Michael Biedassek

Moving Tourists from Awareness to Social Impact | Michael Biedassek, Bangkok Vanguards

In this episode of Entrepreneurs For Good, I speak with Michael Biedassek, Founder of Bangkok Vanguards, about his work to create socially responsible and sustainable tours around Bangkok.

Through our conversation we speak about how he approaches sustainable tourism, building his company, and how he looks to balance profit making (in the tourism industry) against social impact.



I never studied entrepreneurship, or even written a proper business plan.  I just do what I am passionate about.


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 Michael

Back in Germany, his passion for Thailand earned him the title Mr. Thailand who drew maps of Bangkok by heart as a remedy against his Thailand withdrawal symptoms. Today he’s the founder and multitasking explorer of Bangkok Vanguards.
Michael considers himself a bridge and connector between his German and Asian roots and designs offbeat and meaningful travel adventures reflecting to his passion for exploration, Thailand’s communities, people and changemakers. - See more at: https://www.pata.org/michael-biedassek/#sthash.pcEd9jMe.dpuf

Follow 
Website: http://bangkokvanguards.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/michael.biedassek
Twitter: https://twitter.com/germansiamese
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michael-biedassek-28492769/


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 Interview Transcript

RICH: So, Michael, thank you very much for the time you've taken with us today. Busy afternoon. Do me a favor and tell me a little bit about yourself and what you are doing here in Bangkok.

MICHAEL: Well, my name is Michael. I am half Thai half German. I am from Germany, I've been here 15 years and I'm running a small travel company called Bangkok Vanguards. Basically I am trying to balance entrepreneur and being a tour guide showing people the inside of Bangkok.

INTRODUCTION

RICH: How are you adding social entrepreneurship, social elements into your tours?

MICHAEL: For me, first and foremost what inspires me, outside. They physical rims of the city. Alleys and things we originally perceive as of the human stories behind it because it's human who make/create culture who make the places. Due to my relationships with people they have inspired me, which I have learned a lot. I want to convey those stories to the visitors to better understand the city from a human perspective.

CREATING EMPATHY

RICH: How do you do that? You've got foreigners likely coming in and there're just in shock and awe at everything that's been happening here, but then you take them down these quiet little alleys. What do you hope they take away from here?

MICHAEL: I'm hoping that they see Bangkok not as just a polluted, hot, busy city. A lot of people they have this _____ (1:31) against big cities, but taking inspiring stories into account on how people attempting to improve the quality of life of themselves and their community. It gets them to reflect about their own way of life back home and to compare. I think from that people we learn a great deal and get a better understanding of what makes human life in cities.

WHY DO THIS?

RICH: How did you come up with it to begin with? Most travel agents are just trying to make more money. Sounds like you're, you've had to take spend a lot more time developing that story, developing that pattern. So why are you doing this?

MICHAEL: Because I speak Thai. I have access to the people because I like to talk to people, I am interested in people, and I have the ability to build relationships. So there are people that truly inspire me and make me think I am better understand why the things are the way they are. Sometimes that makes me think then, how could that be with all the resources that we have that still that people that do great work doing don't get any exposure or support. That was the trigger for me to get more exposure to these people.

HOPES AND DREAMS

RICH: What is it about the city that is attracting people? What are their hopes and dreams here?

MICHAEL: I think for regular people that I met or that I know is basically they have children, so the children go to school. They have the social structures and everyone is collaborating in that kind circumstance. This has evolved over years. I think in the countryside it is even hard in terms of economic opportunity so Bangkok is still the hub. There is a chance to may definitely make more money than being a farmer outside in the countryside.
I think that there hopes and dreams often like their off spring for them to have them a better future, to have a better education. Go day by day and maybe not thinking to deep about the negativity but making the best of what you got and being happy with what you have.

CUSTOMER REACTIONS

RICH: What is it that when you take a group in and you show them this, what is theire natural reaction to some of this stuff? What is your goal of exposing people to this?

MICHAEL: I think their reactions to it...a lot of people come to this they are repeated travelers and they love Thailand. They love the people. the love the heritage the cultural aspects. So I often tell them that a lot for things that we experience in our tours is limited edition because of the development is going on. Then sometimes we question development. What does development actually mean? Does it mean copying models like Singapore and applying that to Bangkok, which is in a very different context. By seeing and meeting the people, they feel that they want to do something.

Like yesterday I had guests, they came to us and I have a tour with them today as well. They went to a primary school that is accessible only from the rail tracks, so there are cargo trains going through. They have about 200 children kindergarten age and we brought new laptop. The teachers didn't even have a proper laptop functioning. That because through that exposure. Sometimes not on the tour but on sometimes what we communicate on line and people talk about it and they want to see it by themselves instead of going to a big organization. They saying Michael, _____(4:48) so there is something tangible and they talk to the director, they talk to the teacher, they learn about the education system and the challenges and the disparity between the haves and have-nots.

