One day in 2016, when Winnie Lee, who was still a Business Administration major at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, she wanted to send a postcard to an unhappy friend to cheer her up. As someone who has always had a start-up dream, Winnie had an idea. If she could set up a platform for people to send postcards for free, it would cheer up the recipients and connect people.
Wasting no time, she teamed up with her friend Timothy Ng to launch a postcard sending platform called “Spread-it”. The original concept was for the platform to design the postcards and for brands to sponsor the costs and use the postcards for publicity.
Yet, the first generation of “Spread-it” failed to take off due to different reasons. Undeterred, the duo charged ahead. They went on to launch a love confession platform and a food delivery service for university students. Unfortunately, neither venture succeeded.
“People who have rich life experiences are often fearful of dead ends. When they are faced with a challenge, they would quickly choose a different path. But youth is ignorant. To us, even seemingly dead ends warrant a try.”
Despite having three failed business attempts, the fearless Winnie continued to seek new directions. Amidst the explosion of Facebook ads and Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs), Winnie noticed that Instagram, which was growing in popularity among university students, had yet to attract brands.
Like many university students, Winnie sometimes took part-time jobs to earn pocket money. She observed that brands often had difficulty entering school campuses due to the limitations imposed by the schools. So, Winnie and Timothy launched a second generation of “Spread-it” to match brands with “micro-influencers”, who enjoy less popularity than KOLs but maintain closer relationships with their followers. Their idea was to let student micro-influencers to “introduce” the products to their followers via Instagram.
Winnie was confident that the fourth time would be the charm. Although she encountered many hiccups along the way, she finally attracted a brand partner and gradually built a network of micro-influencers called “Spreadians”.
“We want to offer the trendiest, the coolest, the best, and the funnest activities and news to active social media users.”
Spread-it currently has more than 12,000 Spreadians and works with more than 250 brands. In addition to offering the brands’ promotional discounts to Spreadians, Spread-it organises regular Spreadian Club activities such as cooking workshops, gym experiences, and Christmas parties for Spreadians to enjoy and to enlarge their social networks.
Through the Cyberport Incubation Programme, Spread-it obtained more promotional and capital support and met even more potential partners to publicise the customer- and brand-facing platform.
“As a start-up, building a reputation is often the hardest first step. With the help of Cyberport, we received more brand and student recognition and found more opportunities to cooperate.”
From knowing nothing about setting prices and company positioning to collaborating with A-list brands, it was Winnie’s embrace of the ignorance and fearlessness of youth that helped her achieve her hard-fought entrepreneurial dream.