peggy chan

Building a Vegan Movement in Hong Kong | Peggy Chan, Grassroots Pantry

In this episode of Entrepreneurs For Good, I interview Peggy Chan, the founder Managing Director and Executive Chef of Grassroots Pantry, about her mission to bringing the vegan movement to Hong Kong through a strong ethos, her passion for food, and delivering an amazing menu that reminds her customers of their favorite food memories.

As always, I hope you are inspired and engaged by the conversation!


Peggy's story is one of a passion for food, and the commitment to delivering on that passion every day


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 Peggy Chan

Peggy Chan is the founder, Managing Director and Executive Chef of Grassroots Pantry, a homespun restaurant in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong serving innovative plant-based cuisine with the highest standards of hospitality. Through Grassroots Pantry, Peggy shares her passion for organic produce and supporting local sustainable agriculture by educating the public about the issues that face our food systems today. Grassroots Pantry, as a result, has grown to be more than just a restaurant: it is a highly regarded platform that highlights pressing issues and encourages all to make a difference through action and collaboration, while providing a world-class dining experience.

Since opening in 2012, Grassroots Pantry has enjoyed great success, community support and media coverage in publications such as CNN Travel, Cathay Pacific Discovery Magazine, Travel & Leisure SE Asia and National Geographic India, and Peggy remains determined to create an independent business that will continually challenge the way diners view food production and consumption.

Follow Peggy and Grassroots Pantry:
Website: http://grassrootspantry.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/peggygp55
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/peggy-chan-a15a1649/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/chefpeggychan
Twitter: https://twitter.com/peggychan55


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 everybody. Rich Brubaker here with my friend Peggy from Grassroots. An amazing story about a young executive chef who has opened up a very unique place here in Hong Kong that serves only plant based foods. We speak about her journey, what drives her, how she stays humble and...thank you very much. The food is amazing.

Peggy thanks for meeting with us. Tell me a little about yourself as a individual and also Grassroots,which we are sitting in here.

PEGGY: Sure, thank you for having me. My name is Peggy. I am the executive Chef and founder of Grassroots Pantry, also managing director. We are a five year old vegan vegetarian organic restaurant. We source as much as possible locally and over 90% of our ingredients are certified organic. I've been an avid sustainable consumer or conscious consumer for the past 17 years, so that my lifestyle. So for me it's about how do I balance my food intake and nutritionally but also create food that is fun, interesting, and innovative.

RICH: How does that work in a city like Hong Kong where consumption is at a whole another level. Why did you choose this city to get started?

PEGGY: The challenge was really to take on what the city needed. The city that I grew up in, the city that I know and that I've worked in for many years. Take that challenge on and really to offer, offer our city and community something that is different.

RICH: How did you come into this?

PEGGY: Well, along with what I was doing in hotels in corporate, I was always on the back of my mind really wanting so badly to do something about the food industry and what was or raise awareness about what was going on thin the food industry. So back then, 12 years ago, was when I first read an article on Gourmet Magazine. That was in 2005 and that was the first article that had actually showed me what food was and where food came from. That was the first time I'd heard about Monsanto and genetically modified organisms. That really led me to do my research.

Throughout University in Switzerland I was continuously doing my research and figuring out what was going on with the meat industry, watching gorilla films. It was always in the back of my head even though I was working in corporate, I would be talking to my colleagues. They would ask me why I was vegetarian and I would tell them, do you know that? How cows are actually raised these days? No, well they're being pumped with RB/GH growth hormones. Do you know any of this? No. It's scary.

RICH: Why didn't you just become an activist for ya know for the human society, an existing NGO? Why didn't' you go that route? Why go into a restaurant business?

PEGGY: I really thought that I was going to leave the industry for good and go into academics and go into social work. Which is very normal for a lot of people, but I knew that I had my passion was really and my career ya know. Everything that I've honed for 12 years was in food and beverage and my craft is culinary. It's hard to leave all of that when, you know, it's kind of like a part of you.

I decided that after my Eat, Pray Love moment of traveling to Bali and India and everything, I really just felt that there is a way for me to do this. I can combine my love for culinary and running restaurants with my passion and activism for sustainable agriculture and combine that together and make Grass Roots Pantry my first pantry business and something that is more of social entrepreneurship base.

RICH: When you set this up, I mean the entire menu is completely Vegan, what were some of the core principals when you said you were going to build this restaurant that you had to adhere to and how challenging...what was the opportunity with all the challenges of sticking to those principals?

PEGGY: When we opened Grass Roots 5 years ago, we weren't opening it to become a vegan restaurant. It was only over the years and last year was when I decided after watching cowspiracy was when I,not realized that I really decided that.

RICH: Because you knew, but you like that was it.

PEGGY: Exactly. It was getting that push in. These food documentaries are so crucial to getting people to just, ya know do something. Plastic Oceans as well. So I really, with that we I decided to get rid of all the dairy. Not that we used a lot anyway, I just said we'll get rid of it overnight. I think many times when you're an restaurant operator and a chef with a big ego, you do what you want to do, but you fail to see what the market wants. If I made those decisions overnight and I made all these like funky stuff all wrong, all ya know cold foods and you know cold press all very like too hippy and stuff. I think It would deter people from trying.

RICH: Because whether they think... I mean to me it's like tofu. There's a preconceived notions that you can break through. How did you...like what was your process for once you knew that it was a problem, how did you then create a menu or how did you look at that part of the business.

