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.


Sompon Srakaew

Ending Labor Abuse in Thailand - Sompong Srakaew, Labor Rights Protection Network

In this episode of Entrepreneurs For Good, I speak with Labor Right Promotion Network Founder Sompong Srakaew about his mission to end labor abuse in Thailand.

A challenge that has received a lot of coverage recently, particularly in the fishing industry, through a network of volunteers and a range of outreach programs, Sompong has helped improve the awareness of the issues and drive improvement in labor standards.

Having seen the challenges in other parts of Asia, and how through economic development real changes can be made, I found Sompong's commitment to his cause not only inspirational but something that is a fundamental requirement for success.


quote


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 Sompong

Sompong was born in a rural village in Surin province, on the Thai-Cambodian border. He grew up in a poor farming household as the fourth of five children. As a top student of his class, Sompong earned a full university scholarship. Faced with limitless career opportunities, he chose to pursue a degree in social work.

Sompong Srakaew founded the Labour Rights Promotion Network (LPN) in 2006 because of the injustices he saw in the treatment of migrant workers in Thailand’s seafood processing industry. Sompong began working on migrant worker issues as early as the 1990s, after graduating with a degree in social work.

In 2008, Sompong co-founded the Migrant Working Group, a collective of Thai and international organizations working on policy advocacy for migrant children and migrant workers in general. In 2012, he co-founded Partners for the Rights of Children on the Move, a collective of 20 COs working to protect migrant children and women.

Follow Sompong and LRPN
Website: https://lpnthailand.org
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Labour-Rights-Promotion-Network-371018579290
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sompong-srakaew-0a8a4a106


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


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.


Abigail Smith

Do the Work. Trust Your Process - Abigail Smith, Thai Harvest SOS

In this episode of Entrepreneurs For Good, I speak with Abigail Smith, who a year and a half ago established Thai Harvest SOS. An amazing organization that has, in just a short time created a process that is able to safely redistribute more than a ton of food a day to more than 20 communities in Bangkok.

For Abigail, she sees this time as a pilot for building the process, systems, and support needed to take this to the next level, and in my conversation with her we discussed a wide range of different systems that she is focused on, trying to nail down, or is struggling to bring to scale.

There is a lot of valuable content in here, even for the most experienced leader, and I hope you will enjoy watching this conversation as much as I (we) did filming it!


This interview is about identifying a problem, and building systems that address that problem and bring a measurable impact.


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 Abigail

Thai Harvest SOS is a charity dedicated to the reduction of food waste and the redistribution of food fit for for consumption but not sale to those that need it.

Thai Harvest SOS collects non sellable but consumable food free of charge and sends it to communities where it can be of use. Food not fit for consumption is sent to local farms for composting.

Abigail Smith, originally from the U.S., is the group's operations director for Thailand and is responsible for driving its mission to "reduce food waste and use it in the most meaningful way."

Follow Abigail
Website: https://www.scholarsofsustenance.org/thailand
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/abigail-smith-44a25681/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thailandsos


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: Good afternoon everybody I'm here with Abigail from Thailand Harvest SOS. We just had the most amazing interview and I think you're going to love this one. We covered everything from having a laid to like process to focus on your organization. The myth of the administration costs and just going from getting through one day, to one week to one month to changing the world. We hope that you enjoy this episode. I know I sure as hell did and if you do, please like, share and comment on her Facebook page. On every Facebook page. Thank you Abigail, this has been hysterical.

BACKGROUND

RICH: Tell me about your operating plan. How many trucks do you have and how much food do you process?

ABIGAIL: Twenty one food donors right now all over Bangkok. We're processing anywhere from, it's averaging out to about 900 kilos a day. Cuz we do get some bulk in every once and a while and 900 kilos a day and about 22 recipient communicates throughout the city of Bangkok.

RICH: And do you move it, do you like you get it that afternoon and it has to be out your door by the evening?

ABIGAIL: Pretty much. Anything that my trucks, So I've two vehicles. I have one compost vehicle and one edible vehicle. They start at 7:00am and then they are parked back on premise by 7:00p. If any of the food...the compost is all managed within a day. If any of the edible comes in after 2 or 3:00pm, that's what our storage coolers downstairs is for and that goes out the next cuz we've got get it to the community in time to prep dinner. Otherwise it's going to go to waste for them. Also we're working though a lot of agencies that don't have the fridge storage.