MONEY VS SOCIAL IMPACT

RICH: Some people say, "Oh, you're taking advantage of them because you're making money and then you cant' effectively help the people that you are engaging in at the local level." Where do you fall there? You have to manage the business, but also do the best job you can to really generate social engagement. What is the balance for you?

MICHAEL: For me, I have to look at myself and think ok. I'm still struggling with it as an individual person. I consider myself on one side when I'm out there I am a tour guide and on the other hand I'm heading an organization. At the moment, I have to look at it from the perspective of a tour guide. I try to bring in the theme of sustainability. That encompasses a lot of topics, communities, economic development and so on.

If you look at the long term strategy I have to think in terms of organization structure to make it scalable. To achieve that I need to have financial resources in order to hire a team. So we have to look at the business aspect that will empower us to create the structures and to execute on a more sustained and long-term social impact strategy.

BUILDING THE ORGANIZATION

RICH: Let's talk about building your organization. I was just at your office. It's a small office. What do you, what are you trying to do organizationally so you can have a bigger impact going forward. Is it hiring more people? What are the challenges you face in building up your organization?

MICHAEL: In terms of the challenge working in tourism. If you want to do good things as a head of an organization, you can be as into this as you want. The people with the guest are the tour guides. You need to have the right guide to facility the experience, but they need to feel also passionate about the things that you represent as an organization as well. That is one of the challenges. Having licensed guys, the language ability, plus their awareness and passion to do something about it. Recruitment, manpower, that is our current challenge.

RICH: Is it really a recruitment problem or is it a cash flow problem?

MICHAEL: No, for now a recruitment problem.

RICH: So you have the money, you can't find the people.

MICHAEL: Most of the time we have to work as freelancers. Because the tour guide if there is not enough jobs, then you pay them and they will be sitting in the office doing nothing.

RICH: Do those tour guides have to care about the communities as much as you do? Like you need them to do you work so...

MICHAEL: I don't think as...I can't expect to care as much as me, but there should be a certain baseline which they have empathy with people and are curious to feel connected and want to learn more about these issues. That is I think the bottom line. From there as they grow with us, I hope of course that we can get them more involved and get them a better understanding of what the challenges are in Bangkok.

CATALYZING INDUSTRY CHANGE

RICH: What would you do differently or you wish that the traditional tourism industry did better when it comes to bridging the economy with these issues?

MICHAEL: As an industry as a whole, probably that we put the discussion into the public or political decision makers that we don't see our heritage that is from the people. Not just only from the religious side, the government side, the state or the king, but from the people themselves. That they are not a liability but an asset to the city. I think that if we as entrepreneurs in the tourism industry recognize the importance and the value of those...that heritage maybe some decision makers will say its not, it's also a long term benefit for Bangkok finically and economically.

MILLENNNIA CONSUMERS

RICH: Right now the world is full of millennials who want to do more social good. You have hipsters who love yoga pants and avocado, like you have an entire market shifting towards better stuff right now. How is this benefitting you? What are you seeing from your side right now? Are there more people interested in these tours? Not just yours, but in general. Is there more people interested in this space right now?

MICHAEL: From what I heard, I suppose yes. That people are...if they consume that they want to be more responsible consumers and they are more conscious of what they consume. The same goes for when they travel. So they may be direct or indirectly some positive contributions which lead back again to social impact. What are we actually creating other than educating people.

Talking to people on the tour, I notice that there is awareness and there is a wiliness to actually go beyond. They stay in touch afterwards. They send us a telex talk and say hey, guess what they do in San Francisco? When it comes to ___(10:05) maybe you should take a look at this. We stay connected with a lot of our travelers who have become our advocates or supporters of what we do and believe in that type of building, community is something great.

SETTING UP IN BANGKOK

RICH: What...If you were talking to an entrepreneur an aspiring entrepreneur who wanted to set up a shop in Bangkok, what are a few tips you would give them about how to set up and fund their business model?

MICHAEL: Ha! Whoa. First of all, whatever you start whatever you do you have to really ask yourself is that something that you feel that is your, yourself. Is it in line with our values, in line with what you are passionate about because it is...everyone wants to be self employed and the notion of freedom and all that. It inspires people and it's happy, but it is a marathon.