PEGGY: In order for us to get our consumers to...our customers to really feel like they are a part of that experience, I wanted to create a menu that was something they could recognize. So let's say if I were to make a Thai dish, I would make it as authentic as possible but give it those Grassroots tweaks. Which is to make it plant based, super food laced, all wholesome foods, 100% organic, all of that. So when they eat it, they're like oh, I remember this flavor, oh I remember that. But actually it's actually something so much more healthier than you would normally get. So like one of the examples that we do is popcorn chicken that we do which is super popular here. It is my memory from middle school after school we would go to KFC and buy these buckets of popcorn chicken and pop them in our mouths.

So the taste and the memory and the flavor and fragrance, all of that, just made me realize that I can recreate that with an ingredient called hedgehog mushroom. Just batter it, toss it in galangal powder and there you go. So everyone who comes here they eat it are like this is just like chicken.

RICH: So are you trying to fool them? Like the beyond burger it's actively trying to fool you so that you'll just make the switch more readily. But how much for you is just looking at the food and going this just makes amazing food, but the flavor speaking for themslevs and hopefully....the tica I just had, **** amazing, how much is just you looking through food and this is what I can do and I know that this will be amazing. How much is people is people like pop corn chicken and I'm going to created it and fool everybody and they're going to keep coming back?

PEGGY: I wouldn't use the word fool though. I'm proposing an alternative. So actually we have a catering arm called The Alternative Caterer. What I'm doing is really proposing you a different option as what you would normally have and still have it taste just as good. You're experience won't change whatsoever. You can still bring your friends who are meat here and everyone can have their own meals, different style of food. We can have India, Thai, Italian, Chinese, all on the same table at the same time. But you'll will experience something that is memorably.

RICH: What are the best ways for you to break through the noise of what's happening here in Hong Kong food and dining. How do you get your message out and how do you attract new consumers that are outside your friend's circle, the people you are actively going after? You need the masses to come here to make sure you have a stable business? Is it Facebook, is it events, is it speaking, is it everything? What's worked well for you as a story teller?

PEGGY: When we were smaller, social media definitely worked, but now that we are at the stage of business, our public relationships team really does help us give us a push. But most importantly, I think it's the messaging, it needs to be consistent. So no matter what channel you use, the message needs to be consistent. So we do this thing called the Collectives Table. It's an initiative we started a year ago and the whole idea is to get, ya know the restaurant is great as a platform to touch to the community, our guests. Change the ways that they think.

So most of our guests who come here, they are not vegetarian/vegan. But the collectives table is really to tap within, infiltrate within the industry so that we can get the suppliers, the chefs, ya know the big restaurants, the corporates to start changing their systems, system change. So what we do is challenge them to cook plant based over one special dinner and part of the proceeds goes to a certain charity. We created a lot of buzz, a lot coverage for them because everyone is talking about plant based food now, vegetarian, putting more like wholesome foods on your menu. So we kind of help them as well tweek their image to the public and vice versa.

So we're doing it globally and we've been able to successfully change some of the chef's, like not purposely, but they are so inspired. Through that pop up, through that collaboration, they've been able to feel so inspired that they will change, maybe the percentage plant based verses meat dishes have shifted.

RICH: What are the big challenges that you face? Like day to day, like your vision perspective. What are the challenges you are facing and how do you get through them everyday? How do you wake up like alright look, we've got all these problems and we can get through it?

PEGGY: Well, the biggest problem in this industry no matter where you are, big corporate hotels, or small startups...people. We are a human intensive human based industry where everything is based on communications. That is always a problem and we have a massive shortage of qualified skilled workers in this industry right now because no one wants to go into food and beverage. Noone wants to go into hospitality. So that is one thing.

RICH: How do you fix that? Robots? Right!!

PEGGY: Gosh, how I would fix that is really just to go back internally and say how do we become better. How do we attract quality staff? We have to be role models for what we do so if we...we say all these things like...we do all these things, but we're not really good with our work ethics and even if I attract great people they would see us as they're just ya know, it's just all poster, messaging. So I first of all make sure that my team, the ground team, the skeleton team is strong and they are ya know, their ethos is exactly like mine that if I say segregate your ways, you have to segregate your ways. That has taken a lot of time. Like 2 years ago was not like this. There were a lot of chefs who came in and there were multiple shortcuts. So it takes time to build.

So that's one way that we're tackling why, how do I wake up in the morning and feel 100% to go to work and continue what I do? I see everything with a bigger picture and the bigger picture here is we need to do something about the system here.

RICH: What inspires you about the food sector right now?

PEGGY: What gets me the most excited is really to be a part of that system change. So because I've worked in food and beverage for 17 years, it's really knowing the industry from inside out and knowing how to fix it, know how to change it. Of course, I don't know everything around the world, but I'm starting in Hong Kong.

RICH: How do you measure your successes? How do you measure impact?

PEGGY: That's a good question. People have their conceptions about you a certain level. To me it's all about my confidence within. I don't need someone else to tell me who I am or whether I'm doing well or not. As long as I feel confident and comfortable with the correct feedback and being open to accepting feedback, staying humble with humility and then just focusing on doing better than I have before the previous day. Then I know I've done my job well.

RICH: What advice would you give to a young woman about how to be yourself, get it done,...?

