Ada Yip

Shifting Consumers Off Plastic - Ada Yip, Urban Spring | Entrepreneur For Good

As the world may be finally waking up to the challenge that plastic is presenting out environment, and for many, the plastic beverage bottle is one of the products that is front and center.

In Hong Kong though, the people at Urban Spring think they have a solution that will help reduce the number of plastic bottles that the city is sending to landfill. Something that over the last two months has grown more urgent as China has closed its borders to waste imports.

To learn more about their mission, and how they are attacking the challenge of getting consumers to act more responsibly, I spoke with their CEO Ada Yip to learn more.


This interview is about solving one of the biggest problems we face through sustainable consumer change.


About the Entrepreneurs For Good Series

Through this series, we speak with Asia based entrepreneurs whose mission it is to bring solutions to the environmental, social, and economic challenges that are faced within the region to learn more about their vision, the opportunities they see, and challenges that they have had to overcome.

It is a series that we hope will not only engage and inspire you, but catalyze you and your organizations into action. To identify a challenge that is tangible, and build a business model (profit or non) that brings a solution to the market.


About Ada

Ada is the Executive Director at Urban Spring, a purpose-driven start-up with a mission to reduce the consumption of single-use plastic in Hong Kong through the provision of safe and modern water drinking experience.

Ada is also a co-founder of 43 Ventures which invests financial and human capital in innovative social start-ups.

Follow Ada and Urban Spring
Website: http://www.urbanspring.hk/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ada.yip.18
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ada-yip-hongkong


About Rich

Driven by the belief that change begins with a single step, Richard Brubaker has spent the last 15 years in Asia working to engage, inspire, and equip those around him to take their first step. Acting as a catalyst to driving sustainability, Brubaker works with government, corporate, academic and non-profit stakeholders to bring together knowledge, teams, and tools that develop and execute their business case for sustainability.

Follow Rich
Website: http://www.richbrubaker.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rich.brubaker
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/richbrubaker
Snapchat: http://snapchat.com/add/richbrubaker
Instagram: https://instagram.com/richbrubaker
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/richbrubaker

Contact Rich
social@richbrubaker.com


Full Interview Transcript

RICH: Welcome back everyone. Thank you for joining. We are here with Ada Yip who is with Urban Spring and we are standing in front of their Well product, which is just going out to the market. We're here to talk to day about social entrepreneurship, building a project that changes mindsets and really just maintaining a positive attitude as your building your enterprise going forward. So we hope you enjoy this episode, if you do please like, share and comment.

BACKGROUND

RICH: So do me a favor and give us an introduction about yourself and about Well.

ADA YIP: So I'm born and brought up in Hong Kong. So home grown sort of Asian girl and you know I've been in actually in a corporate world for more than 15 years. The four years ago I decided that I want to explore social entrepreneurship and got to network with a lot of people you know, meet the fonder of Urban Strain, which Well is our first product. That's how I got into you know starting to work with the company two years ago and develop the product. Well is basically a new design water station, which we hope that people would refill. You know, really develop, redevelop that trust with drinking water outside home and offices. So the mission really is to reduce consumption of single use plastic bottles. We want to provide that alternative.

RICH: So you're trying to basically get rid of the plastic bottle at the end of the day.

ADA YIP: I hope so.

THE PLASTIC PROBLEM

RICH: Why is that a problem? I think we've all seen on the news, in the oceans, but is there a particular problem with plastic and single use plastic in Hong Kong itself?

ADA YIP: Every single day we've got 5 million tons of plastic waste just a day in Hong Kong. Majority of those are actually plastic bottles. The majority of the plastic bottle is actually water bottles so that's why were' coming from so it's really a huge problem and we're just talking about Hong Kong. As far as I know, all the major cities in the world each year is a double digit increase in bottle sales.

RICH: Now I kind of think like when it comes to these issues, we've had NGOs for years tell us that we should reduce, reuse, recycle that we should bring our own bottles, things like that. It hasn't worked. I mean, honestly, we're still using more and more plastic every day. How is your approach different? I mean you're using your building product, you're bringing a business solution, how is this different than just pure advocating? How do you think this might change the market?