Not even talking about the products side and everything, but generally just starting out and then being in the water and then learning by doing. I never studied entrepreneurship. I have never read a proper business plan, I just do what I am passionate about. But the knowledge is out there so we can tap in to our networks of our friends who have bigger friends that can help us to take one hurdle at a time. But, if you are not passionate or do not believe in what you do, then you know even a medium size hurdle can lead to throwing in the towel.

REMANING MOTIVATED

RICH: I was having a conversation about that if you are not passionate about the issue, then you're never going to start a business on it. Even if you start a business, you're never really going to fulfill the mission of that business. You're going lose passion over time. How do you remain passionate about this issue? What is it that gets you up every morning? What do you love to see?

MICHAEL: What I love to see is like to create more experiences that have more impact. I see myself still at the very, very, very beginning for things. Right now I have stabilized our enterprise. We have bookings coming in. We are building a following of support. I'm having a strong core team now. We haven't even tapped fulfilling into the potential of what we do.

With all the networks and everyone that is here in the city of Bangkok, there is so many potential synergies I want to go one at a time. I think I don't have enough years of my life and the day doesn't have enough hours to pursue all this. That keeps me going.

TELLING THE STORY WELL

RICH: How do take that to other forms? How do you make sure that when you tell a story that it has real impact? Is there a way to do that through like humans of Bangkok mindset?

MICHAEL: I see it as a research and learning process. That content that I research and that I learn in the process I pass it on to either the travelers or I pass it onto my guides now to get them trained in these aspects. Then the third to raise awareness online. It can be through social media, through blogs, but then as always the time limitation because that's kind of generalist work that we are doing. You need to actually put a really heavy focus on it. You can't really do it as a side.

If you run out being a guide, then running the company, then a blogger. You need a team that really believes in what you do. So that is going to be my job connecting creative storytellers, photographers, or videographers to the work that we do. Then creating content and educators inspires and then when people get exposures to each of the story, there is something they can also experience here in Bangkok.

A STORY OF IMPACT

RICH: Tell me a story of a tour that you gave or a person that you met that you hold on to yourself and just like wow, that had a real impact on you.

MICHAEL: Whoa, which one! Maybe the Bye Bye China Town Tour. The Bye Bye China Town Tour is basically a walk through the one of the oldest, largest and most successful China Towns worldwide. I got to know a group of activist that are fighting for the conservation of their neighborhoods, which is located on the new MRT lines, new subway lines. Seeing what they do, listening to them and seeing the struggles and then realizing this uphill battles, which is so symptomatic for how society is structured.

Something that is still like very much a part of you know the experience that I run. The story that I want to create very soon as well. These people that are proactive citizens they're so many out there and I want to track them all down. Basically. I think that's connecting resources to these people.


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.


Jessica Cheam

There is No Replacement for Quality | Jessica Cheam, Eco-Business

Oover the last 10 years, Jessica Cheam has been focused on building Asia's first sustainability news desk, Eco-Business, and through this episode of Entrepreneurs For Good, I dive into the hill that she had to climb to build Asia's first (and only) sustainability focused newsroom.

How she has learned to tell the story of sustainability across traditional and social mediums, and how she is having to adjust her business model to adapt to a very challenging business environment.



I think it is important to hang onto "why" we are doing this. If we are going to live to 120, then you can either do something with your life or waste it away.


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 Jessica

Jessica Cheam is the managing editor of Eco-Business. She is an award-winning journalist, TV presenter and social entrepreneur, with a particular expertise in sustainable development. She was formerly the political and environment correspondent for The Straits Times and is an adjunct research associate at the Centre for Liveable Cities. She is the author of Forging a Greener Tomorrow: Singapore's Journey from Slum to Eco-City, and is also the presenter of a Channel NewsAsia documentary on climate change.

Follow
Website: http://eco-business.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jesscheam
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jcheam
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jessicacheam/


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

ECO-BUSINESS

RICH: Welcome back everybody. I'm here with Jessica Cheam from Eco-Business. Here to talk about her 8 year journey of starting off from a home business to now a platform of 15 people telling the stories of sustainability in Asia. It's a really informative, tactical interview about how she's done this. Thank you very much Jessica for your time.

JESSICA: Thank very much you Richard.

INTRODUCTION

RICH: Introduce yourself briefly and Eco-Business.

JESSICA: Ok. My name is Jessica Cheam. I'm Editor of Eco-Business. Eco-Business is the only media publication in Asia Pacific dedicated to reporting on sustainable development. We started in 2009. It's now almost 10 years and we are still going. So yeah, it's good. I'm glad!

RICH: A little bit about your background. How did you get into this? Why did you decide to start this platform?