PEGGY: One of the things the words that was used on a chef's table, I don't know if you watched it, but Chef Nikiama, she uses the word, it's a Japanese word Kreashi, which means to allow the negative energy that people give you drive you to prove them wrong. I mean that sounds reactive, but actually if you have that mentality all the time, it can become proactive and become a part of you. So, let any doubt, anything that is negative that enters you be produced back as something productive and positive.


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.


Pat Dwyer

Jumping from Corporate into Social Entrepreneurship - Pat Dwyer | Entrepreneurs For Good

A few years back, I met Pat Dwyer, founder of The Purpose Business, at a friend's conference in Singapore. We were on the same panel, and we had a BLAST sharing our experiences and insights to the crowd, and given neither of us were invited back to speak again it is safe to say that we left a lasting impression on the crowd.

This interview is no different. It is a pretty raw discussion about entrepreneurship, starting with Pat's decision to leave her role as Sustainability Director at one of the leading hospitality groups and covering a range of topics that flowed.

It is a high energy discussion, and one that I am comfortable will leave a lasting impression on those viewers who are aspire to enter this space or are already in it and looking to be inspired to get through their day by seeing how Pat is developing an organization that brings a lasting impact to the challenges that she sees faced in the Asia region.

 


This interview is about finding purpose, scaling impact, and believing in the tools and capacity of entrepreneurs to change the world


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 Pat Dwyer

Pat Dwyer has fifteen years sustainability leadership experience, most recently as Global head of CSR & Sustainability for Shangri­La Hotels & Resorts.

She holds a BA in European Studies from Ateneo de Manila University and an MA in Globalisation and Governance from the University of Birmingham. She just completed a Certificate for Transformational Leadership, at the University of Oxford SaÏd Business School under the World Economic Forum Young Global Leaders Programme.

Pat brought Shangri­La to the forefront of responsible tourism operations, making it the only Asian hotel group to be recognized in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index. She developed programmes across 89 hotels in 22 countries covering a broad spectrum including carbon management, diversity, environment stewardship and employee engagement. She equipped over 40,000 colleagues to understand sustainability issues through a training module and worked with local organisations to benefit more than 30,000 children globally. Previously, Pat was the first CSR head of Ayala Land, Inc. in the Philippines.

Follow Pat and The Purpose Business:
Website: http://thepurposebusiness.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TPurposeB/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/patdwyertpb/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/tpurposeb


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: I'm here today with Pat Dwyer who is with the Purpose Business. She's come out of corporate 2.5 years ago. Jumped into her own thing. Didn't have plan, but definitely has attacked the world. This is a fantastic interview. You will...you don't have to, you will like, share and comment. So thank you very much Pat. This has been fantastic. We hope you, we know you will, so stay tuned.

BACKGROUND

RICH: So do tell us about yourself. What you do and why you love doing it in the city.

PAT : So the last time I saw you was when I did that job that was 7.5 years with Shangri-La. Then started my own business. Why did I do it? Why didn't I do it sooner I guess, is a bigger thing. The premise is really if I could do it with one with a massive team of people, imagine doing it for so many more. Basically said right. We need more Asian stories in sustainability and that's what we are as a team that works in Asia-Pacific. We are lucky enough o have landed some iconic brands, mostly in Hong Kong and the Philippines.

Would I change anything of what we did? I am not an entrepreneur, so I guess the biggest thing or like if there are students listening, go get your entrepreneurial degree. I never had myself as a business owner. I'm used to working in big organizations, whatever they may be, nonprofits and all that.

RICH: So how did that feel. You used to I need to do computer.

PAT : Yeah, it's nuts. There's no chart for this. There is no kind of manual for it. For constant learning, but I think the number one thing I've learned is to surround yourself with people who are experts, who are much better than you. There is a professional heads I'm selling anyway.

TAKING THE LEAP

RICH: Why did you choose 2.5 years ago to make the jump? What was your catalyst to leave? What was probably a really cushy job, why would you jump out of that and into something you knew nothing about in a sense a product you have to develop, fine-tune it....what made you....

PAT : Go through the trouble of.....I guess I called my company the reason why I did it, which is purpose. It sounds trite, but we're lucky to have landed that website then. But, you feel like you've done all that you could changing the mother ship isn't always easy and I've been blessed with an amazing support top down, sideways, and all that, but it was time to kind of do more of this with a bigger set of team and beneficiaries and you know the real change you wanted to see. You can say you've probably done all that you could at the time you could and it was the perfect time to leave. If I didn't leave then, I think I would have spiraled in a different way, and that's, you know, that's not good for you. And you know what they say about failing fast and failing cheap, I think that was the part....

RICH: Failing cheap in Hong Kong?

PAT : Well, there are ways! Next up. No, but there are ways to kind of do that in the most minimal ways possible. I was not going to wait any longer to kind of go and try that. So trying that at that time was perfect.

RICH: Did you start with partners? Did you start by yourself? Did you have your first client in hand? Or was it really like...I've gone as far as I can with this organization. I've gone as far as I can with sustainability. I know I have to go and chart a new path. Like how much had you done in advance and looking back, was it enough?

PAT : I think the market is ready. Was ready then. Any earlier I would have been starving. So, if I did it now, there's too many, too many consultant in this space and too many good ones like expertise and all that. Did I start with partners? Lets say, not being an entrepreneur, you surround yourself with people who are better than you in certain aspects. I knew what I could do, but I knew who I needed to go to for help. So there were people who helped me think through what that was going to look like. I used my notice period to kind of set all that up. Most people would say, why don't you moonlight and keep your day job and stay sane and pay the bills and then shift it once you've already got a market for it. I didn't have that luxury and I guess what I've done it differently, sure. But nothing has failed fast and cheap since then. So, we've learned our lessons in a fairly cost-efficient way I would say.

