Sophie Leung Lau Yau Fun is smiling at the camera. She has short dark brown hair and is wearing a white collared shirt over a white t-shirt.

Mrs. Sophie LEUNG Lau Yau Fun: GBS, JP, Founder and Chairperson of Young Entrepreneurs Development Council

The #SheInnovates stories team sat down with Mrs. Sophie Leung Lay Yau Fun to discuss the role of women in innovation. Get involved at She Innovates Global.  

#SheInnovates Stories: Innovation is solving the world's problems. What problem are you solving?

Sophie Leung Lay Yau Fun: The changes in social and technological development will become more and more vigorous. I consider it important to equip young people with a mindset for preparing themselves to face future challenges and live out their dreams. Therefore, I established the Young Entrepreneurs Development Council (YDC) in 1997, a nonprofit organization whose goal is to inspire and cultivate entrepreneurial spirit among Hong Kong’s young people. Working in collaboration with the business and education communities, I strive to let young people explore their interests, strengths and weaknesses. I nurture their creativity and their ability to think critically, analytically and logically by emphasizing a “CALL” spirit.

#SheInnovates: When did you realize your innovation was a breakthrough?

SLLYF: YDC’s work is one of the kind in practice in Hong Kong since 1997. Young people can learn better outside of the classroom, but there is a lack of opportunity for them to explore more about their surroundings and the world. For the past two decades, I have been dedicated to organizing various training programs which motivate young people to realize their potential and unleash their creativity. 

For example, the YDC Dare to Change Business Pitch Competition offers opportunity to youngsters to be away from their comfort zone and inspired for innovative ideas.  The School-Company-Parent Program, held since 2002, is another initiative which helps students in secondary schools connect to the commercial world and learn from the life experience of Company Ambassadors, by matching one company with one school. Over 250 schools, universities and institutes (about 50% in Hong Kong), and 150 companies have joined the activities, benefitting over 42,000 students.

#SheInnovates: What were some unexpected obstacles you overcame in the innovation process?

SLLYF: It is always difficult to promote a totally new initiative and make noise in society by oneself. I believe that education is not only the responsibility of schools but also the duty of each and every party in society.  What I value most is the pleasure of tremendous friendships with entrepreneurs, Company Ambassadors and volunteers, all of whom share the same value as YDC: that our youngsters can become more innovative and excel beyond limitation. Notwithstanding the difficulties faced, together we continue to align different sectors and support young people.

#SheInnovates: What inspires you to love your work?

SLLYF: I believe that knowledge can change our lives and enable us to make the right decisions for ourselves, if we are willing to learn more about our surroundings and the world. I cherish every opportunity to learn, connect with people, and make changes. I hope every student can learn from my example, live out their dreams and refuse to be ordinary. I am dedicated to accompanying these young people and creating endless possibilities for society together.

#SheInnovates: What do you hope that young women coming behind you take from your work?

SLLYF: I believe all things are difficult before they are easy. Through my programs and work, girls are encouraged and supported to follow their dreams and start their own business plans. They can learn, from entrepreneurs and professionals acting as mentors through YDC, how to nurture an entrepreneurial mindset, build confidence and enhance positive self-esteem. I hope that young women can have the potential and ability to shine for themselves and make significant contributions in the business and public sectors. If I can do it, anybody can.

#SheInnovates: Why are women in innovation important?

SLLYF: My various engagements in entrepreneurship and public affairs have enabled me to connect with women from different positions. What I have observed is that women have the ability to be detail-oriented and are constantly aware of people’s inner feelings. Therefore, they can accommodate and interact with the surroundings and other people more easily if they wish to. The earlier women get acquainted with innovation, the better they can provide new ideas and think outside of the box [to create] new inventions that are more user-friendly and benefit human beings.

Follow Mrs. Sophie LEUNG Lay Yau Fun on: Instagram and Facebook

Interviews have been lightly edited for clarity and length.