JESSICA: I have been a journalist all my life and still am. I started at the straight Times, which is Singapore's national newspaper. I was being frustrated with the fact that mainstream media wasn't really reporting on climate change or sustainability development. So I kind of started it like as an experiment. Journalist were writing for free, but after a while everybody got busy and I wasn't quite sure that it would work, but then my business partner and I then decided that we're going to try and turn it into a viable business model. One that has both social and environmental impact and when I finished up with ST in 2013, I came on full time and we've just been doing this every since.

GETTING STARTED

RICH: Now, I have found that getting people to read about sustainability is very tough proposition. What was it like early days? Like how did you get started? What were the earliest stories you were trying to tell?

JESSICA: Actually we started we tried to focus on trying to tell the stories of the people who were trying to respond to the crisis. I mean climate change has become so much more acute since we started. Somebody needs to tell that story. Somebody needs to tell the signs. So there were those kinds of story that we told. Then there were the positive stories. Like what were corporate doing. What were individuals doing in their communities. We focused on telling those stories. Because really everyone wants to go in that direction. They are not quite sure how, not sure how fast. It was important to have the conversation.

EARLY DAYS

RICH: It's you and your business partner. You got to do a lot of content development, your editing your technology, everything. What were the early days like?

JESSICA: It was just a very small team and demonstrated an editor. Trying to do as much as possible.

ADJUSTING TO SOCIAL MEDIA

RICH: You started before social media was really full force, so you still have the opportunity to write long form blogs. Did you start with long form and how have you over time had to adjust that to the social media reality of 200 words a quick picture, a meme? Like what did you start with and how did you learn through that process?

JESSICA: You know that is a really interesting question. I have to say that it's actually both. So when we started very much in the vain of traditional journalism we had the long form story. But we found out that people's attention were not really that...you don't really pay attention on social media. They scan and use article whatever, so we then to try write for that generation which was like 600-800 words Shorter pieces, good visuals. I will tell you something. There is no substitute for good journalism. We've now gone back to writing the big long special reports.

RICH: Do you actively sit there in front of a white board and say we have this category, this category, and this category and they like this and this. Do you try and plan all of it or are there a few things ad we do this and leave the other people behind?

JESSICA: Actually we have a few different types of content and we know what type of content works on which platforms. So I'll give you an example. On a daily basis our newsroom decides ok, which events we're going to over, which feature stories we will write and we dedicate ourselves to one special report. We know the special report are the long form format. We spend months producing that. The daily stuff we know that is going to be something that is read quite quickly, we try to keep it to 600-800 words.

Then when we post to social media, twitter, Facebook, Instagram and then we coach it to those platforms as a question or debate. So we have to write to the platform. We have to write to the target audience and I find that really helps.

LEARNING THE TOOLS

RICH: What are the best ways in how to write to the platform?

JESSICA: It really is trial and error as to how we determine what tone or voice to take with each platform. At the end of the day, you want to think up stories that are for the truth we are for accuracy, we are for transparency. We want to shed light on important issues. So that seriousness comes through, but we try to do it an engaging manner. So clever headline, questions, or something a little bit more interesting and we are still trying. Sometimes I read a post that my team has written and it's like oh my God, that's so boring who is going to ready that!? Then it's like try and try again and how do we get people engaged in the content.

MEASURING ENGAGEMENT

RICH: How do you measure engagement? How do you measure success of your trial and error or the long term how you have been doing?

JESSICA: It's down to numbers. Our website has been growing and readership. We just had a 10% increase of readers. More than one million page views. More than 150,0000 unique visitors a month. Our Facebook group keeps growing. Our Twitter followers keep growing. Now our stories get shared more and people are commenting more so we can see the engagement there. Then we use LinkedIn as well. So there are different ways that we engage people both offline and online and I think both are important that you have the community talk.

PAYING THE BILLS

RICH: Funding model. Journalism right now is going through a "come to Jesus" on how they make money. How do you guys make money as a new upstart?

JESSICA: We aren't that new anymore.

RICH: I mean in the media industry you are. You are only 8 years old. You have what, 15 full time? How do you make sure that they can eat when nobody else can seem to make a newspaper sustainable anymore.

JESSICA: I keep having to go to our partners and go look. You know what you are doing is you're funding journalism. Your funding media publication that is writing about stuff that nobody else is writing about. It's really important to have this conversation. Fortunately for us in the recent years, people understand that. Our revenue comes from marketing, advertising, events, video production.

RICH: Marketing/advertising means consulting to companies on marketing?

JESSICA: No, no. People advertise on our platform. The ads. The ads bring in the revenue. People advertise on our email newsletters. People advertise with us because they want their event to be well attended. They want their story to be told. Anything about the economy, the Street Times, and the NY Times. A lot of the advertising is from advertisers. But we are now branching to do a different one. We want to be citizen lead. That is why we launch EB Circle.