RICH: And just immediate, when you made the jump, what did you think it would be and how different was it?

PAT : I have no idea. . I think I had no expectations of what it would look like. The only expectations were are you going to open a hot desk or you going to be co-working? All the physical expectations were there so I guess in a good way, that was easy to handle. Anything you did was more than what was expected. There are certain things that you don't expect, like the way clients behave, good and bad. The way decisions are being made, how fast, how slow.

I guess, I've never lived the life of a consultant, so I didn't know what it was like to be a consultant. But I do know what it's like to be in-house and a lot of us in our team knew how it is to be in-house. You know exactly the excuses or the bureaucracy that you need to navigate. The length of decision making. I would like to think that makes it a little bit more accepting on their side to work with people like us.

DEVELOPING FOCUS

RICH: People like us. Are we all crazy?

PAT : Yeah, kind of. I don't know why we do what we do.

RICH: Part of the challenge, and I've found this out with my own agency, you could be like be asked to do everything. What has your focus been and how have you developed that over time?

PAT : So, the tactic in year one was suck it up for what the market is ready for. It may not be what you want to do. It could be reporting. It could be anything that is basic, but that's what the market is about. But, over time, kind of build out, there's a center line of the product. There is an MVP, youre most valuable product that you want to go for and if there are no buyers, make the buyers. Because they don't know what they are looking for and this is the beauty of sustainability. I think because it could go into meaningful products or services. It could go strategy, government.

Yes, we have said no to certain clients who have asked for..Oh, can you do this? Can you do this? They tend to kind of, if they like you, they want a one-stop shop. We're very, I guess we've set ourselves up to be a very humble brand and we know what we could be good at. But the way we set up the purpose business is a network of experts as well. So if we don't have it in-house, there actually a second layer. I know everyone says partnerships and all that, but they are within the team. So there is expertise that we know we can pass on and you front that best kind of team to the client.

We are now working on frame works that are branded, or IP hopefully under our name and all that and that could not have happened if we tried to do that in the beginning. So you can prototype and you can test, which is what we did the first two years. Very exciting times in the next year. I would think something that is on brand it's gonna come out.

BUILDING A BUSINESS

RICH: As an entrepreneur you can have big aspirations. You want to build a team in six offices in six countries, da da da. Some are like no no. I want a lifestyle business. I want to be able to work out. I want to be able to have the family, like how are you and the business and how does it effect how you make decisions on how to build, hire, cash flow? All these things can add pressure. How do you building your business? What is your mindset? What are you really focused on doing?

PAT : There is a vision that we all share. So, working towards the vision, but I think one thing that has made us really different is the setup with the people. So every single one of us has a life and sustainability. Once a marine biologist. One is an ethics professor. One does mushroom farming on rooftops. Another on is a carbon manager. So we don't want to take that away from them because that's what makes them relevant. The last thing you want to be is, I used to do that and therefore hire me and because I know what I'm doing. I know what I'm advising you of. That is what everyone does. We are active in that space, hands dirty. But we can tell you if you are going in that direction, we are actually in there. You know like we are pushing regulation or we are figuring out what the price of the next resource is and we'll figure it out with you.

In that sense, there's a bit more balance. The way we hire people, if you wanted a secure full-time job, 9 hours, 10 hours in an office, you're not going to work with us. In fact, we've had prospects who've said to us, you are too disruptive. We're not ready for that yet. I take that as a good thing. Because then you filter out who it is you can work with and not. That said, we're not being flippant about setups and minimum compliance and things and such. Everyone got a life in sustainability and everyone pursues that while being on the team. I think that's the reason why we attract the people we are working with right now.

SELLING SUSTAINABILITY

RICH: Now, when you have so many players in the market, I'll talk about sustainability, how do you differentiate yourself? How do you create definitions that are engaging to clients, just at a product level? How have you found that problem?

PAT : Well, I think that's two questions there. Once, is how do you differentiate yourself from all the others. I think our model is very, very different. The way we work is very different. Having that setup allows us to be cost efficient with the highest level of expertise. So we'd like to think we're not up here with a you know whose are most expensive number of zeros and down here with interns kind of thing. So that's one.

Two, the specialization and sustainability is away from just the technical environment assessment or just what are my community programs going to be. Let's bring it back to purpose so that is what is very, very distinct with us because we know...oh, profit is not my purpose. There is still that kind of enlightenment with some businesses. But when you link it to what is the legacy air China create. What was your business there in the first place? It then becomes unnecessary to do a materiality assessment sometimes. Because if you stick to that, then you know exactly what you should be focusing on.

When we work with SMEs, it's really encouraging because everyone says what, they have no money startups. They have no money for sustainability, but actually it's a café or chain of restaurants..bang, it's food safety, it's packaging, it's sourcing. They know their issue. That is such a joy to work with because the worse thing is when a prospect just wants to do everything and doesn't know which one and wants you to figure it out and you kind of...your job is to show could you do this, could you do that, and yea.

REDEFINING WORK

RICH: How do you feel now that you are on your own? You get to pick and choose. You don't have to appease the masses. You don't have to appease your boss. Does that bring you personally, a very different feeling about how you go to work everyday?

