Making strides

While Metagroup chief executive Roger Chan never dreamed of being an entrepreneur, it turns out that he has what it takes to not only build businesses but also found worthy causes.

Though born in the United Kingdom, he grew up in Hong Kong. He moved here when he was four years old and studied at Island School. It was also there that he met his wife.

As the youngest child of the family, he saw his elder sibling go off to study in UK boarding schools, but he wanted to explore another path and go somewhere different.

He opted for an international business program at the University of Miami, where he met people from many countries and cultures.

Despite being a consultant at Deloitte, he was already thinking entrepreneurially.

His first effort was Vero Chocolates, which he started with his wife Veronica to satisfy their sweet tooth for premium chocolate.

While it was not the most profitable venture, it taught him many important aspects of starting a business.

In 2007, Chan’s father-in-law, founder of Metagroup Angelo Pepe, invited him to join his company and help out as he was facing a serious health condition. So he resigned from his consulting job to join the food-and-beverage import company.

“Hitting three birds with one stone” is how Chan describes his new role.

“Life is short. As an entrepreneur, I have the luxury of deciding to do what I like, where I like, with people I like. From sipping on a dry martini made with a beautiful Japanese craft gin in Kyushu, with a passionate owner from a 15th-generation family distillery, to running along the seafront of Naples, Italy, followed by the best Italian espresso with a third-generation Neapolitan tailor.”

Even though he had a day job, Chan still managed to invest and cofound several businesses – including Italian restaurant Giando with chef Gianni Caprioli, and The Attire House with Noblesse Lifestyle Group’s Brandon Chau.

In the 15 years under his care, Metagroup grew and thrived. He also founded many subsidiaries under the group such as Hindsight Creative and Partners & Advisors.

When asked how he juggled so many different projects, he said: “Doing the things I like, I don’t look at them as work.”

Another reason may lie in his drive – he enjoys pushing himself through hard work. “Self-competition is infinite,” he said.

His latest project is with the F&B Run Club, which started as a team-building exercise with his employees during the pandemic. It gained traction as friends from the industry joined.

As the industry was hit particularly hard with the restrictions and lockdowns, members of the community were facing a lot of stress, which affected their mental wellness.

While Chan does not consider himself a runner, he finds running addictive. After a few months in the club, his distance grew from five kilometers to at least 20km.

“I am not the same,” he said.

Seeing the power of exercise in maintaining physical and mental health, he decided to bring the club to everyone in the industry, while supporting causes close to his heart.

The F&B Run Club’s first mission is to run the distance from the Earth to the moon – a total of 384,400km. The campaign is supporting two local charities: Lifewire Foundation, which focuses on children with rare diseases, and InspiringHK Sports Foundation, which has provided sports activities for more than 2,000 underprivileged young people in Hong Kong.

The causes are close to his heart: his spouse has a rare disease and as a father to two children, he appreciates how privileged they are to have access to many sports activities.

The initiative also gave back to the industry and its people in the form of rewards such as restaurant vouchers and staycations – creating a cycle within the community.

Already gaining support from sponsors and reaching 78,832km of the initial goal last month, Chan hopes that the run club will become an annual event and they can continue raising the bar higher.

He is also striving to support others to become entrepreneurs as one of his next projects.

His advice to aspiring entrepreneurs: “Success is not an accident. Don’t believe in luck, believe in hard work.”

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