We hope that if it reaches a critical mass w e will get more funding from people who want to read us instead of relying on commercial funding. I think in the --- now generate millions of pounds from that model and it's more than half the operating revenue now comes from that. The main stream media scale is much larger, but you know we hope to get there.

VALUE PROPOSITION

RICH: So what is your sales pitch? Like we have a million page views a month, they are all good people. Like who is buying that? Which brand is like oh that's the most important eco system for me to access and I'm going to pay you like I would pay the economist,

JESSICA: We provide a lot of value to partners who know that we produce quality content, one. We reach decision makers, two. and we are also the centers of the conversations. We are the people who are leading the conversation. We provide a lot of services, but it is from editorial to communication needs to actually kind of being their partner, their friend in like just saying ok this is your story this is where you want to go. How do you do that? We generate our revue through that.

We actually do a lot of partnerships, not just revue generating. We partner with people like WWF on plastic pollution. We co-organize roundtables to advance the policy dialogue so we can see change. Change and impact is actually much, much more important for us than anything else.

MAKING ADJUSTMENTS

RICH: What are the ways that you use data and analytics to look at your platform? To figure out what's working, what's not. Then when you realize when something is not working, what are some for the basic adjustments that you will make to see if that will fix it to make the improvement?

JESSICA: We use Google Analytics for our platform and we have a really clear picture about whose reading us and their engagement. For our website, we have pretty engaged readers. Our average time is about 2 mins plus to 3 mins of engagement before they bounce off.

RICH: What's your bounce rate?

JESSICA: I can't remember right now. Ok, I'm going to give you my media kit! But, we use the analytics to see and actually we do this annual exercise, which should be monthly, where we have the top stories. We see which ones go viral, which ones don't. The list always goes over well. For example, the slightly heavier stuff like about finance tends to not do as well because they are a bit harder to digest.

Yea, we use the analytics to kind of adjust what we are going to cover. We try as much as possible to produce something that is readable. There is no substitute for producing readable stories.

LEARNING FROM OTHERS

RICH: There are a lot of interesting people doing a lot interesting things in new media. Do you look at how they tell stories, how they engage readers and do you bring that to yours? How are you learning through this process?

JESSICA: How we guide our coverage is that we look at things that have magnitude. So things that have big impact. Things that are global, but then also things that are very local. What are you doing in my community that is making a huge difference. We try to do cover stories. We always take the very journalistic approach so I wouldn't say that we have any one publication that we try to emulate. We try to have our own voice. But as much as possible we are also looking into how to make things more conversational and by posting on social media different things, we kind of figure it out.

BECOMING AN ENTREPRENEUR

RICH: I'm really curious how you went from a journalist to an entrepreneur now who has 15 staff. What has it been like going from a paid position where you are...

JESSICA: I think the hardest part is actually having to sell something. I use to just news gather and write. Now it's like I'm selling a value proposition. It's like do business with us and we can help you achieve x, y, z. That has been a really steep learning curve. But actually I would say it's not really even a sell so call, but kind of like a belief that the journalism that we are doing is important. Then going out to the market and be like hey, let's do something together and make something meaningful. That learning curve has been really steep for me. But what I would say that I really still love the journalist part a lot more.

Just came back from Antarctica it was just two weeks of glorious me time interviewing people filming documentaries, doing photography. It's so important to keep that creative side. I mean people come and read our content because we have good quality content. That is from the foundation of journalism that we come here. That enables us to then have a sustainable business in all senses of the word. I think journalism is very, very important.

GROWING PAINS

RICH: But then the organization level. What are some of the growing pains that you went through to go from you and your partner in a small nook of the house, to 15 people in a kosher space here?

JESSICA: I think a leap of faith was when we took our first office and actually believing that we're both going to make something out of this. Leaving a fulltime job was also quite scary. You just have to have that faith. Trust me there have been many times we said we should just shut the business and we'd make more money if we go and join a big corporation. But then there was no one doing this and if we shut it down, it'd be like who else is going to do that?

You know, fortunately we've now got to critical mass where we have enough readers and enough reoccurring revenue that we can fund a newsroom. So that is really, really good. But our aim is really in 5 years time is to become even bigger. Maybe even global and not just cover Asia. But to have an office in every Asian country just to cover the issues that matches that specific market. That is where we want to be.

FOUNDATIONS FOR SUCCESS

RICH: That's an expensive proposition. If you think about that, let's say if told you in 10 years from now you would have 8 offices across major Asian markets or at least Shanghai, Bangkok, Dakar, Delhi, Dacca. What do you doing today to put your brand there for 10 years from now? What do you have to do?