PAT : First of all, we do not get to pick and choose all the time. I mean, you're still beholding to clients, right. There are still clients you love, love, love, to work with. Clients that are not ready for you yet. But yes, you get to pick and choose your battles the kind of work sometimes. Every day is a different day. There is no...I think in the first week or maybe even the first month, there was...I began to realize there was no weekday and a weekend. Sunday is proposal day, but what you all I am running on Tuesday. You're all miserable in your 9'oclock work hour. You're still there, right?

That is fun. We look forward to that. I think again, with our setup, there's a lot of us who do virtual offices. I have three or four mother who have got two or three kids a piece and they run a program on GHG emission training with a baby in had. That's just you, know it's good. It's cool. It's very cool to s see a client that you didn't think would be okay with that, to be hundred percent all over it.

WORDS OF WISDOM

RICH: What advice would you give to them? Being inside the machine, having a comfortable life, maybe the kids and the package and the blah, blah blah. What advice would you give to them if they are considering making that jump?

PAT : Again, I'm not an entrepreneur so it's not as if one day I'm gonna go sell this room and I didn't even think of it like that. But in hindsight, intrepreneurial thinking, why, why this all that when you've got all the perks right? If you can do, be the change agent internally absolutely do it. I think my advice is to speak up and find the kindred spirits that can make that happen for you. If that doesn't work and you've tried relentlessly and you've found you know the c-suite that will give you the blessing to go and do it and there is still none. Then you gotta think about the practical stuff. Paying the bills, balancing the family and all that. I don't think I really thought let me go and set up my own thing in fact, I probably even said is there someone who I could just join and help that girl because that's the easy route.

ROMANTICIZING ENTREPRENEURSHIP

RICH: Now, a lot of people they romanticize the idea of being entrepreneurs, owning their own time, okay. What are some of the things that you may have romanticized about to start off with that have become reality?

PAT : I guess you've got an image of your day in your head, squeezing a bit of running I here, I can go catch up with a friends and you can do the work in between and that's enough. When you're setting up your own, whether you're alone or with partners, you've gotta accept that there is no you outside of that. That this is consuming even when you're on the treadmill, or swimming in my case, that's the time you kind of you know recover but that's also your creative side so there is no switching off I guess. You can't have, you shouldn't afford that luxury, but then again if you don't work it's not going to get built. So you can have the four hour day and ya know sixteen hours on the side that you're doing whatever and it will only grow that space.

So I guess if you romanticize, oh in two years you're going to do a series and in five years I'm gonna be bought out aint gonna happen if you're not going talk in the hour. But like I said, I had no expectations. I think for me it was more the reverse which was, oh my God where is it going now? Like what are my options and everyone saying go this way, go this way, go this way. There's no one way in fact we should take that offline and have the okay what do I do now? Its year three.

GETTING GOOD ADVICE

RICH: Ok, then that's a different question then. Who do you trust to give you advice that's useful? Everyone will give you advice, everyone will say what you should do, but how do you, how do you find the people to trust? Are there people you absolutely trust? Like people who've gone through it? Are there people who are entrepreneurs? Like who do you go to?

PAT : I deliberately created a circle of entrepreneurs, ex-entrepreneurs, semi VCs and people who are just really good at shit I'm not good at. So whether it's super hardcore finance, or if it's you know, it's certain aspects. I have them in like a panel in my head and I can go phone them up. They're not on the board, they're not, they're not necessarily with a discipline on how they speak to me, but they are my biggest critics. These are the people you know we'll just call it what it is and tell you to stop. Or if you're, you know flip flopping on a decision they're just gonna call my bluff out and force me to do it.

I actually have one who is on the finance base kind of advising me, and I've known him since before Uni. He is serial, he is lethal, he says and I quote, "my job is to take you to hell, but make you want to go for it before I even ask you." It's just that. Or take you to heaven and make you wanna go before I even ask you. They're very, very spot on like that. I'm lucky to have circles like the World Economic Forum, YGL who have all done this who are all amazing. I kind of feel like I'm this teeny, tiny brownie making businesswoman and you're all these tech and everyone is going through the same thing.

COMPLAINING & FEAR

RICH: What room in your life do you have for complaining about your situation? How much thought do you give to failure and maybe the lessons from...like if this doesn't work out I have this. Or if this project doesn't, do you like to learn from failure? Do you fear failure? Are you someone whose little hesitant? How does that fit in your life?

PAT : I think its breathed in and out every day because again, this isn't my comfort zone. The fact that that if all goes apes and this isn't working then I gotta go plan B, plan C. I think it helps to have that attitude. I didn't do that deliberately. This is kind of the way that these things have fallen for me, but do I embrace failure? yes. Do I seek it? I try to avoid it of course, but you know, let's say that every scenario you know how its going to fail. That's here's kind of sense check of whether you're ready for it to succeed or not. Has it failed in certain respects, yes. Sometimes its just a genuine failure. Let the wind blow as it says. Let the wind blow and then you know life moves on. It's not as if you could belabor that and say I'm never gonna try that service again or that system again. I'm not gonna do it this way because it really depends on the way your clients and you're people want to work with you. so.

RICH: I like it though. Embrace failure, but don't seek it.

PAT : Don't seek it. Fail fast.

RICH: Fail fast, but learn faster.


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.