ADA YIP: I think you know Richard, you hit the point. I mean, we are providing a product i.e. an alternative. So I think that nonprofit world actually has done a fantastic job basically educating and bringing that awareness in the past you know decade actually. But bringing you the bulk bottle, it helps, but then if I'm really thirsty in the middle of Causeway Bay or Central, I cannot find water I cannot refill. I'm really thirsty. I have to go into convenience store and supermarket and buy.

Today I am offering an alternative, i.e. if you bring your own bottle, or if you buy your first disposable of the day, you can actually go and refill as opposed to buy another one. You know, if no more like in a really hot day, people buy 2 or 3 but ends up only buy one for laze people that don't bring their own bottles, we're already saving a lot. So I think having that alternative giving people that choice is important. So I think we worked, I see it as a collaboration with the charities basically did they very good with advocating working with the government on communication and education and we focus on the product and work with them on that communication and awareness and all that.

More importantly I think what we try to do its really bring the product. i.e not everyone is environmentally friendly, but every one wants to look cool. Everyone has got an attitude how they want to live a sustainable life and we hope to provide that option.

MARKETING THE IDEA

RICH: How do you change the mindsets? I mean you know we talked about, I was actually kind of thinking I've started carrying my own hot and cold bottles now. I'll go to Starbucks with one if I want a hot or cold coffee. How do you get people to think that this is cool? Because eventually, even not just cool, like I'm not going to embarrassed by carrying this bottle around with me to a meeting. How....is that because you like try different bottles, you try different cups? But at some point you still have to carry the thing around, so how do you help people just realize that it's ok to carry this around?

ADA YIP: I mean as you say the toughest is actually not the product all those were quite painful to do product development. The toughest thing for our business is changing peoples behavior you know to a point about actually carrying a bottle. So I think a couple of things I think one is from a sort of branding perspective and how we position ourselves. I'm not fighting against convenience. You know because whether its Hong Kong or some other country, buying and dumping more recycling it's so easy.

So I think it's about how carrying that bottle or cup, it's basically a reflection of who you are. A lot of consumer brands are actually doing that. So, if people feel that you know a gentleman with a suit on for you that they are kind of cool carrying you know that chain store cup, you know around and you know almost a display of their way of life having that morning coffee. Why would they not feel that if I portrayed also saved with a certain image.

It's very tricky. But, I think the younger generation definitely have already bought into the idea. So, I think it's how good the infrastructure.

EARLY ADOPTERS

RICH: Who's the easiest to turn over right now for you? Do you just focus on them only and then work on the harder people later or do you invest into the people because the return is so much greater later? Like upfront it's more difficult. How do you make that decision?

ADA YIP: You know its tricky. I would say the early adopters would be the younger people and the people who are doing sports. People already carrying the bottle. Almost I'm basically providing the convenience for them. Then for corporate, that's also who I want to target, but probably the corporate who want to get consumers or want to be in line with the younger people sporting people. So that would be my early adopters and then I move on to the semi convert and then the hardest one ya know they were further down the line. I think just like any products, I can't aim on day one to the selling and basically influence in every single person. So I think it's really up to us with the resources that we have, how do you strategize and work with different parties to make a bigger impact and they're showing maybe a long time.

FUNDING SOURCES

RICH: Who's going to pay for this at the end of the day? Because you walk up...do you walk up, pay for this with your phone? Like how does this work?

ADA YIP: So today, its paid by the venue that holds. So for example the shopping center they see it as part of customer service. For schools it's part of the facilities. Later on we would develop which to reach the payment feature because as we roll out to more space I can imagine there would be a common shop that cannot basically provide this for free to use it. But I do you know if this is a good replacement of them selling bottled water, they were great they don't have to keep inventory, you know soo ..

RICH: So they can sell this.

ADA YIP: Yeah so they can sell basically per refill. So you know so they're different payment models. This early stage we're lucky to be working with people who would be basically hosting as a subscription. We trying not to sell the product the reason so that like a photocopy machine. That we are, we can maintain the brand basically do our own servicing, make sure everything is good system and standard servicing.

DEFINING SUCCESS

RICH: So appear to look out say 5 years from now, what do you want your kep metrics of success? So if you look back and you say we succeeded, what would success be for you? The number of bottles? What's....

ADA YIP: I think the answer is I see situations where people are competing, how good looking the water bottles are. Or people you know in a group of friends, someone being you know making a comment say what are you doing with a disposable? That will be a scenario that I would like to see if that's the sort of part of a movement that we are part of. I will be really excited.

