The owner of Instagram shop “Cakeblogx” rushes into the Taiwanese restaurant Tao Yuan Hin at Yau Ma Tei. “Sorry I’m late! I was very busy at work,” says 24-year-old Alison Chan Fong Ki. By day she is the sales manager at Kwong Fung Fresh Fruits Company Ltd., but at night she is a baker and one of the two owners of Cakeblogx.
Hong Kong-based Cakeblogx is one of the many shops on Instagram, the free platform that allows users to upload photos and videos online. According to Instagram, they have more than four hundred million actively monthly users worldwide. Many entrepreneurs use Instagram to sell their products.
Instagram’s free and high exposure nature seems to encourage lots of startup companies in Hong Kong. But Professor David K. Tse, the Chair Professor of International Marketing of the University of Hong Kong believes Instagram is no different from all the existing enable technology such as wix.com, Taobao and eBay Inc.out in the market. Enable technology is a type of technology that enables entrepreneurs to do something with it.
Customers can easily find creative bakeries like Cakeblogx on Instagram using the hashtag “#” function. The hashtag on a photo or video links you directly to photos with similar content. If someone is interested in buying cakes on Instagram, they can easily find Cakeblogx using hashtag “#hkdessert”. “The hashtag is like a free advertisement. It gives you high exposure. Imagine all those four hundred million Instagram users all over the world seeing what we bake!” said Chan excitingly.
Cakeblogxis not a typical shop as their owners have a rather special business motto. Cakeblogx is not driven by profit, their owner simply wants to share the happiness of baking with others. “There are so many possibilities with baking- different recipes, ingredients, flavors, designs and such,” said Chan, dressed in a cartoon t-shirt, mini skirt and a pair of sneaker. “Instagram allows us to share our creativity and experiment with more designs without needing to pay. Baking can be quite expensive you know.”
Customers are able to enjoy a unique and customized cake while Chan can experiment more, which is a win-win situation. In fact, before the existence of Cakeblogx, Chan has to always give away her cakes to others as her family refuses to eat all the cakes she bakes due to health reason “It was quite sad before when no one wants to eat my cakes,” said Chan sadly.
“Look at this ice cream themed cake we baked for Hung Cheuk Lap’s [Famous Hong Kong pop singer] wife, this is one of my favorite design,” said Chan proudly. Chan’s bubbly and fun character is reflected in her cakes. “There are many similar shops [Instagram bakery] out there, your shop needs a strong character to stand out. Like for us, most customers that approaches us are looking for something more fun, like cartoon themed cakes,” said Chan.
Even though Cakeblogx has about ten thousand followers and an average monthly earning of ten thousand, Alison has no intention of expanding their business. “Cakeblogx started this way [not profit driven], and I am very happy with it. I hate teaching others and I enjoy baking for leisure only!” laughed Chan.
“Whether Instagram is a good platform for business startups depends on which type of business you run and your target audiences. If your business is more sophisticated and high end than Instagram may not be the best platform for you,” said Professor Tse.
Professor Tse also believes that Instagram may be limited in Hong Kong, because there are so many Chinese competitors, who have been in the market for a while, and are planning to join forces.
“Instagram has good technology advantages. If the company could keep up and be innovative, the current users will stay in the app as people does not like to change once they develop a habit,” said Professor Tse. Could Instagram continue to gain popularity? This would be the fundamental concern for Instagram entrepreneurs in Hong Kong. Without a large base of potential customers, these entrepreneurs could always transfer their business to other popular online platforms.
Writer: Ko Tsz Yan Cindy