start a business. Once again, thank you for your inspiring sharing. #grit #resilience "Joanne Lin - Student from ENTR1001
I found that the fruit selling venture is a great example of agile entrepreneurship and a sign of being #fearless. Thank you for shedding light on the journey of becoming a young entrepreneur and sharing the different insights towards the plight. I can clearly see how Ms. Winnie has applied her strengths and created a viable business model from the skills and strengths she has gained through university. I am learning the evolving attitudes of an entrepreneur and the rapid pace of adapting skills into areas that suit your #passion. Thank you once again for your inspiring sharing!Marco Clark- Student from ENTR1001