This article originally appeared in News at Northeastern. It was written by Irvin Zhang.
When Jason Yau returned to his hometown of Hong Kong in 2017, he was frustrated. After spending 10 years studying in the United Kingdom and the United States, he noticed how brand-conscious young people in the city had become. There was a perception that local brands were cheap and of low quality.
So he set out to change that.
In the two years since, Yau founded and profited with Zyphr, a company that sells high-quality sportswear made of light and sweat-resistant fabrics that help people reach their peak performance in the gym and on the playing field.
“With athletes, feeling is everything. I want it so that when you put on our products, you aren’t worried about anything other than performing to your best ability,” says Yau, who graduated from Northeastern in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree from the D’Amore-McKim School of Business. “In terms of vision, we are looking to develop fabrics that aren’t in the market or develop features that will make athletes look good and feel good.”
Yau is proud that he built Zyphr in his city to compete with international giants in athletic wear, such as Nike and Adidas.
“I want to be the first homegrown brand that can match the quality of the big brands,” Yau says. “I want to expand throughout the city because I’ve always felt there to be a gap in the market. The vision for me is to build a brand from Hong Kong that could be the next Nike.”
To help him get the word out, Yau works with several prominent Hong Kong athletes, including Olympic swimmer Camille Cheng, who competed for Hong Kong in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Russell Webb, who plays rugby professionally (pictured above).
When Yau launched the company in January 2018, he was managing everything by himself, from fabric processing to marketing and distribution. Now he employs a team of five that helps him design, market, and sell products online and in 14 retail locations. Yau says he wants to spread Zyphr throughout the city before eventually making a “global push.”
Yau is a member of Northeastern’s Young Global Leaders program, which comprises more than 100 recent graduates who advise university leadership and help to strengthen Northeastern’s network of international alumni. He credits his entrepreneurial drive to experiences he’s had at Northeastern, including his co-op at Reebok and the conversations he had at the Young Global Leaders Summit in Shanghai in 2019.
“The amount of knowledge I was able to pull was incredible,” Yau says. “Finding like-minded individuals from Northeastern as well, the connections have been long-lasting. Most importantly, it was the mindset and mentorship that they provided me. It wasn’t so much about what they could contribute to my business but more what the mindset is to be a successful entrepreneur.”