Francis Ngai

Dream Big, but Act Small - Francis Ngai, SvHK

In this episode of Entrepreneurs For Good, I speak with Francis Ngai about the work he is doing to build community centers in some of Hong Kong's most vulnerable areas.

Work that is difficult, but as he says more than once, while you need to have big dreams, you need to be focused on taking small steps.

It is a fantastic conversation about approaching big challenges, the role of purpose, and maintaining continued momentum through small steps.


It's important that you keep on dreaming. Dream Big, but Act Small.


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 Francis Ngai

Francis Ngai is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of SVhk. He is the Co-Founder of Green Monday, Playtao Education and RunOurCity.

Francis believes that everyone can be a changemaker. Seeing ‘ME’ as the reflection of ‘WE’, he hopes to bring together more people to re-imagine our city and pursue big dreams to make a difference to the community we live in.

Prior to establishing SVhk, Francis was the Head of Strategy in a listed technology conglomerate in Hong Kong. He graduated from the City University of Hong Kong and was conferred as an Honorary Fellow by the University in 2013. He was selected as one of the 100 Asia Pioneers by The Purpose Economy in 2014, a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum in 2012 and one of Hong Kong’s Ten Outstanding Young Persons in 2011.

As an ultra-running veteran, Francis completed The North Pole Marathon in 2013 and the 250-km Gobi March of the 4 Deserts race series in 2012.

Follow Francis and SVhk:
Website: http://sv-hk.org
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/francis.ngai.90
LinkedIn: https://hk.linkedin.com/in/francis-ngai-87915831
Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Ngai
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/socialventureshk


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

Welcome back everyone. Thank you for you very much for joining. I am here with Francis Ngai who has worked in across the spectrum of issues in Hong Kong, Very inspirational. We're talking about how your children drive you to change. To the future of millennial purpose. Then how to bring business skills to the social sector for impact. So we hope you'll enjoy this. If you do, please remember to like, comment and share.

BACKGROUND

RICH: Francis, thank you very much for taking the time to meet with us. Please do here and maybe introduce yourself and the work that you are doing here at SVHK.

FRANCIS: I am Francis from Social Ventures Hong Kong. I founded the organization since 2007. So we are practicing that philanthropy. We invest, incubate and invent social innovation in Hong Kong.

VENTURE PHILANTROPY

RICH: What is venture philanthropy? What does the impact investment?

FRANCIS: I think those are some terminologies that can explain more briefly. I think overall to access things like an applications of all good resources in the community So come capital owners they don't they prefer not just writing check. They want to participate more. I use them, their networking expertise, professional volunteers. So people with good ideas...social entrepreneurs or corporate. We try to reshuffle all these resources coming together. So we threw ourselves to always to be an applicative.

GETTING STARTED

RICH: So how did you start SVHK? Like what was your background? Why get into the venture philanthropy area when you probably had another business you were working on?

FRANCIS: I start with business, around 15 years of business or experience. Having two kids and I quit my job. So probably a lot of self interest I think to my kids future wealth. So I think that and current world is not that good. Also I think we are not using enough idea to work it out. I think we have a lot of resources in the community impacting. We will always just prefer to wait for the government to happen. I think obviously original idea that we try to do something else.

CATALYST FOR CHANGE

RICH: I know when you have children, everything changes. So, what were the major concerns you had about the world that you were like you're looking at your kids, oh my god I don't' know what I'm going to do?

FRANCIS: After having kids, you reflect. So what is the current role? What is the society? You read about some education brings about how to see some, but I think at the end of the day I think that it's how you are doing is influencing their future. So I'm asking myself, what is the most important thing to teach them. I think at the same time I am asking myself whether I'm dreaming or not. Maybe not. I'm helping some rich people to fulfill their dream, which I don't think hopefully can agree with that dream. It's just profit sometimes over purpose. So how can we turn it around? Around society we see that we're not talking about purpose.

RICH: I struggle with this. I really view business as a medium to, I wont say find purpose, but to deliver purpose. At the end of the day, what you have here is a community center. People will say, oh it's a non-profit, but it's still a business. You still have rent, you still have staff, you still have P&L, you have everything. The question is what do you do at the end of the year. When you started this, when you started getting into this, obviously you probably had a very different view of what venture philantropy or whatever. Like social entrepreneurship, whatever that it might have been. How did you start like, kind of starry-eyed, and then what do you feel now after you six to ten years of being in this space?

FRANCIS: I would say at first is static bubble that we shuffle around a lot of all that seeing philanthropy. How social investing is doing things. Just trying to form that kind of entity to do things. I think in the long journey we discovery more. I think could be summarized as the purpose. I think at first I think we all remember that. When we're doing business in doing something in the world, even non profit, they got a purpose. But ultimately we become more resources driven. We just see something that into more rich as KIPs and then we lost something else.

RICH: Now when you go back...actually I'm going to take you back a little...you talk about when you started in business. Like I started in business and was like, I'm going to change the world. I'm going to do this and this and I'm going to grow and I'm gonna grown and that's like my goal. Then you get a little bit more, practical. You start going wow, I have bills to pay, I have staff to feed. You become very practical. You don't loose your dream. You don't loose your purpose, but you definitely get into the business and it becomes a very different thing.

I found the same thing for social innovation as well. I'm' going to save the world. I'm going to help these children. I'm going to educate the elderly, whatever it may be. But then you get into the business side of things. How has your own perspective changed from really kind of idealistic into the practical? What are the practicalities now that you didn't think you had before?