Obviously is from business perspective and the traditional matrix will be around how many of this get installed. To me, I think the behavior and how people see disposable, how people are embracing news, it is probably more satisfying. But from you know obviously form the financial standpoint, it would be basically how many of these get in stores and also not just number of installation, but that how many get saved. How many water get dispensed as opposed to you know what if you consume through the plastic bottle.

EXPECTATIONS vs. REALITY

RICH: So actually I want to change here a little bit. You come from the business background, you came into the social entrepreneur background, or social inner space, what did you think about social entrepreneurship before you got into it? What do you think about it now?

ADA YIP: It was more out of interest. How does that work? I think that I'm still very positive about that. I mean I hope one day no one talks about social entrepreneurship because there is just entrepreneurs and that's it right? So and I think the interesting thing is although we have gone up sort of that, this field called social entrepreneurship, but actually people who are in it a lot of them are not really believing in it. i.e. they still not just struggling with the business and the social impact, but really you know they don't believe in it and the sense that they are still running it like a nonprofit.

So I think there's still a long way to go although I'm on the positive side. How we set up not the majority i.e. we are set up as a limited company by shares. We are very, we believe in actually not distributing, not limiting the distribution of profit like some ____________(11:51). Because we truly believe we can, you know we can have a sustainable business and attracting the right investors in. You know we don't' have to set up a particular way so that people feel that wall is doing good some money is set aside to do it like that. It's just this is the way we believe this is the reason we set up the company is because of that social mention and that's it. Obviously governance, operation it needs haltering. It all needs to support that, but it doesn't need to be restricted by certain financials.

IT's JUST BUSINESS

RICH: Especially when you would have been starting this, there was still a premium to be called a social entrepreneur. That was actually an attractive feature, but what you're saying is you're actually flipping it. You see more the value and saying no, we're just a business. Like, we have a social mission. We're trying to solve it, but were' not going to play the social entrepreneurship card.

ADA YIP: Yes and no. So I'm not playing that card so for people who are not understanding social entrepreneurship, I don't call myself social enterprise. It would just confuse them more and then I got them to think so are you a charity? So, I'm just a startup with a very clean mission. That's it. They just focus on what I am selling and operating.

But the no part it, I think we still need to have this subject or this category called social entrepreneurship because I don't think we're in a world that people believe business and social can come together or actually have a greater value if they do both. So we almost need to have this category so that people focus in thinking about I, discussing about it, until everyone is on the same page. Then we probably can get there and just talk about entrepreneurship. But we're not there yet. So you know that's why farm like this its a good channel to really just have a healthy debate . You know of different schoolof thoughts and how people approach it.

RICH: Great, I think that's all. Thank you very much for your time. It's been a pleasure.


For more interviews from the "Entrepreneurs for Good" series, check out the playlist here.

Stay tuned for more clips and full interviews in the coming weeks.


Simon Vogel

Food Entrepreneurship, and Bootstrapping, in Shanghai - Simon Vogel | Entrepreneurs For Good

In this episode of Entrepreneurs For Good, I speak with Simon Vogel about his attempt to build health food delivery platform, from the 17th floor of an apartment building.

It is an amazing look at how creative entrepreneurs can get when bootstrapping!


Simon's Story is one about bootstrapping in China, failing fast, and (hopefully) learning faster


About the Entrepreneurs For Good Series

Through this series, we speak with Asia based entrepreneurs whose mission it is to bring solutions to the environmental, social, and economic challenges that are faced within the region to learn more about their vision, the opportunities they see, and challenges that they have had to overcome.

It is a series that we hope will not only engage and inspire you, but catalyze you and your organizations into action. To identify a challenge that is tangible, and build a business model (profit or non) that brings a solution to the market.


About Simon Vogel

When coming to Asia a couple of years ago, he wanted to open a restaurant but quickly realized that it would not be as easy as he thought. Instead of that, he launched a business in delivery food.

Follow Simon and Saucepan:
Website: http://saucepan.co
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/simon-vogel-87055715/simon


About Rich

Driven by the belief that change begins with a single step, Richard Brubaker has spent the last 15 years in Asia working to engage, inspire, and equip those around him to take their first step. Acting as a catalyst to driving sustainability, Brubaker works with government, corporate, academic and non-profit stakeholders to bring together knowledge, teams, and tools that develop and execute their business case for sustainability.

