Alexandra Mount likes to keep things interesting. Looking at her career path, you’d say it’s pretty unconventional - meeting future employees on hikes, through friends at dinner parties and by chance meetings with old friends on the side of the road. Now working at GuavaPass Hong Kong, Alex sat down to chat with us about how she ended up in Hong Kong, her broad range of roles and her love of fitness.
Name: Alexandra Mount
Occupation: Business Development and Studio Director for GuavaPass Hong Kong
Hometown: Born in Hong Kong, grew up in Sydney
Current residence: Hong Kong, 8 years
Secret Skill: Frog jump up stairs! It's from a Balinese dance but I can’t find a video demonstration!
How did you come to live in HK and what was your mindset at the time of the move?
I was 25, working in sales and marketing in Sydney for Mirvac, a big developer. It was during the financial crisis and every couple of days someone was getting laid off and I was sitting at my desk with nothing to do, trying to make myself look busy. I got to the point where I thought I should just quit and go travelling. I’d been on a cruise around Europe earlier that year which triggered the idea to go travelling so I quit my job and came to Hong Kong. My mum lives here so I thought I would use Hong Kong as my base and travel around Asia and Europe for 3-6 months. I still had stuff in Sydney, I’d left my car with a friend, had lots of boxes, but 6 months came around and I wasn’t ready to leave, my mum suggested I stay for the year and give Hong Kong a real go. After a year I still wanted to stay longer and it’s been 8 years now! It was never the intention to move here but I love it.
What were you doing here when you first moved?
I was working part-time as a kind of hostess at my Mum’s restaurant in Causeway Bay when I made the official move, then I moved into styling, working for Tina Leung, who is a really big style icon now. I got that job through a girl I met at a family friend's Birthday dinner who knew Tina was looking for an assistant so she put my name forward, we met, hit it off and I got the job. In the year and a half I worked for her, we did all sorts of stuff from Coca-Cola campaigns to a 2-week Cathay Pacific job where I was at the airport everyday, plus lots of editorial shoots for magazines like Prestige. It was fun but I guess I learnt it’s not as glamorous as it sounds. Clients wanted so much for such little budgets and expect you to have wardrobes full of stuff but it’s really not like that. I then got forwarded an email from another friend who was looking for a marketing manager/studio manager so I moved from fashion styling to working for a local fashion designer Susanna Soo (S.Nine by Susanna Soo), she does a lot of custom made red carpet gowns for local celebrities, a ready to wear collection, and has done a lot of wedding gowns as well. I was with her for just over a year and a half and then I quit and had a three-month break after that.
After that break what did you do?
I was on my way driving up to Shenzhen one day and on the side of the road I saw a one of my childhood friends so I of course wound down the window, said hello. We messaged a bit after that and it came up that I’d left my job and she said she was looking for someone desperately for a role. She is the daughter of Sir David Tang owner of Tang Tang Tang Tang (and formerly creator of Shanghai Tang but he sold it). I went in for an interview as marketing manager and got the job the next week. I worked there for a year and a half doing events, collaborations with different brands, PR and photoshoots etc.
Would you go back into fashion?
I liked it but wouldn’t go back. It’s so much pressure you know, you’ve got constant deadlines for each season, I was doing fashion shows which I had never done before and there was just so much to think about and so much room for error. I was thrown into the deep end but I really did learn a heap from both fashion jobs so that was really good.
Can you describe how you got into GuavaPass and your current role now?
While I was still working at Tang Tang Tang Tang I went on a Hike one weekend and happened to meet the co-founder of GuavaPass, Rob, who came along with one of my friends. He was telling me about the company and I’d told him I’d heard of the concept before and was really interested in it, I was looking to change jobs and I love health and fitness, so he suggested I come in for a meeting with the GM of Hong Kong as they were just starting out here and looking for people. I met with Toni, my now boss, about a week later and eventually quit Tang Tang Tang Tang and moved to GuavaPass where I’ve been for over a year and a half now and it’s going really well!
My exact title is Business Development and Studio Director but because we are a start up we do a bit of everything so I am sometimes the Studio Happiness Manager, I look after customer relations, studio relations, put together events and campaigns etc.