FRANCIS: So I think at first I think we started off with do engine thinking. So I think social enterprise is all about social business. So we didn't think that what was one thing was more important than the other. So when we find the purpose, the social side how was the problem that we were are more cared about. I think that's it. So after that, I think we had a whole attitude on the business side. We have to make it sustainable. Make it work. Make it a public so everyone gets to know it.

So I think how do you keep the balance is not easy, but I think always and still in 10 years of journey, one thing is important, keep on dreaming. Dream big, but act small. So we hold up to with persistence on every thing we are working on. But every day we still try to think about fine tuning our model. Because we find that if we lost that dream that could keep us forever, we lost the momentum. So I think that also feeling feed back along is the passion. Where's the passion coming from? So every day I think still we are asking ourselves in the morning, why we are coming into office again today. I think that is the most important question. If we have that, we will keep on dreaming. We don't mind the niddy gritty things. We don't mind the hard work. I think if we lost it, we're done.

STAYING FOCUSED

RICH: You have a lot of different issues. You have Diamond Cab, that is kind of challenge access - wheelchair access. You have Green Monday, Meet. Is it a problem that you're all over the place? Or do you think that it would be better if you were focused on one issue? Is it part it....because you have to maintain your passion you have to move things around? Or is it that the best way you think you can get things done?

FRANCIS: Definitely a challenge on my team especially. Ten meetings in a day. In the morning you're talking about kids. But the other meetings talking about elderly. Then we move onto the climate change. So we keep on shifting. I think that is exactly our role. We don't need to be under the spotlight. Someone has to do it.

FUNDING MODEL

RICH: So you're basically investing into other entrepreneurs and their ideas and then you also start your own. Where does your funding come from?

FRANCIS: I think first the two or three of years it was my own resources, time, days, nights, kids, etc. But I think later we got some philanthropy money coming in. So I think all along I think partially we are relying on these resources to build that up because they are committed in incubating more social innovations in Hong Kong. So we are using that resources. But I think in long journey we also be our own income through some program, some incubation program. For the deals we don't ride on primarily on the profit. So I think it's not the short time we can get any repayment. I think whatever we get back, we just put back in the fund.

RICH: So are you making equity investments then? Or do you prefer debt or is it grants? Like what's your median?

FRANCIS: Mostly equity.

RICH: Ok.

FRANCIS: Grant money would say that a lot of foundations would like to do more new things now. So when we, whatever we get these we go approach them. So we invest very little in the very early stage. So if you're sustain on the prototype stage. But after that, we try to find true investment even in equity as well. But we have to be bigger equity stakeholders some times because we need to have a safe interactions, great for sure. Invest in more.

MAINTAINING FOCUS

RICH: Actually you mentioned something I kind of struggle with. They're always looking for something new. For me, the problems never really change. So how hard is it for you to focus albeit the entrepreneurs, the donors funders on just getting the current work done? Like how do you manage that?

FRANCIS: It's difficult. I think more philosophically sometimes we follow the flow. So we're seeing that one entrepreneur seeing that problem Something that we always keep in mind is that apart from the direct impact, which is confined to the scope within the entity, we always see the impact of that. The rippling effect. How that have the implications from policymakers. How with that them with an implications to the other industry people. Like Diamond Cab, there are two cabs. We get ourselves sustainable, and then another taxi licenses only. But end of conflict, 80 cabs. So like being affordable housing model, right now a couple different NGO's replicating it. Even in the media they call it...

RICH: That's okay right?

FRANCIS: That's what, that's how. So what we see right now at the juncture of ten years, we are shaping our 10 year plan. We are seeing a long journey, if we talk bout housing we talk about poverty. What kind of partners we need in that cab. Not all the things we need to invest ourselves. But we coordinated as one cabs. We need Avengers instead of Iron Man.

RICH: But what fuels your continued dreaming? You start off you're really passionate, you meet the challenge, but you are still executing it on a daily basis. What has been your impact so far that you look back and go I feel really proud about this? Then, do you still look in your kids eyes and go I still have a lot of work to do?

FRANCIS: I still do a lot. I think that learning from the journey whether change system or change mindsets. So like the interview today. I think using the small works that we have, how can we spread it out? Changing more minds is so important. I think maybe the ultimate goal is changing more mindsets. So I don't see that we need more people quit their job to be social entrepreneur is hard. So why we're working on business 2.0 or something else.

I think there are a lot of entrepreneurs can work together. So we're definitely in the world I think the society we're migrating from 1.0 to 2.0. If 1.0 is more resources drive in, 2.0 is more about a shared mindset, more value driven.

RICH: But do you see that happening? Are people more shared mindset now? Or are they getting more...cuz we have so much challenges of where we're all pulling back from each other. Is it...

FRANCIS: Main streamers do not. But I think all the movement start with quite a few city people like us. So I think we if we don't work it now, 10 years later when my kids are really grown up they will not see it. But I would say that at least the biggest gain that I have in the last 10 years...also feeling all my passion as the people that we see. I suspect that the mayor all the people got some good DNA in them. It's just that we don't have innovated enough to think about some platform for them to come up.

RICH: Well, and what the way to catalyze that? Like, how do you tap into that hidden gene or into that thing that's just sleeping for right now? How do you drive it? Like what does it take?

