Tag Archives: business

Finding the Positives in Uncertain Times: Victor Woo ’98  

With the challenges of the pandemic and the economic-political climate in Hong Kong over the past few years, Victor has focused on quality family time and discovered climbing as a positive way to relieve stress and deepen his connection with his daughter. 

The manufacturing business that Victor finds himself dealing with in Hong Kong today is significantly different than the one he knew a few years ago. Several factors have contributed to this.  

First, in 2019 during Donald Trump’s term as President of the United States, restrictive trade rules and hefty tariffs on Chinese goods imported to the United States have hurt the manufacturing business throughout China. A new guideline referred to as ‘C+1’ (China plus one other country) mandates that any goods manufactured in China and destined for the United States may not be solely supplied by China. Products can be manufactured in China but must also include a second source of supply from one other country, such as Indonesia or Thailand. 

Then, in 2020, the COVID pandemic, with its travel restrictions and lockdowns, struck another blow to business. Without the ability to meet in person with international clients and to go over samples together, production has slowed, and the product development cycle has more than doubled.  

Finally, the political situation in Hong Kong has been increasingly tense since 2019, which adds to existing trade tensions and wariness from the western world. Victor’s outlook is one of realism. “We are surviving. We have seen a 20% decrease in sales in the past two years and we are at one-third of production compared to where we were during our best days. It has been a gradual decline though, not a sudden, catastrophic drop.” He sees this impacting all manufacturing companies in China. “More and more U.S. clients are leaving and, with the C+1 mandate, there is a gradual exodus of manufacturing from China to other South Asian countries.”  

Victor joined his father’s manufacturing company fourteen years ago. Their company is part of a much larger conglomerate, with factories across China and a new one in Indonesia. The company that Victor manages is in mainland China, about 25 km from Hong Kong. While Keurig coffee machines are one of their main products, they also work with other major brand names such as Hamilton-Beach and Cuisinart. 

Beginning in 2010, Victor started to move towards what he calls the ‘localization’ of management of the company. “In the 1980s, the company needed to bring in Hong Kong managers to run the plant as there was not that skill set in the local area. However, we have gradually shifted to utilizing local talent who now have the necessary skill sets and who know the environment better than those living in Hong Kong,” Victor noted. This has proven to be very fortuitous as Victor, who commuted regularly to the plant prior to the pandemic, has not left Hong Kong nor visited the factory since 2020. He manages all his work via daily Zoom calls with the managers on site.  

Most of the business can be managed relatively easily via Zoom, but when it comes to the engineering and technical side of production, it is much more complicated. This, in turn, creates a longer development time and adds to the challenges of trying to create and launch new products. Victor sees this drawn-out product life cycle impacting other sectors such as the electronics and automobile industries. He predicts that this, together with the current trade tensions and restrictions, will exasperate shortages that are already being felt around the world.  

Many things in Hong Kong have changed over the past few years and, as Victor notes, most of it is not pleasant. But he remains focused on the positives and the future. Due to lockdowns, international travel restrictions and the long quarantine requirements in Hong Kong, he has more quality time with his family. With the exodus of many foreigners from Hong Kong, a number of international schools have had to close, including his daughter’s school. He and his wife Gigi spent time researching options and are happy that their daughter Eunice is now enrolled in a school with a strong history and will be guaranteed a spot in secondary school.  

Looking for an outlet to relieve the stress of four lockdowns and the political and economic situation, Victor found a new passion in climbing. He credits his daughter with introducing him to this new sport.  

“I trained and was the belayer for Eunice when she started climbing. It got me interested in trying it too.” Now he cherishes their father-daughter time when they go climbing. “Every Sunday afternoon it’s just the two of us. We climb both indoors and outdoors, where it’s great to connect with and appreciate nature. I am so grateful for this time that I have with her as she is growing up quickly.” In addition to his Sunday climbing time, he will go out and climb three to four times a week! 

