Hong Kong is one of the world’s most expensive cities to live in, and a quality education doesn’t necessarily come cheap. As such, students often face pressure to excel academically from parents who aren’t able to fund their studies in hopes of garnering scholarships for secondary school or university. This academic pressure creates some pretty tumultuous times among Hong Kong students when it comes to exam preparations.
From September to October 2020, The Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups surveyed more than 4,000 secondary school students and found that 52.2% of students’ stress index reached a Level 7 or above on a scale of 1 to 10. This was 10.5 percentage points higher than the previous year’s stress index.
This issue in Hong Kong seemed to be quite prevalent in Tin Shui Wai, which has earned the moniker “The City of Sadness” due to its high rate of unemployment, suicides and spousal and child abuse over several decades now. This was a major impetus for founder of education institute Manhattan Elite, Jessy Leung, to open up her first education center in Tin Shui Wai.
“When people talk about Tin Shui Wai, they think it’s situated far away from central areas and faced with a series of suicides and is full of immigrants’ hardships and resilience,” Leung explains.
In fact, one of the most frequent questions asked of her since she decided to open up in Tin Shui Wai four years ago is “why Tin Shui Wai?”
Her answer is clear: “As an educator, I want to help those in need. The more time I spend with my students, the more I know about them. This is a forgotten generation that is full of energy, diligence and creativity.”
Leung believes that Tin Shui Wai being dubbed “The City of Sadness” is inaccurate, as it is “actually a place where you can find a lot of young, energetic and hardworking people.” This is one of the main reasons she chose this location for her education institute.
How is Manhattan Elite helping students in Hong Kong?
Manhattan Elite Hong Kong is an education institution specializing in industry-leading English programs such as DSE English, Music, Maths and Science. They also provide services for the IB, IGCSE and GCE curricula. They run their center on the belief that every student is gifted.
Through their programs, they strive to develop each individual academically, artistically and personally. “Our mission is to ensure no child, regardless of background, is left behind at school or in life,” Leung explains.
Prior to opening Manhattan Elite, Leung had a very successful corporate career in New York, including working as lead music consultant for SinoVision. Her decision to shift into the education industry came out of her passion for helping young children. “‘Til today, I still do corporate work on the side, so it’s not like I’ve abandoned that. However, I have always loved helping children and felt passionate about helping them.”
Even within a smaller city like Hong Kong, competition is stiff in the education industry. According to the Education Bureau, there are around 7,500 tutorial centers across Hong Kong, making it quite difficult for new ventures to become successful. However, Leung isn’t too worried about the competition.
“When it comes to competition, I only compare myself. If my performance is better than yesterday, then I think I am a winner already. I always have the confidence to go into every situation with a positive attitude. Plus, it has always been important for me to ensure that all children have equal opportunity and no one is left behind at school or in life. Students are always my priority.”
Manhattan Elite prides their services on being “results-focused for exam preparation in an inclusive and supportive environment, both personally and academically.” Leung points out that her center keeps measurable track records of their students, and as such are able “to take care of every single student and make sure no child is left behind at school.”
“[We] also have standardized support classes for those who can’t cope in testing environments and those who need more academic support. Our students are always our top priority,” she says.
Manhattan Elite’s mission
Although Leung’s journey and mission toward providing quality education is a noble one, it hasn’t been an easy one by any means. When she first considered opening up a tutorial center in Hong Kong, she says her toughest challenge was identifying her vision.
“Starting a new business can be overwhelming. The toughest challenge for me at first was getting my vision on paper. Many factors like market assessment and [a] capital financing plan needed to be considered. One thing I can say for sure is that they will never be 100% accurate. Sometimes, you just have to go for it before it’s too late,” Leung shares.
Like many entrepreneurs, Leung also faces the day-to-day struggle of maintaining a healthy work-life balance. “Like most of us, I have hobbies outside the company and a great group of friends and family that I enjoy spending time with. Staying late at the office and working on weekends are pretty normal to me. Sometimes, it is difficult to draw the line between work time and personal time.”
To overcome these hurdles, Leung ensures she sets times in her schedule for activities that allow her to recharge. These include activities “such as running in the morning, family activities, social nights and a yearly vacation,” Leung tells TMS. “Also, I always make sure I am putting myself first by eating right, sleeping well and exercising. These things are critical to thinking, creating and performing at my best. I stand firm to my commitments to all three.”
With Manhattan Elite being already four years in the game, the tuition center has experienced some great success. Leung attributes this success to her parents and the loyal customer base she has garnered since opening up the institute.
“We have a loyal, strong customer base and a team that I fully trust. We also have a unique vision that differentiates us from other companies. We emphasize equality, individuality and growth,” Leung outlines. “It’s important for us to show that we are a community that cultivates young talents, rather than just a business.”
After the great success the company has already experienced, Leung is looking to take Manhattan Elite to new levels. She plans to open more branches in Kowloon and Hong Kong Island to target the urban population of Hong Kong in the next five years.
“As we can see our business is expanding, we are planning to let investors come on board. With our differentiation strategies and expertise, we are going to take Manhattan Elite to the next level,” Leung adds.
Hong Kong is a rapidly growing entrepreneurial hub for young people wanting to start their own business. Throughout Leung’s success as an entrepreneur in Hong Kong’s education industry, she has learned a lot of lessons along the way. “Hong Kong is a fast-paced and competitive city. At the same time, it’s exhilarating and full of potential,” she says.
Leung says one of the most important pieces of advice she got from her mentors was to take risks. “We never know the outcome of our efforts unless we actually do it. I wouldn’t regret failure, but I would regret not trying. The world is full of great ideas, but success only comes through action.”
This was brought to you in partnership with Manhattan Elite.