JESSICA: Actually this is a really interesting questions. Actually its the talk of the market. So I have stringers in most of the Asian cities and they are the ones covering the stories that matter. What is actually a little bit of a challenge is then finding business to cover the cost. Obviously journalism cost money, writers cost money. So how do we find partners for funding to actually go in a market and say hey I want to cover those stories. Actually you find that actually once you get your stories there, you 're covering a market then people have interest. So it's an chicken to the egg issue. We have to grow organically. We have to grow in that way, but really there is no substitute for it.

RICH: 25yo Jessica is watching this. She's wondering how I can change the world and use my voice. What are 3 pieces of advice you would give her?

JESSICA: Like don't start a business? No, I'm kidding! I mean sometimes I say that. No, well actually really it's to really persevere really. I think that's the one thing there will be times where you be very, very discourages, but try and keep the faith and see where you want to go. Think about things in 10- 20 year horizon instead of a 3 year horizon.

The other advice is like find good people. You're only as good as your team. You really need to surround yourself with people who inspire you, people who are better than you. People who can see your vision and can help you get there. I think that's really important.

STAYING INSPIRED

RICH: How do you wake up every day to feel inspired?

JESSICA: I think it's really important to kind of hang on to why you are doing this. Is that yes, we are going to live like you said to like 120. Do you want to do something with your life or do you want to kind of waste it away? We are a blip on this planet and in this universe. Really, what do you want to do with that time with this very short span of time?


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.


Jack Sim

Building Awareness, Trust, and Toilets | Jack Sim, World Toilet Organization

In this episode of Entrepreneurs For Good, I speak with Jack Sim, Founder of the World Toilet Organization, the "other" WTO.

More than happy to talk shit, pun intended, Jack's mission of ensuring the world has access to toilets is dependent on our ability to openly talk about the problems.

It is an interview that I came away with a much greater understanding of the importance of awareness, and some key tips about creating engagement on even the most difficult of topics.

Jack is a force to be reckoned with, and the world is better place for it!



What matters is your intention. Which has to come out very very clearly, and when people understand your intention they start to trust you.


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 Jack

Founder of World Toilet Organization (WTO), has been a successful businessman since age 24. Having achieved financial success in his 40s, Jack felt the need to change his direction in life and give back to humanity – he wanted to live his life according to the motto “Live a useful life”. Jack soon left his business and embarked on a journey that saw him being the voice for those who cannot speak out and fighting for the dignity, rights and health for the vulnerable and poor worldwide.

Jack discovered that toilets were often neglected and grew concerned that the topic was often shrouded in embarrassment and apathy; talking toilets was taboo! Jack felt this led to the neglect of restrooms island wide. In 1998, he established the Restroom Association of Singapore (RAS) whose mission was to raise the standards of public toilets in Singapore and around the world.

It soon became clear that there were no channels available to bring these organisations together to share information, resources and facilitate change. There was a lack of synergy. As a result, in 2001, Jack founded the World Toilet Organization (WTO) and four years later, the World Toilet College (WTC) in 2005.

Follow 
Website: http://worldtoilet.org
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jack.sim.1671
LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/jack-sim-75732313b/


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. We are here with Jack Sim from the WTO. That's the World Toilet Organization. Just had a phenomenal conversation about the importance of communication and why now is the time to talk about poop. So please join us. Jack, thank you very much for your time. This has been phenomenal.

INTRODUCTION

RICH: Thank you very much for your time. Give me a brief introduction about yourself and the WTO.

JACK: My name is Jack Sim. I am the founder of the World Toilet Organization. I created the WTO because the subject of toilet and sanitation was so taboo and neglect that they call it what the agenda. Which, doesn't make sense.

SANITATION IN ASIA

RICH: What's the big problem that Asia is facing with sanitation?

JACK: The main immediate thing we want to talk about immediately is about the 2.5 billion people who do not have toilets. So why can't we talk about a preventative medicine that is so effective that you don't really have to need so much hospital and nurses and doctors, which is very expensive. Just prevent them from having the disease first by washing their hands, about flushed toilet, not having the flies spread it and by not polluting the river.

So this is the beginning.

RICH: Is it getting better? Are people talking about it? Are there parts of Asia that are talking about it? Are there parts that won't talk about it?

JACK: I think that in the last 18 years since the founding of the WTO, the media has loved this subject so much. So this romance of the love with the global media has been the biggest change because the media legitimized the subject. So every time we talk about it, they write about it and part of it is also about this unique blend of humor and serious facts.