Victor, who attended Ridley from 1995–1998, says that his Ridley experience had a big impact on his life and how he viewed the world. “Ridley felt like a global village. There was so much diversity compared to Hong Kong. I met peers from all over the world. I learned first-hand about tolerance and inclusiveness, values that I think reflect Canada as a country.” Living as a boarder in Leonard House, Victor has fond memories from his time with fellow housemates. “Being a boarder away from one’s own family during the curious and rebellious teenage years, Leonard House became a second family to us. Living under the same roof, we created a real sense of togetherness. Over the past 20 years since I’ve graduated from Ridley, the closest friends/brothers around me are those whom I’ve known at Ridley, specifically my pals from Leonard House. They are the purest and most genuine friendships I have among all my friends.”  

The Ridley motto Terar Dum Prosim has resonated with Victor over the years. He said, “It reminds me of Winston Churchill’s words: ‘We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.’” Victor truly lives by those words and has been a long-time supporter of Ridley. In addition to his annual giving, Victor supplied each residence with new Keurig coffee machines and provided the Cadet Corps with new caps in honour of Ridley’s 125 Campaign and anniversary. He has supported the Chapel Restoration project, provided the funds for new Cadet swords and a mace and he has made a major donation to the Campaign for Ridley. Every time the Headmaster or Ridley Development staff travel to Hong Kong, Victor always finds the time to meet over a meal and is keen to hear news about the school. Ridley is very grateful to this loyal Ridleian for his continued interest and support from afar.  

What does the future look like for Victor? He anticipates that his father will retire in a few years and he also plans to retire at that time. His dream is to return to Canada with his family and to have his daughter Eunice attend Ridley. While he thinks of retirement, by no means is he about to stop working! He is keen to pursue new work and adventures that align with his values and passions – perhaps as a climbing coach or perhaps in establishing his own climbing gym. We look forward to following his future path and to welcoming him back home where lots of climbing opportunities are waiting for him! 


This article was printed in the latest issue of Tiger magazine. Learn about our alumni, get community updates and find out where Ridley is heading next! Read more from the Spring 2022 issue.

TransfORming Our Globe – Margaret Coons ‘08

For this month’s installment of the TransfORming Our Globe series, we’re sharing the story of alumna, Margaret Coons ‘08, who has developed a unique alternative to dairy cheese using cashew milk and is now selling her products throughout Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes.

Margaret began her Ridley career in 2006, as a Grade 11 student. Passionate about sports, she joined the harriers, rugby and swim team; enjoying the physical activity that was and is such a crucial part of a Ridley education. After graduating from Ridley in 2008, Margaret attended the University of Western Ontario and pursued a degree in English Language and Literature.

It was while she attended university that Margaret found a job that combined her love of cooking, vegetarianism, and acute business sense. She began work at a vegetarian restaurant in London, Ontario and quickly assumed the role of chef and restaurant manager.

“I had the opportunity to perform cooking demonstrations on the local television stations and at the annual ‘Veg Fest’… in London and over the years of working as a chef greatly enjoyed creating recipes and alternative versions of more conventionally available foods” – Margaret Coons ’08

The retirement of the restaurant owner and the imminent closing of the restaurant granted Margaret the opportunity to begin designs on owning and operating her own business. The result was Nuts For Cheese, a product-based food manufacturing company that makes artisan dairy free cheeses from cultured organic cashew milk. Margaret was making many of these cheeses for the restaurant and for her own enjoyment so, in May of 2015, she decided to open a farmers’ market booth in London to sell the five varieties of vegan cheese.

The demand for this cheesy alternative was high and Margaret soon found she was renting out kitchen space late at night to make cheese for the farmers’ market and the retail accounts she had accrued. From there, Margaret has grown her business to include its own manufacturing plant distributing to nearly 50 retail locations across the country. Margaret hopes to continue to grow Nuts For Cheese into a product that is available in specialty food shops across the country as well as show people just how delicious vegan cheeses can be.

Margaret says her time at Ridley taught her a lot about discipline and focus.

“The skills that running my own business requires are backed up by an ability to be dedicated to my work and passionate about what I put my time into.” – Margaret Coons ’08

Working with food and creating new recipes are Margaret’s favourite aspect of her career. Having been a vegetarian since age 12 and having always possessed a love of cooking, she feels this is the ideal career for her to channel those passions. Margaret also enjoys working as a business owner with her great team and connecting with the “supportive and inspiring” small business support network. Her love of great vegan alternatives continues to motivate her personally and professionally.

