Interview with Escapades – Stefanie Hemshall

Dog HikeFounder of Escapade Sports, Stefanie Hemshall, tells us about her retail and other therapy. 

Tell us a bit about yourself. I am German, my husband is English and we have three children aged between 10 and 18, who were all born in Hong Kong.

When did you move to Hong Kong and why? We moved from Jakarta to Hong Kong in 1998 due to the economic crisis in Indonesia. Hong Kong is home for my husband, who came here as a baby with his family in 1967, so it seemed a natural choice. We all love Hong Kong and have made it our home.

What made you move to Clearwater Bay? Having owned several small flats as investments, we wanted to invest in a property that was large enough for us to live in. Clearwater Bay seemed to be great value for money at the time and we moved to Po Toi O three years ago. We have never looked back and all of us are very happy with our new life.

ScenaryWhen did you start Escapade Sports? It all started when we took over a tiny shop at the Hong Kong Cricket Club called Sportshelp in 2002. Over the years, we renamed and rebranded to become Escapade, expanded the original store and opened three more on Hong Kong island.

Why did you decide to open a company that distributes sports goods? In the early days, my father-in-law, Bryan, worked in Escapade at the Hong Kong Cricket Club. When he decided to retire, I became more involved in the business and saw a need for a wider range of goods – also in more accessible shopping areas of Hong Kong. In 2008, we opened our spacious flagship store in Causeway Bay, followed by our Central store in 2010. Our group now also runs a distribution company called Active Brands Asia, which distributes 18 brands to other retailers in Hong Kong. At the end of 2012, we acquired Revolution Asia, a fantastic sports events company, which runs the popular Splash ‘n’ Dash races and Ocean Swims on the southside of Hong Kong Island. This year, we are launching a new race, the East Aquathon 16.3, which is being held on October 18. It comprises a 1.5km swim in the sea at Chung Hom Kok and a 15km run past the Twins, finishing at Tai Koo Place.

Dog walkWhat was the hardest part about setting up a new business? Having enough patience. It is easy to start off with a lot of enthusiasm but also easy to get disheartened when the business doesn’t grow as expected. I am convinced that everyone who has a successful business has worked very hard to get there. There are many challenges involved in starting a new retail business in Hong Kong such as finding good shop locations and reliable staff, capital and time management, and making the right strategic moves.

Are there any plans for the company in the future? We are hoping to open more Escapade stores – as and when we find good locations with reasonable rents. We are opening a shop above Fusion in Clearwater Bay, which we are very excited about. It will sell leisure products as well as sports goods – much like our original store at the Cricket Club. For Revolution Asia, we would like to have a race in Clearwater Bay in the near future and bring international athletes to Hong Kong.

What are the benefits of living in Sai Kung? My life can be a bit hectic with the business and three kids. I feel that living in Clearwater Bay is a great antidote to the stress in the city. The last stretch of road towards our village winds through lush green hills and boasts a stunning view of the ocean – amazing that it is only 30 minutes away from the concrete jungle that is Causeway Bay.

What do you like best about the area? I love the laid-back atmosphere and the tightknit community feel. What do you like to do in your spare time? I walk our dog for about an hour every day and I love going to yoga twice a week. In the evening after work, I crochet while watching a TV series with my family.

What is your favourite thing to do outdoors? Walking – I love walking! Any local issues you are interested in? We have quite a few boy racers on the main road near our house, which I find scary, and I wish the police would try to do a bit more about that. We have heard stories of people involved in car accidents in the middle of the night thanks to these reckless drivers.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given? Do what you love, and love what you do. I hope to promote a healthy lifestyle, and foster the development of athletic sports in Hong Kong.