STARTING CONVERSATIONS

RICH: When you started, what were some of the conversations like? Were they really difficult back then, or was it....how did you find the right people to get started?

JACK: In the beginning the guys get very excited because they always want to talk about toilet and their wives always stopping them. Then the wives like, can we talk about something else? Then after while they start to realize the serious facts that ey, this is so important and then everybody talks about it.

RICH: When you were setting up the meetings, setting up the conversations, were there certain things that you realized that this is a good time? They are saying things that make me feel like its okay start talking? At that level?

JACK: So actually you should be able to talk about it in relation with any subject because toilet is so intimate for the person. You can talk about how, that is a very good starting point. How you teach the children to toilet train. You can even talk about your dogs. You can begin the conversation that then slowly you can talk about subject matter itself. But you can also talk about other people like the poor. You can talk about the enormous crisis that is going on in the pollution. I think depending on the person, is a very environment friendly person you can talk about the river. Then it all comes back.

MAINTAINING FOCUS

RICH: You get the conversation going, but the reality is conversation is different than toilets on the ground. How do you maintain a long-term focus when you're having short term conversations all the time?

JACK: I think if you are creating a ___3:55 you're not calculation what you will do. You are calculating what everybody will do. So the politicians are really, really gaining a lot of popularity votes and power by helping toilets to be build. People need it. Why would they do that if? Because then the people that they need it because upstream there was a driving of the man to the media talking about importance of toilets. Once they plant that seed in the head, hmmmm, we need to talk about toilet. It's so important. I think we need to improve that. It is dirty. That is not satisfactory.

It has to become unhappy and then the unhappiness drives the demand. The demand drives the supply. The vendors, the business man, the politician, the movie stars, the academy, the media...everybody take away something good for themselves. In the end, toilet gets built on the ground.

LEVERAGE SKILLSETS

RICH: Early on you were very successful. You retired at 40. What are the skills that you too into the WTO that you could think would be the most important for you?

JACK: It's the communication skills. So when you are doing business you are actually selling products, but you are in nonprofit organization, you are selling ideas and selling incentive. So it is very similar what we do in business of course is the individual communication as well so the graphics, the visuals. The things that we promote the product with is very similar to the nonprofit sector. The fact that I don't earn any money, don't draw any salary from doing this work, that also give a lot of creditability that people now ok, this guy is not getting something out of it. Altruism breeds a lot of following.

ALTRUISM VS PROFIT

RICH: Why do you believe that being altruistic brings you more credibility verses more profit? Because people use profit as a yard stick for business, but why is it altruism for nonprofit? Why cant it be impact for profit?

JACK: You can do that social enterprise and those models are pretty good. What matters is your intention and your intention has to come out very clearly and when people understand your intention, they start to trust you. See the difference between business and social work is that in business, you only kill all your competitors. You want to be the number one. In social work, you want to kill the problem. Therefore, you want as many competitors as possible to finish up this job. But if you are still thinking everybody stop, you don' save the world I save the world then something is crazy about your head, right?

So if you are in the social sector, you should let go no pun intended of what ever you try to hold to yourself and don't think about yourself so much, but think about the mission and you invite everybody. That's a beautiful destination lets go there together. People say I like it and then they join you. They also bring others and others join them. So a movement has no real need. It is a belief a system very near like a religion.

COLLABORATION

RICH: So how easier or difficult do you find it to collaborate with a lot of groups? I run an NGO myself, people are still competitive. People still want their brand. They still want their award. How have you found that process and how do you break through those people who want to hold on for themselves?

JACK: Trying to be famous is actually very self defeating because you come out here to do this work not because you want to be famous. You want to solve a problem. So the paparazzi, the awards, the recognition, the sadist, it is for the mission and if you always remember that everything that is visible is not about you, it is about the mission, then you are clean and your light weight and people trust you. Once you start to think that all the things about you are, then you're sick in the head and you start to shut down all the mission and you pin yourself in a corner and no one is going to believe you anymore because you are just an egomaniac.

I think to overcome that myths is a lot of self reflection to remind yourself don't enjoy it to much. What is that for? For the mission and that is the right answer and you keep doing that. I've seen a lot of police actually doing a lot of good and after a while this fame and status all this going to their head and it's so sad.

THE HYPE OF SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP

RICH: I 've been talking about this for a while. Social entrepreneurialism as a theme became very hot about 8-10 years ago and really 5-8 in North Asia. A lot of people shifted from the mission to winning awards. You said it's very sad people you've seen. When you see someone go from mission to little bit more ego to ego maniac, how does that impact the way that they look at their organization? Why is it sad? What do you see happening that you see when that happens in their organization?

