In 2013, Edward Man
was at an inflection point. He left his director position at a US-based private equity fund to start his boutique investment firm, The Associates, which seeds mission-driven start-ups in Hong Kong. Ed’s leadership venture, the ChickenSoup Foundation
, is the company’s flagship investment.
"Personally, the journey was a rebirth for me. I learned to live my life - professional and personal - according to what I enjoy and what I think is right," he reflected.
Ed used his 17 years of prior experience and connections as an investor to become a “social broker” at the ChickenSoup Foundation. He knew that Hong Kong didn’t lack money or resources. The real question was where to tap into them and who needed it the most. By taking advantage of the rise of corporate social responsibility, The ChickenSoup Foundation lobbies private businesses for resources -- from cash donations to skilled volunteers and services -- to serve the most at-risk children who are under a combination of deprived economic, social, and health circumstances.
The Foundation’s key services address these three key areas in order to, “feed the body, mind, and soul of those most in need.”
To feed the body, the Foundation provides hot meals, hygiene services, as well as medical consultations. To feed the mind, volunteers help teach homework tutoring, exam preparation, and weekend extracurricular classes. Most importantly, the Foundation feeds the soul through life-skills education, family counseling services, and opportunities to engage in the arts, music and sports.
One such example is the Foundation’s partnership with local nonprofit, El Sistema Hong Kong. Together the two organizations offer free weekly music lessons in Tin Shui Wai, a remote satellite city in Hong Kong.
Melissa Nino, a graduate of El Sistema Venezuela explains, “We build self-esteem in them through the joy of learning and playing music together.”
Starting with 60 kids in 2013, the ChickenSoup Foundation is now serving more than 3,000 at-risk students age between 5 and 21 whose needs are diligently reviewed by social workers and school administrators. To date, a total of HK $50 million in household savings have been achieved from the free services delivered. The ChickenSoup Foundation has been able to sustain these services through its partnerships with over 200 corporations, schools, and family foundations.
“It was a successful experiment in applying commercial principles in structuring and operating a charitable platform,” Ed explains.
Ed plans to expand the ChickenSoup Foundation’s current platform to reach 300 more children as well as become self-sustainable in terms of internal cash flow from corporate volunteering activities. He advises others looking to start a philanthropic venture to take the leap and be prepared to learn the hard way through trial and error.