What exactly is a studio happiness manager?
We make sure all the studios are happy and make sure we look after their needs. We have a studio happiness director based in Singapore and each week all the SHMs get on a call lead by the director; we discuss all sorts of things like sneaky members and different issues.
What do you love about your job and what are some things you have challenging about your role?
It was very stressful at the beginning when we first launched in Hong Kong - it was a ton of admin work, trying to launch studios, do marketing, everything at once! There were stages I didn’t think I could do it anymore, it was intense, but I am really glad I stuck it out. There were long hours, feeling like I couldn’t ever step away. Wake up, work, go home, eat, work, sleep, repeat. I think the challenge was that we were one of the first cities to launch. Singapore launched first and about 2 months later we launched on the same day as Bangkok but really we didn’t have a lot of example to go by because it was still quite new. Now we have GuavaPass in 10 locations so it’s easier to launch a new city now.
As someone who’s a member of Guava Pass and loves it, I’m interested in your take on the whole ‘sharing’ concept which has taken over in the last 5 or so years. From Uber to Air BnB, how do you see the sharing concept developing in the fitness world and how do you see the future of gyms headed?
From speaking to so many different people, friends, GuavaPass members, non-members, people actually love routine so this whole sharing concept is great for some people but others just don’t like it. There will always be a market for the typical large chain gyms. People who also aren’t as tech savvy are less likely to get on board. It works really well in Hong Kong though because of how small we are geographically. It’s fun to try new things and I find going to the same class/gym gets really repetitive and boring, you’re not pushing yourself, you’re not trying new things so it works for people like me who like variety.
We were in Australia, Sydney and Melbourne, as well but we shut down a year ago and our competitor also shut down there recently too. I think in a place like Australia, where Australians are so into fitness, people were overusing the ‘sharing’ system in single areas which was hard on the kind of setup a company like us has. I also think the cities are so spread out in Australia unlike Hong Kong, so it’s harder for people to travel between suburbs for classes and there aren't as many options in one area there. Compare that to Hong Kong where you virtually never have to leave Central or Sheung Wan and you get tons of classes!
I find it interesting people don’t like the concept for the routine factor because I find I get a lot of routine with GuavaPass. If I was doing the same class twice a week every week I’d be so bored!
That’s exactly what I try and tell people! People need to get out of the ‘I love routine’ mindset and once they realise that you can actually have routine by doing different classes week to week. I have routine, I still go to my favourite 5-6 studios and do the classes I love each week. There is enough available so that you can do a class every week at your favourite places and there is bound to be one week a month you might not be able to make that class anyway, whether work related or on holidays.
What are some of your favourite ‘free’ fitness activities in HK?
I love Hiking and I love exploring. I think Hong Kong just has so much to offer. People think it’s this crazy city, super hectic, and then you tell them that Hong Kong is actually made up of 70% green space and they are shocked. I’ll post a photo of a beach in Sai Kung and people think I’m on holidays again but I’m actually just in Hong Kong. There is always more to explore for example this Sunday I’m headed out on a boat with some friends to visit ‘Ghost’ Island (Yim Tin Tsai) which is an island with 2000+ years of history, about 30 years ago the residents slowly started to move to Kowloon/HK Island and now it’s mostly deserted but all the structures are still there and they have resorted the church and old salt pans. I live just near a heap of hiking trails and have three dogs who love to come hiking with us so I try get out a couple of times a week. I’ve recently discovered a cool trail close by which has a beautiful creek, small waterfalls and rock pools and no one seems to really know about it. Hong Kong is full of places like that. Lots to explore!
What in store for your 2017?
I’m getting married!! It will be a cliff side wedding in Uluwatu Bali. I’m working on the invites at the moment and have a lot to plan still.
Lots of travel plans! I have Dubai for CNY, the Wonderfruit festival in Pattaya, Shanghai for a visit to see my friend’s new baby, Sydney for my Dad’s 70th and a road trip around Taiwan - and all this before June!
Thinking about joining Guava Pass? You can use the code ALEXGUAVA for $200 off your first month.