Jonny Rees

For­mer rugby player turned life­style-cafe owner

Prestige Hong Kong - 40 under 40 - - Contents -

You’d think that af­ter ca­reer-shat­ter­ing sports in­juries, you’d find Jonny Rees glum on the side­lines, but that spirit of get­ting up af­ter a fall persists with the for­mer ace rugby player. “Since we last met, I was forced to re­tire from in­ter­na­tional rugby by a per­sis­tent knee in­jury [and six op­er­a­tions]. This gave me time to fo­cus on my pas­sions — healthy liv­ing and grow­ing my busi­ness,” says Rees, with­out a hint of re­morse. “I started off by set­ting up an events-based smoothie com­pany in 2016 called Blended. Af­ter a very suc­cess­ful year of back-to-back events, I paired the smooth­ies with cof­fee and founded Blend & Grind in 2017. I opened two lo­ca­tions in Cen­tral within 10 months (Mid-lev­els and the Har­bourfront un­der the AIA Ob­ser­va­tion Wheel), and have an­other in the works to come in the first quar­ter of 2019.”

Through a lot of hard work, long hours and an un­der­stand­ing of what cus­tomers want, what started as a one-man band has quickly grown to a team of 15. Fast for­ward to 2018, and Rees has ac­quired R&R Bagels (in Cen­tral) and ex­pan­sion plans are in place to open a sec­ond venue in Quarry Bay in March 2019. Merg­ers and ac­qui­si­tions, launches and ex­pan­sions — how his life has changed since we first fea­tured him four years ago in Pres­tige, on the pitch in Happy Val­ley. He’s still com­pet­ing, but on a dif­fer­ent field — with suc­cess­ful brands that have been long es­tab­lished in the city and with Go­liath global chains. “You’re al­ways aware of what’s around you and you’d be a fool to ig­nore it. How I’ve worked is to draw in­spi­ra­tion from these suc­cess sto­ries, and I cre­ate and cu­rate prod­ucts that I feel would ben­e­fit my cus­tomers the most.”

Is he still play­ing rugby? “Rugby is still a large part of my life, and I en­joy push­ing the boys by join­ing in on some of the bru­tal fit­ness ses­sions. A bal­anced and healthy well-be­ing both phys­i­cally and men­tally is a huge part of my life­style and daily rou­tine. I set my­self a goal of work­ing out at least four times a week, where I com­bine strength and con­di­tion­ing with car­dio and re­hab for my var­i­ous in­juries.”

Sports­man, busi­ness­man, en­tre­pre­neur — what’s the hat he has on now? “All three — and they say men can’t mul­ti­task!”

“You’re al­ways aware of what com­pe­ti­tion is around you and you’d be a fool to ig­nore it”

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