What Matters To Me: Vanessa Cheung
Nan Fung’s Vanessa Cheung, the driving force behind The Mills, on CrossFit and the power of community
In the What Matters To Me series, a Generation T honouree describes what they do, why they do it, and why it matters.
It doesn’t seem like there are enough hours in the day for Vanessa Cheung to achieve all that she does, yet somehow she keeps adding to her list of accomplishments. With a bachelor’s degree in biology—she initially wanted to be a vet—and a master’s in landscape architecture, it was nevertheless expected that she would eventually join the family property development business, Nan Fung. When she did, it was to shake it up by spearheading one of Hong Kong’s largest private revitalisation projects, The Mills.
Outside work, Vanessa discovered CrossFit. Hooked on the benefits of leading a more active life, she became co-owner of CrossFit Asphodel, founded coconut-based drinks company Quo and established a community health initiative, the Keep Moving Project. Here, Vanessa introduces the various aspects of her work in her own words.
Being active is one of the things that keeps my mind clear. It also means I can set goals and accomplish things outside work. It’s a non-negotiable part of every day.
CrossFit is an empowering sport. The community is supportive and caring, no matter your background or profession, and everyone has a common goal. There’s also always something to learn and to improve on.
Bringing achievable wellness habits to the daily lives of Hong Kong people was my husband’s and my goal in setting up the Keep Moving Project. Through it, we work on corporate wellness programmes, from nutrition and fitness to team building and mental health; and with schools, training PE teachers to better engage children or to provide more PE-related extra-curricular activities. Both arms are taking off, so we are quite excited.
Nan Fung’s former textile mills presented a huge opportunity. When I joined the family business I soon discovered that mills 4, 5 and 6 were still in existence but were used as warehouse space, which I thought was such a waste, particularly given this was where the company started. I wanted to turn them into a textile museum but there needed to be more to it, and so we put in a more forward-thinking component, Mills Fabrica, the incubator, and inserted a retail component, and all three combined became what The Mills is today.
It’s important not to be afraid to reach out to lots of people and talk about an idea. The more you talk about it and ask questions, the stronger your project and your ideas become.
Community is important. In Tsuen Wan there is a strong connection to the textile industry, so we wanted to make The Mills a meaningful space and part of the community. It’s for people of all generations. For older people who experienced the textile industry at its height, there’s lots of sentimental value in it, while younger people can learn how the industry propelled Hong Kong to where it is today and be inspired to realise their own passions.