Follow Rich
Website: http://www.richbrubaker.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rich.brubaker
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/richbrubaker
Instagram: https://instagram.com/richbrubaker
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/richbrubaker

Contact Rich
social@richbrubaker.com


Full Transcript

SIMON VOGEL, SAUCEPAN

My name is Simon. I'm from Switzerland. Working here what we set up a company called Saucepan, which is a food delivery company. Been here in Shanghai from, lets say almost two year now.

WHY SHANGHAI?

Well, I, well basically me and my partner both came, we cant to Shanghai because we had like some family members here and definitely the markets is very interesting market to be part of nowadays. Previously, me, I was studying in a hospitality school in Switzerland and also I was working for sometimes for hotels, different 5-Star hotel brands.

WHY BECOME AN ENTREPRENEUER?

Well, to be honest, like I said like we were always like involved in a food in the food industry, in the food and beverage industry. Me coming closer to the thirty year, but the age 30 I was thinking like I need to do something which has more meaning. Well, looking at the market like Shanghai or China or if you take the big picture Asia, I think there is a lot of things you can do here in terms of foods. Especially delivering clean and trusted food to people's home.

THE FIRST STEPS

To be honest, it was more that we didn't had like a clear plan. I'd say like this because we came here with the idea of more opening a restaurant. So, we came here in 2014 and then we just realized it was like at the time where all the rents was getting higher and higher and it was just commenting suicide if we would have open a restaurant at least back then in the days. So, then more and more we were looking about what was existing in the markets and what we saw. How the consumer behavior. How they are like ordering delivery food delivery form time to time. We were saying okay, this could be like an interesting concept like to actually bring the food to people's home.

Initially, we started with a three specific business model, which we completely failed. Then, we had to privates back in December last year and now we are like right on track on a food delivery ready-to-eat business.

THE FIRST CONSUMER

Well, we specifically targeted expat at the beginning because we were feeling much more comfortable with the expat markets. We were coming form what we both know this how I conduct the consumer behavior of an expat. However, more and more we were like working on our concept. More and more we were realizing that the locals were also interested in a healthy food delivery concept. So that's how we realized that our concept would be both, as a market fit for both expats and locals.

So we started targeting the expat markets because we both, the two founders of this company are true expats and for us it was much more easier to tie it to stats with a consumers that we knew in the past. It was much more easier for us to target this clientele. However, more and more we were operating, we realized that Chinese, local customers were also interested in this concept. Now we feel that we have the right market fit for both locals and expats.

PILOTING AND PIVOTING

Well, I said we had like low capital to start with. We could not, this is also why we switch the concept initially not to go into a restaurant idea because rent wise was too expensive. So we were really looking about how we could save maximum amount of money. Initially we started from an apartment. Then we said okay, where can we find a place where we could operate. Then we checked a bit around the market and we saw ok, we could like here we're in China. We could maybe rent out an apartment and really like renovate it and then operate from there. This is how we decided really like to inject money like step by step and first to see if the concept is working before like investing a higher amount of money.

For instance, with our initial plan it was more, how do you say? We could say the first five months we tested the product, we tested the market and it the way we say the initial, our initial idea, there was no real demand bind it. This is where it pushed us to pirate the business model in December and this is where we now are fully operational.

EXTENDING THE RUNWAY

I believe first, was the rent issue because running a food and beverage business you need a good location. We could not afford this at the beginning so this is why we initially started off in an apartment.

Second thing is definitely manpower. Manning represents a very high cost and this is where we initially had and still today, have hands on in operation and try to avoid, just like hiring a lot of people because we can do it ourselves. We need to be in operations.

The third thing which represents also high costs. If you don't have an IT team. It definitely building up the website building up an app or building up a WeChat store. This is where we looked into our friends and family network. If there was not someone who could like assist us in building a website, which also we found.

I think these are three major expenses that we're going on us. Definitely the personal expenses because we can't like, how do you say? Give us a payroll at this early stage. So, making sure that we are outside work we are living on a very low profile and making sure that we can survive here without spending all the money from the company.