JACK: A lot of my colleagues actually enter into depression. The reason is that they could not detach themselves from the mission and the mission becomes themselves. Once they are unable to feed their hunger and cravings for being recognized, then its like a movie star who doesn't have a movie for the last 3 years and they enter depression. It's no good.

The important thing is to go back to those Zen practice like detachment, humility...you know that the Chinese have a woo war, you know that means no me. Those kind of things of course is important but for me to reach a very, very high level of that is to always conscious you are insignificant, but just a tool to do this work. If you start to do that, people like to use you as a tool, it is much better.

ADVICE FOR NEW ENTRANTS

RICH: What if you were 28yo who was entering this space for the firs time. You're developing your first idea for solving the same challenge. They're going to be looking for a little bit of awareness because they need a megaphone to tell people who their idea is better. What advice would you give to them as they are starting out now that you believe would help them long term?

JACK: Basically just two dominate feeling in a human being. One is love and the other is fear. If you love you start to give people love, you start to look at problems and just authentically address it. What will happen is that the reward comes immediately to you in the sense that you are very joyful because you are consciousness is opening up. So you're heart is starting to open up and you feel very happy about yourself. Nobody is giving this award, just you are making yourself happy.

Now if you are grabbing, grabbing attention, grabbing money, grabbing materials stuff, power, then you're consciousness start to narrow and you become very miserable because you are always have to get something. But if you don't get anything, then you will eel so happy and then young people are starting to understand this because they have no money because so they go to the spiritual journey. A lot of them if they don't give up and become good, they can of course get paid and get a salary out of it, but it is the meaning that rewards you so much more.

Nobody gives you that meaning, just yourself. You are the one who gives yourself.

RICH: Have you ever questions yourself along this journey and gotten a little bit lost and lost the meaning?

JACK: Sometime when I talk to bureaucrats and they kind of say no, I like why am I doing this? I'm trying to good and it's supposed to be his job and he says no all the time. But after a while I get used to it.

GETTING OVER A SHITTY MONTH

RICH: How do you get over a shitty, you know month and no, no, no no. You start questioning yourself. What do you do to reset and to get back on track?

JACK: I remind myself that I don't have much days to live so I'm 61. I budget myself to die at 80 exactly on my birthday. Of course not going to kill myself, I have to budget just like you budget your dollars every year for your company. I have thought right now about 6,800 days which is just less than 1,000 weeks and so this time is very precious. If I don't use this time and I go home to relax and watch television, then I'm not contributing while it's still possible.

So I think that is my biggest motivator because every day is one day less. So I want to use every day in the most meaningful way and toilets is one of them.

BEING ALL IN

RICH: Does that mean that you spend every waking moment working on these challenges or do you have 8 hours a day for toilets, 2 hours for meditation and health, 3 hours for family...like do you try and have a holistic life or are you really mission focus for your whole awake day?

JACK: Yeah, it's mission driven every day 7 days a week. I wake up until night time. Then in between I kind of steal a could hours to have a secret affair with my wife and to spend some time driving the kids and talking to them in the car and then going to the next appointment. It's not a sacrifice. I think you should show children how to be a good human being. You can't teach them, you can only show them.

THE NEXT 25 YEARS

RICH: Tell me, what is your vision for the next 25 years of sanitation? What do you hope will be accomplished?

JACK: In the next 20-25 years every single human being on earth will have a toilet that is clean, safe and the excrement is treated and doesn't pollute the river and the waterways. People would not be sick because of hygiene issues. I think people will talk about toilets in a very normal way just like we are talking about food and drinks.

RICH: Thank you very much for your time. It's been great.


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.


Gift Chantaranijakorn

Overcoming the Blind Spots of Entrepreneurship - Gift Chantaranijakorn, Ma:D Hub

In this episode of Entrepreneurs for Good, I speak with Gift Chantaranijakorn of Ma:D Hub in Bangkok.  It is an interview I recorded a few months back, and is coming a week after she announced that she will be closing the Ma:D Hub, and in part because of the blind spots that she had to overcome to build a community that could financially sustain itself.

IT is an interview that I believe all aspiring entrepreneurs who watch as she knew then that she had a big challenge, but at the time believed that she would be able to overcome it.

I wish she had, but more than that, I hope that others will watch this video and perhaps gain some insights that will help them recognize and overcome their own blind spots.


But all the blind spots might not actually be an issue.  Cause everyone can learn, develop, and improve.  The thing is the commitment.


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 Gift

Gift Preekamol Chantaranijakorn – the founder of the Ma:D, the co-working space in Bangkok, where future entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs can share their ideas, knowledge, passion and experience.

Follow Gift
Website: http://madeehub.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/giftpreekamolc


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


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.