FRANCIS: Baby step. Green Monday. We are now asking people to be full time with charity. Although it made more sense for one individual for their health and things. I myself am a vegetarian, but I think we just take one day. Just start with one meal. By the way it's a beyond burger. It's delicious. Its fulfilling. So after that, we talk about you create an image. Use marketing.

If a marketing company can get someone to buy a bag, which is manufactured in Shenzhen, but paying several tens of thousands of dollars. How can I...can we use the same thing to your fake people to get them on board to try on hew things first? But after 10, you tell them oh by the way you're saving the planet now. All of them will become entrepreneur. They will internalize what the good habits. So I think these kinds of things is what we're learning now.

But I think all the more we start with small. Start with something small. After the engagement, they become part of the adventure too. That's more important.

RICH: Okay. Kind of going back to your marketing. What are the tools that you found most reliable. Like from your old days in marketing, what do you go back to every day in the office...yeah, this is what I used to do for this client? We can use that here. Like are there some standards tools that you've continued using.

FRANCIS: I think not very formal. I think at the end of the day I think it's more result of thing But I think one thing that we use a lot when I am at the time of them, in the business world, I also discovered one new trend that I invented some model is on the collateral collaborative marketing tracking. Collaborative strategies so that we always apply. Basically these partnerships. Especially social entrepreneur, I highly encourage you to try build more leverage.

In the past hierarchical world, you find resources, feeling somewhat intermediary finance and partners and paying them and it worked a lot. I think not now. We're all in a circular positions. Then we come out in the middle where the value people came around. There's no high and low. We don't back for resources. They just come. They're fulfilling their own self resources and self interest. So I think we all fulfill thinking about the mutual benefits. We got corporate, they're funding it through charity anyway. But I think it's good for your brand.

We work on something that they don't demand for even. But for some company, people can come in here, they're just get a service. I don't know we take them through to empower them later. I think it's kind of more...think about neutral. So everyone we collaborate, we think about what is their benefit first.

RICH: What are the resources do you think that we're missing right now in the social space? Like if there's things that you could attract business people of any stripe or something else. It could be government, any other like what do you think that we're missing? What do you think that could take our challenges and solutions to scale?

FRANCIS: If there is one thing you want me to mention, I would say we have need to encourage more links. We need to build more links. So I think we are not having innovative platform enough to aggregate resources. So ticks around.

So I think for example, Green Monday. I take that example that we can both understand more clearly. So I think when we work with some caterers and we think about ways for them to participate. So when we work with some food manufacturers, we think about some of the waste. So if you create more different vehicles, so that could help them to come in, come on board much easier.

So for fund raisers, even. I would say talk to some vendors. If your funding directly on the impact or _______ (16:07) social enterprises, we can choose to fund the links. How can you encourage them to work more with the corporate.

So for some early pilot in some innovative, I always called them infrastructure innovation. So when you need to invest into innovation infrastructures because right now we're at the juncture of migrating to a new world, if there's an new world. But if I think if we do not have enough links, we cannot carry over all resources for people to come on board. That's so much important.

TALKING TO DONORS

RICH: I was wondering....people really don't want to invest in the infrastructure though. They want to invest in the shiny building, not in the pipes, the wiring. Ya know, they don't' want to invest in research. They want to invest in the program that has no research. Like they want to fund the idea, not the amount. So how do you, I mean, because you come from the business world, because you have your own resources, is that where you spend...you build the foundations and you don't have to worry about what the donors want?

FRANCIS: We definitely get better language to talk to them. We know people, but I think most important thing is it makes sense for them. So I think it's around, I will say that. The most important thing is the kids. How can you illustrate that with them. Like especially we imagine a lot and infrastructures.

We need to go back to the funding and educate them and share with them. Tell them if that works perfectly. So I think without case, it's all empty talks. By the way I would say that younger generations for some big families they're changing the mindset. They don't believe in the name on the building anymore. They are migrating into a new generations. Within 10 years, I would say a lot of the younger generations would take over.

RICH: I think that's actually how we met. Through the family business network. Probably I think way back when way back when because I spoke with you at Bernie's event. So actually that kind of brings a really interesting point. Like the next generation of Hong Kong. Hong Kong is a city run by families, largely. At least in the business world. As you mentioned a lot of the names on buildings. Albeit the business school or the different buildings that they own.

THE NEXT GEN

RICH: Five, ten years ago the second gen was either trying to leave the family business, but now they are trying to come back. I know a few people are coming back. Like what are they doing? Why would they want to change now? What do you seeing that makes them want to change the family business?

FRANCIS: I would say no matter what is their background, they are all citizens of Hong Kong. They are all people involved. So I would say the millennials especially, when they grown up, they have a lot of education on a sustainable world. On how to be build a better society, it's in their blood.

So I also think they are documented entrepreneur. They're not that resources driving. They're not that profit driven. They see more differently. In terms of wealth, I think they would think that I'm ok for the next, next six generations. So ....That number is just a number in the game. So I think for them, the more fulfilling thing is while they are doing their own business or doing their own land. They want to see the real impact.

So I think its shifting, but again I would say that we need more infrastructure. More different ways. Sometimes more cool way when we talked about charity of philanthropy, sometimes its way too old fashioned. So we need to move on as well.

RICH: Thank you very much for your time. You have a line of kids lined up outside. I don't want to hold them out! They're like I want to color. Thank you very much for your time. Very inspiring.


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.