BOOTSTRAP MARKETING
Since day one, we spend zero on the company marketing. The only cost we had in marketing was maybe was like for some like fairs that we took part of, but it was very, very little cost. The thing is we could, we don't have, we didn't have the budget for this marketing and we believe more in word-of-mouth. So, we believe that if we have a product which is, how do you say? Good enough, people will talk around this product and talk to their friends.

How we also managed to have a very low marketing cost was like doing like partnerships with already existing startups, existing company's we have already renamed here. Food bloggers, everything that we can do where we are increasing our visibility, our brand image in the city.

LEVERAGING SOCIAL MEDIA
We don't pay for influences. Again, I said, it's more we are going to food bloggers. We would maybe pay them in foods like we are trying to do this strategy of influence the influences. Where food bloggers who would try our food and then write on a blog post about us. Or, for instance, now we recently also started with some brand ambassadors. Like people who are working out in the gym or working out as a yoga teacher that they can influence their class. The people who are joining them in their class. Otherwise, was mainly social media was managed by ourselves. You have like WeChat, which is very strong here. Posting, accepting friends, trying to get like a big network of friends. Let's say posting on the asking people to post on their movements and so on and so forth.

BEST WAY TO INFLUENCE CONSUMERS

Yeah, basically it's a mix. It's like on a way its food porn in terms of food. So like attract the customers towards our foods, like showing them images of our food that we are doing.

BOOTSTRAPPING
Yeah, well hire the right team is definitely one of a very important factor. Then also yes, spend your money but wisely on marketing for instance. We didn't have money and we achieved pre a successful milestone without spending any money into marketing. So I think you don't need to get funding and suddenly like just spend all over marketing. You need really like to make like, I don't know, smart investment in this kind of field.

Another thing would be like don't spend all your money on like useless equipment, especially like in kitchen. You need a lot of equipment whereas it's fridges or knives or whatsoever. So, better to choose like a more safe way to spend money and like really like see what you need, really need rather than just buying all kind of equipment. Packaging as well, for us was like a big waste of money at the beginning because we were testing the waters. We were testing our concept and we were just buying packaging right and left.

Finally, we found ourselves with, I don't' know, more than 2,000 boxes which we were not using. So definitely these are important things.

WHAT'S THE MISSION?
I think we are trying to change the future of food delivery. We really want that people have access to health foods, trusted meals with healthy meals using trusted ingredients. So we really want to disrupt this market of food delivery and fast foods by giving like products which are very like healthy for your body, but also like very using like clean ingredients. Like something that you can really trust.

So what are we, what we are trying to solve here and what we are, our mission really to disrupt this food delivery market. We want to give people access to clean food and healthy meals. So this is where we are trying to disrupt all this food delivery and fast food industry.

SCALING WITH LIMITED RESOURCES
Well, I think we have a pretty smart business concept where it's pretty easy to scale because you can all like produce centrally and then dispatch in like further delivery units. You don't need to control or build up a kitchen for each of your units. You just need to build up delivery hubs. If you go in cities and then just like build up a central kitchen and then be able to dispatch to the oldest units you can scale pretty fast in a short period of time.

CHINA. IT'S HUGE
I think China is a huge market. That's what makes it so interesting. It's so big and there's so many people here. Which makes it like anyone, not any conept can be successful here. But it gives you a lot of room even if you have, even if it's highly competitive market, it gives you enough room for you to get your customers and then operate your business.

YOUNG ADVANTAGE
Well, at the end of the day, we both, we don't' have a family so if we fail and now we will try to do something again. Maybe fail again and if we don't have like something that, yeah that where we have to succeed in the first concept we are launching. I think is even if we proven with our old concept we failed fast, we modified the business model, we switched, we made a pilot and then we try it again.

This is what we are both strongly believe in. We will keep moving and keep trying until we have the right market fit and keep failing, that's for sure.

BIGGEST FAILURE
I think you know, we were I think we were pretty frustrated at the beginning when we tried this initial concept. Because we believe in our, in one concept, but it was not what the market was asking for. So this is where we learned on actually you need to listen to what the market is demanding rather than listening to yourself and just think this could be a great concept.


For more interviews from the "Entrepreneurs for Good" series, check out the playlist here.

Stay tuned for more clips and full interviews in the coming weeks.