Anna Cen is the founder and CEO of HYC Design Inc., one of Canada’s leading hospitality supply businesses. On top of providing hotels, motels, and other clients with high-quality linens and other supplies, Anna and her team also deliver custom design solutions that make their client’s rooms truly stand out to be remembered by guests.
Due to the impact of the COVID pandemic, Anna’s hospitality supply chain business has suffered in turn since there is far less activity in hotels/motels etc. Luckily, Anna has cleverly pivoted to providing PPE gear for hospitality businesses alongside her regular services so that her business can be a part of fighting the pandemic and getting things back to normal as soon as possible.
On a warm sunny day, I had a pleasure discussing with Anna how her passion led to success in the past 20 years. Below were our conversations:
Hi Anna, what’s your background with hospitality and how did it lead to starting HYC Design?
Before moving to Canada over 20 years ago, I used to own a small boutique fashion store where I designed and sold fashionable clothes. As a newcomer in Canada, I started humbly working as a store clerk and a restaurant waitress. Following my passion for hospitality, I worked in a downtown Toronto hotel for the next 10 years before changing my career to an import business. After 3 years of working for others, I founded HYC Design Inc to connect with hotels and provided custom design and supplies. I was always proud to help my clients achieve their goals and to grow together.
What was the biggest challenge you faced when you were first establishing the business?
The biggest challenge I had was a shortage of starting capital and credibility to new clients. I started small by importing custom cotton pool towels to supply to my first few hotel clients and their business associates. Fortunately, this product was very successful – because of the high-quality yarn, unique color design, and supreme workmanship, all at a very low price.
From there, I managed to supply the waterproof bed bug protectors, with some hotels still using them after 10 years. We have had customers called us to buy the pillows and other products from the hotels they stayed in. These requests for supplying more customized hotel products have multiplied since.
What kind of products do you design for your clients?
We take custom orders for all hospitality goods. From pool and bath towels, linens, mattress protectors, pillows, and duvet inserts, to décor bedding and draperies, we cover all customized textile products for hotels and motels.
In the past 5 years, we have developed new customization products of banquet tablecloths, dishes, furniture, light fixtures, cordless vacuum, floor scrubbers, and airport trollies/luggage carts. Since the pandemic, we have launched a quality-forward response with The Care Kit, a string of PPE products for our clients, which follow the Health Canada requirements.
What is your process for working with a new client and ensuring your designs meet their vision?
From my many years of experience working in the hospitality sector, I often think from the customer’s standpoint under every situation. This helps me understand my client’s demands and provide proper suggestions and solutions. The process usually starts with an initial meeting to understand the purpose and scope of the project. I will take notes of the property, do research, and visit the site, then collect and analyze the feedback from the suggestions. Next, I am working on the design solution and quotation. We will arrange an agreement on terms, and start fabrication immediately thereafter as per the agreement.
To ensure our projects completely meet our client’s expectations, we work with our clients from the beginning to when the products being delivered by following our unique HYC Design’ Six Checkpoints of Success:
- Specification – knowing each hotel standard requirement,
- Design – keep in-mind of what the client wants and enhance it,
- Quality – products are long-lasting for commercial use,
- Cost – under budget,
- Delivery – within the agreed schedule,
- Customer Service – follow up, ask for feedback and provide support.
Are there businesses other than hotels who purchase your linens/custom designs/PPE?
Yes. We provide customized products and recently added hospitality PPE during the pandemic to fight COVID-19 together. From the beginning of my very first hotel customer 12 years ago, today I have a team of professionals working together and serving over 400 businesses.
Besides our hotel clients, we also supply offices, healthcare, spas, retirement and old-age homes, university campus, schools, Airbnb, cottages, motels, shelters, and vacation homes.
Other than selling PPE, how has the pandemic affected the demand on your products/services?
It has been very challenging since the beginning of this year. Many customers canceled their orders despite the fact that their projects have already been discussed for months. Other than PPE supply, there is currently little demand for our products and services due to high vacancy rates. The hotel business has been hurt so much, and many hotel clients are cutting the budget to save cost.
Are you currently offering any special promotions?
Yes, we offer special promotions on our bestselling PREMIUM series towels, 3D Waffle design décor top sheets, and the disinfectant fog sprayer, as well as the 75% alcohol wipes specially designed for the hotel guests.
Thanks to Anna for answering my questions. I sincerely hope that her business will be able to ride out the pandemic and enjoy a surge in interest from the hospitality industry once travel restrictions are lifted. You can follow up with Anna Cen at www.hycdesign.com or connect via LinkedIn