How Kevin Ma Turned His Sneaker Blog Into A Global Streetwear Authority
Kevin Ma, founder and CEO of Hypebeast, started his business back in 2005, not knowing how big a success it would be today. We caught up with the Generation T 2017 lister recently to discover the story of how he transformed a small sneaker blog into a global streetwear authority.
What is your current role at Hypebeast?
I'm the founder and CEO of Hypebeast, so I do a little bit of everything. I'm there to grow our business every day, create a vision and communicate that across my team.
What's your definition of success?
I never really think about success itself. Rather, I think about the areas I'm not doing good enough. It's all about trying your best, being persistent, being flexible and open minded to new ideas. So, as long as you're able to do that, you'll figure things out along the way.
What are the three skills someone needs to become a successful entrepreneur?
First, be open minded and always have the urge to learn, because the world changes really quickly (especially nowadays with the Internet). If you're not on your toes, you're going to fall behind.
The second thing is to be persistent. It's very cliché, but people are going to doubt you, so you've got to be very persistent with what you believe in.
That leads me to my third tip—to trust your instinct and gut. There's a lot of noise in this world and if you're listening to everyone, you won't know what you actually want to do yourself.
In addition to the three skills, it's important to surround yourself with good people and build a really awesome team. One thing I learned along the way was that you can't do everything by yourself. So, finding the right people you click with, and treating them well and with respect is very important.
What technologies or tools have made your life easier as an entrepreneur?
Obviously, nowadays it's social media and all the different social channels—whether it's Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat or WeChat. Really being able to utilise these channels and deliver whatever you want, properly to your audience has helped our business expand and reach more people. However, on a daily basis, I just use e-mail. Without it, I'd be super disorganised.
What is your philosophy on taking risks and even failure?
When I first graduated, I had the mentality of just trying new things all the time, and that's been my philosophy ever since.
When I first started Hypebeast, I didn't even know it was going to be a business. It was just my hobby, but eventually one step at a time we were able to build a great team and build a business out of it. I wouldn't say I was taking a lot of risks though.
I was just testing it out and seeing if it works or not, and if it doesn't, you pivot. Failure is bound to happen—you can't go through life by just winning all the time.
What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?
Working with people. You don't learn to work with people at school—it's not in any textbook—so, I think that was a big challenge for me because I'm a very introverted person.
I've always been behind the computer, so the challenge for me was really to step out of my comfort zone and interact with people. Not only that, but also to manage people. Although, if you do it enough you'll eventually get better. I wouldn't say I'm the best at it yet because I'm still learning.
Who are your role models?
This is cliché, but from a business standpoint I love what Facebook is doing. Mark Zuckerberg is really smart and what he's done is really amazing. From a design perspective, Steve Jobs.
What's the best thing about being an entrepreneur?
The freedom to make your own choices. However, it's also a double edged sword because your choices can affect a lot of things—how the company performs, and how the people who work for you are doing.
What's the biggest lesson you’ve learnt so far?
Be a good person, I would say. Especially in business, as there are different types of people out there. It's a matter of staying true to yourself, respecting others and being nice to them. Sometimes others aren't nice back but that's fine, at least you did what you were supposed to do.
See also: 10 Female Entrepreneurs In Hong Kong
What's your best piece of advice to those just starting out?
Just go for it. You'll probably fail but if you don't try, you'll never get started. No one starts out with perfect knowledge of how to navigate being an entrepreneur. It's not about the result, it's about the process. So, don't see the result as the end because you'll never really enjoy the process along the way.
See also: 8 Of Hong Kong's Top Tech Stars