Melissa Tsang moved to Hong Kong, started a full-time job, adopted a dog, AND started her own business – all within the last two years! Read on to find out about her journey, the challenges, the wins and, of course, her adorable doggo.
We love nothing more than a good adoption story here at Honeycombers, and we are, of course, even more excited when it leads to a new and exciting business! To support and encourage entrepreneurs and small business owners, we have created Launchpad, a comprehensive digital networking platform (with IRL benefits, too). It’s a privilege and pleasure to learn from so many talented and inspiring folks, so we’re sharing their incredible experiences and stories with you all. And here, we have Melissa Tsang, the founder of BYOP, tell us about her journey.
We had a pawsome chat with Melissa Tsang, Founder of BYOP
Thanks for sitting down with us, Melissa! Please tell us more about BYOP – what is it?
BYOP, a play on ‘bring your own beer’, is a place where your pets come first! It is a ‘pawsome’ hang-out spot in Soho – a place where your furry friends play and socialise while the humans can enjoy a selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. It’s a doggy paradise, with stick buffets, a treat bar, doggy ice-creams, along with a carefully sourced selection of products which are high-quality, modern, eco-friendly, and include home-grown and small businesses. Now complete with an online store, BYOP can be used as a community event space, adoption days, workshops, barkday parties… We welcome you all!
What was the inspiration behind BYOP?
Here’s a bit of my backstory: after living in New York for seven years (during which I worked in finance and in a food delivery start-up), I moved to Hong Kong in the middle of the pandemic in 2020 to work at Foodpanda. Also, I had always wanted a dog, and seeing the huge rescue community in Hong Kong, I simply couldn’t resist. My boyfriend somehow cajoled me into fostering first, but by our third foster, we failed hard. Poe, named after Poho (our neighbourhood) and po taat (Portuguese egg tarts in Cantonese), was the true inspiration and motivation behind BYOP.
Soon after adopting Poe, we realised that if we were going out together, w’d be stuck between two options: either we go to a dog-friendly café or restaurant, where everything is catered to us humans and the dog is just on a leash; or we go to a dog park, where our pet can roam freely and socialise – but my partner and I are left craving a nice beer! At the same time, as we continued our doggy journey, I realised that shopping for our furry friend wasn’t always as fun as I would like it to be. As a shopaholic myself, I wanted to spoil my pup, rather than just going for a quick in-and-out; I wanted her to be able to sniff and explore and enjoy the shopping experience, too. So, BYOP was born!
From relocating, to adopting Poe, to starting your own business – that’s a lot to accomplish within just over a year! Having spent time in large-scale corporations, how has the experience been starting your own business?
It has been a whirlwind – insane amounts of work – but also a lot of fun! Having the creative freedom and outlet to build something that’s completely based on my vision while constantly learning is a thrill that is hard to truly capture. I also appreciate having the option to test out products and ideas, and pivot quickly when we get direct feedback from customers. Plus, if our taste-tester (i.e. Poe) doesn’t like it, it’s out!
At the same time, I’ve been able to bring a lot of my learnings from large corporations into my own business. Even though we may have limited resources being a small business, our mindset has always been to solve the problem in a scalable way. Everything is always urgent but, for me, it’s important to take a step back and prioritise things to ensure we don’t have another spilt bag of kibble or late delivery. Moreover, I have great love for project management tools, especially Asana, which I use for both my day job and my pet project (literally). It’s a useful way for me to plan out initiatives, break down tasks, assign and allocate deadlines etc.
What are some of the challenges you have faced so far, and how have you coped with them?
I think some of the biggest challenges have just been rolling up our sleeves and getting things done! Because if you don’t do it, no one else will. The team is my boyfriend and I, and two very super supportive friends / cofounders. While we’ve also hired part-time employees, the bulk of the work remains on us. Since we all still juggle full-time jobs, getting customer calls asking why we aren’t open while we are at our desks is definitely a challenge.
Furthermore, it was tough setting up a brick-and-mortar store and e-commerce shop simultaneously, especially given that neither of us had had any previous knowledge or experience. There were all sorts of trials and tribulations that came our way. One day, we were scrambling to fix a broken fridge the day before an event in which everyone would be yearning for a cold drink; another day, we messed up our entire inventory counts and ended up having to recount over 4,000 SKUs, just so that our website didn’t say everything was out of stock. It’s definitely a challenging job, but that’s part of why I love it.
What have been some of the most rewarding aspects of launching BYOP? Any big achievements?
Building the incredible pet community has been one of the most amazing parts of starting BYOP. Whether it’s seeing a familiar face on a Saturday afternoon, or having local brands that we admire actually sponsor us – shoutout to the Arca Hotel, Dough Bro’s, Buddy Bites, Cookie DPT, and Woofpackstyle! The events have been a true highlight, too, as they bring the community together. For instance, 100 dogs came through to our Howl-o-ween party where they played Squid Games and drank puptails while the humans enjoyed pizza. For Christmas, we also had Santa Paws show up to take pictures with the pups!
What’s next for you and BYOP?
With restrictions being lifted, we can’t wait to get back into the swing of things and continue to build upon BYOP’s mission and brand. We are building awareness of our online shop through price- matching our products, free delivery, free drinks upon pick-up, and an additional 5% discount for subscription on dog food (we stock popular brands across kibble, freeze dried raw, wet food and meal toppers like Orijen, Stella & Chewy’s, Ziwi Peak, and Open Farm). In addition, we are super excited to restart in-person events, bringing the community back together through meet-ups and workshops. We’re also looking to host more adoption days, because as we have seen in my case, adopting a dog truly can change your life! In the longer term, expanding into new locations across Hong Kong, such as Tai Hang, Repulse Bay, and Discovery Bay, would be great for BYOP.
Find out more about BYOP.
Psst – wanna hear from Melissa herself? Join Launchpad’s Masterclass on 12 May about the ways to bring big business thinking into small businesses, for which Melissa is one of the panelists. See you there!