Ailing mother inspires sisters to launch wellness and fitness start-up for over 50s

7 min read
Ler Ka Leng

This article was first published on South China Morning Post (Morning Studio) on 22 October 2021.

Coco Wong (left) has launched Hong Kong wellness and fitness start-up, 50+ Exercise Buddy, with her sister Zan. Photo: Man Tam
  • First-time entrepreneurs Coco and Zan Wong realise need to help elderly stay healthy after their dance-loving parent’s sudden physical decline
  • Sisters turn to cloud services platform GoDaddy to launch 50+ Exercise Buddy’s website to help ageing population exercise regularly and eat well

The late mother of Coco Wong and her younger sister, Zan, enjoyed dancing as part of an independent, active lifestyle until old age suddenly caught up with her. Almost overnight she went into a sharp decline.

“Her physical strength decelerated quickly, followed immediately by her mood, and not long after, she became withdrawn and would stay in bed all day long – it was sad,” Coco, 57, says.

The rapid change motivated Coco and Zan, 53, to launch their Hong Kong wellness and fitness start-up, 50+ Exercise Buddy, this month. It offers tailor-made exercise programmes and diet tips for people aged 50 and over so they can continue to live healthily and meaningfully as they grow older.

Coco Wong - Founder of 50+ Exercise Buddy in Hong Kong
Coco Wong, co-founder of 50+ Exercise Buddy, believes the new start-up can help Hong Kong's older population stay active and healthy through customised exercise programmes and diet tips. Photo: Man Tam

“It is very important to keep one‘s mobility and adapt to a healthier lifestyle, especially when you get older or more mature, so that you can enjoy your third act of life to the fullest,” Coco says.

The start-up’s target audience may sound like a niche market, but official data shows that the number of elderly Hong Kong residents aged 65 and over is expected to nearly double over the next 20 years.

By 2039, about 2.52 million Hongkongers – a third of the population – will have reached retirement-age, the city’s Census and Statistics Department says. This older demographic offers huge potential for the expansion of the Wongs’ business.

The company’s approach combines nutritional suggestions with personal training workouts, including stretching, resistance training, the martial art of tai chi for beginners, and wellness exercises such as myofascial relaxation – all activities Coco enjoys herself and recommends.

Zan, 53, practises healthy eating and managed to lose 18 pounds (8kg) in only four months by following a series of tried and tested recipes, which she plans to share with people on their website.

“We want to listen to the client’s expectations, goals and interests before designing a programme that’s tailor-made for them,” Coco says. “Throughout the process, we will monitor and adjust so that they can see their progress.”

Taking the leap online

The former management executive at a property developer has put her corporate career on hold to pursue her interest in fitness, and has even acquired a degree and specialist qualifications in fitness and sports coaching.

Zan, who has been working in advertising and marketing communications for the past 20 years, oversees 50+ Exercise Buddy‘s digital operations. “I am the technical support, marketing support – and any other support you need,” she says.

In the early days of their business, Coco was recruiting clients either through referrals or simply word of mouth. But for the business to really expand, the Wong sisters knew they had to reach a broader audience, which meant they needed a dedicated website and social media presence.

To reach a broader audience, Coco and Zan Wong knew that their business needed a dedicated website and social media presence, so they turned to GoDaddy for help. Photo: Man Tam

They approached GoDaddy, one of the world’s largest cloud services platforms for entrepreneurs, with its team of passionate technical support staff, known as GoDaddy Guides. It has assisted them throughout their “go online” journey, including helping to brainstorm domain-name ideas, set up the website and quickly solve technical issues when they occurred.

“I always thought building a website was going to be complicated; it sounded like a nightmare,” Coco says. “But after a demonstration by GoDaddy, I realised the process is very friendly and the services are easy to use.”

Zan agrees, and says they were able to set up the website “after just a few clicks”.

The Wongs’ experience is similar to GoDaddy’s business ethos, which suggests: “Building an online presence is basically building a business card online for new entrepreneurs. It doesn’t have to be complicated.”

Overcoming digital hurdles

One of the initial challenges facing the Wong sisters was choosing a domain name for the website. “I am not a very technical person so I always thought a domain name needs a .com or .country or .org, and when I did an online search, everything I wanted was already taken,” Coco says. She and her sister came up with after several brainstorming sessions with GoDaddy Guides.

Despite her earlier digital experience, Zan is used to working with a bigger team of people, where everyone has a specific role to play, so it has been a challenge for her as an entrepreneur to be juggling a number of different roles.

Coco Wong’s goal for 50+ Exercise Buddy is to develop a community of like-minded fitness enthusiasts among people aged 50 and over so they continue to be healthy in old age. Photo: Man Tam

“We were working day and night on launching our website,” she says, adding that their other struggles have included choosing the right design template and producing professional-standard photos and videos to make their website both attractive and engaging.

The sisters say that being able to contact a GoDaddy guide whenever they face a new hurdle has proved very helpful. On one occasion they lost all their data while working on the website, but a guide helped them to restore everything.

The Wongs’ long-term goal is to build a community of like-minded fitness enthusiasts.

“My dream is for to become a platform for those who share my vision, so we can train more people, do community service and help more people,” Coco says. “If Hong Kong’s 50-plus population is indeed growing, we will need a lot of exercise buddies.”

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