“Consumers of products like ours have for a long time been faced with the decision to purchase low quality alternatives, giving vegan food products a bad name, or to forgo consuming a certain type of food for a variety of ethical or health reasons. Making cheese products available to people who can’t or don’t eat dairy for whatever reason is very exciting for us.”                        – Margaret Coons ’08

Margaret’s advice to any young Ridleans about to explore their academic and/or professional careers is to throw yourself at whatever you’re doing without overthinking it too much. While she says her unique career in vegan cheese was “almost by accident”, the success she has enjoyed thus far was a result of passion and deliberate dedication to her project.


TransfORming Our Globe is a blog series where we share the exciting stories of alumni who are leading flourishing lives and changing the world. It is important to Ridley College to support our alumni and share the stories of Old Ridleians, who discovered their passion and found success and happiness down the path of their choosing.

Do you know of any classmates that are living flourishing lives or transforming our globe? Email any suggestions for the TransfORming Our Globe blog series to development@ridleycollege.com.

Ridleians are Inspired at Born to Lead Conference

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”

– Jack Welch

Ridley strives to instill, in each student, the confidence to passion and the resiliency needed to overcome obstacles and forge onwards with determination. Students are encouraged to accept new challenges, risk failure and develop grit. We hope that with these skills, our Ridleians will go on to lead flourishing lives.

On April 18th, 2016, four Ridleians and their chaperone, Ms. Wendy Pak, spent the day among empowering women at the Born to Lead Youth Leadership Conference (Born to Lead or B2L Conference). While at the conference, these students were motivated to pursue their goals and were given the tools needed to achieve and succeed in their post-secondary careers. Closely aligning with Ridley’s values, this event would show our students that with determination comes success. Sandy Chen, Aribi Iwo-Brown, Lotus Liu and Helen Wang are all International Baccalaureate One (IB1) students, and were keen to attend the conference.

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“It [was] a great opportunity for our aspiring female business entrepreneurs to learn from women leaders in the business.”

– Ms. Wendy Pak

Born to Lead presents an opportunity for young women to explore the possibilities that await them in the world of business. Geared towards emerging leaders and entrepreneurs, attendees can participate in an array of workshops. Some of which focus on leadership and personal development, and some that provide insight on potential career paths. These young leaders also have the chance to interact with delegates from the Women in Leadership and Business Conference and listen to an inspiring keynote address.

This year’s keynote speaker was six-time Olympic medalist and mental health advocate, Clara Hughes. Clara shared her story; from her time as an high-performance athlete, to her struggles with mental health. Although the Ridleians in attendance had never heard Clara’s story, her moving journey impacted them greatly.

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“I really liked Clara Hughes’s speech. She [taught] us that women should stand up, be strong and keep going. I really enjoyed my time at the conference.”

– Lotus Liu ‘17

In the afternoon, our Ridleians sat down with some of the delegates from the Women in Leadership and Business Conference. This session, titled “Perspectives”, was meant to bridge the gap between different age groups and career stages. Students who are just discovering the world of business and leadership were able to discuss topics (such as generation stereotypes and workplace projects) with established professionals. It was an opportunity for both groups to gain insight and inspiration from one another.

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“One thing I learned at the conference is ‘you are the only one who can determine your limits.’ So, never stop; keep pursuing.”

– Helen Wang ‘17

The Born to Lead conference was a place to discover the opportunities that await those who are willing to work to reach their dreams.

“We got to meet some amazing, accomplished and inspiring people like Clara Hughes. We learned so much about our next steps which we didn’t already know. It was such an enlightening opportunity.”

– Aribi Iwo-Brown ‘17

Ridley is proud to be a co-educational school, with 47% of our student population made up of females. With our student-led groups such as Positive Space and Days for Girls our students can be a part of the global conversation about gender equality. With events such as Born to Lead, our students can discover the importance of resiliency, grit, determination and confidence.

As the annual Born to Lead Youth Leadership Conference came to a close, our Ridleians left feeling more confident and motivated to pursue a career in business. We hope that they keep this experience and the lessons they learned with them as they travel down their career paths.