We've done food safety training but we would rather manage it for as long as possible. A, to save them on the storage costs and B, to ensure that it's of the highest quality that we can give it to them and it's served at the highest quality that we can predict to the best of our ability.

MANAGING RISK

RICH: So how do you look at your system? Like, what are the flaming hot risks that you try to manage every day?

ABIGAIL: The flaming hot risk of course your first one is food safety. So we don't take cooked rice. We don't take anything cooked with coconut milk. It has a high volatile right after it gets heated. It kind of like goes on this crazy spectrum of bacteria within almost 45 minuets.

RICH: So, don't eat cold curry on the street.

ABIGAIL: Really don't. But it's just one of those things that we know that's a hot point especially here in southeast Asia that's a lot of foods made with it. We do not take cooked seafood, at all. We do not take frozen shellfish, at all.

RICH: Because?

ABIGAIL: Because it's just, those are your biggest risk factor categories for sure. The next is I guess cultural sensitivity with the food a lot of Hala communities. A lot communities that wouldn't eat the food that we were given. So we spend a lot of time trying to match out. You bring a Thai family a box of bad Ghats, they don't know what to of with it so it's ending up in the landfill anyways. You bring Vietnamese refugee a box of baguettes, they thrilled. Same with we cater a lot of...yea, we cater a lot of post large Indian weddings. This is a huge Indian wedding hub. Pakistani refugees, Nepalese, Sri Lankan, all love it. But my Vietnamese are like whoa, why what is this? I don't want it. So that's how we deal with a lot of that.

Then the other hotspots are of course just being sensitive with the people that are receiving food. We want to treat them with dignity right?

GETTING STARTED

RICH: Did you start with one community and move out? Did you always do everything like it, how it started?

ABIGAIL: It started pretty much one community, one donor, two donors, two communities and now it's blossomed and it works. Now what we need are more vehicles. That's really our next step. So in our first, we're about a year and half old. Locally founded in March 2016. I've kind of looked at everything we've done still even almost up to this January as a pilot, as proof. Now, what we've been able to do is, we've been able to physically prove is that the food waste is there and that you know when I walk into a hotel and an executive chef says I have no food waste, that you do. You do and it doesn't matter if it's 10 kilos or 100 kilos, it's still food waste and the more on people I get on board, the more 10 kilos matters and so forth and so forth.

So I've proved the food is there and the waste is there and that it's not a hard process. Actually we've found that like some of the stewarding teams in hotels we're making their jobs easier because they have less, wet heavy garbage. Ya know.

RICH: Right, so they save money from that.

ABIGAIL: Tesco Lotus is built into their KPIs for the store managers to donating. Things like that. We've proven the food is there. We've proved that the process is not impossible and we've proved the need and the hunger is there and maybe there aren't staving people, but they will take the cost off that. They will take being remembered. It's kind of fun and that they enjoy the difference in their diet and the variety that we are able to bring. Halfway home I got 100 kilos of frozen salmon from a restaurant that was changing menu. We brought it out. We mad fish balls. They've never had salmon before. So it was like this really special moment for them. Ya know, so it's ya we're providing meals and nutrition, but we're also ya know just....

RICH: Like a nice night out in a way.

ABIGAIL: Yeah, it's like they see our truck coming and their like, "oh my god, maybe it's going to be a really cool desert today." Or something different than they have every day.

SETTING UP

RICH: Legally, how difficult was this? Were there laws in place? How open is the Thai society, Bangkok, a foreigner coming in and setting this up?

ABIGAIL: We do it before. We have a mixed Thai foreign board. We are locally registered. We are a Thai foundation. That process to get a local registration start to finish was bout 9 months and as we say, Phaeng mak, very expensive but well worth it. So Phaeng mak, mak. I'm the only westerner on staff. Even like my one American staff, she's half Thai, she grew up in a Thai household and she's fluent. I'm the only westerner on staff. I try to stay off the camera as much as possible and like when we do local news articles that it's featuring the Thai staff. In Thailand, as much as like I don't, there's also a respect with the foreign foundation.

Now for me, I'd also been here for four years. I'd also worked in hotels for four years and could speak a little bit of Thai was kind of able to win over respect and that a lot of our corporates that were going through most 5 star hotel executive chefs are European here. Right? So I set it up and then my Thai staff comes in with their Thai staff and knocks it down. Then working with the mixed refugees who are used to working with UN, with asylum access, which has a.... So they were pretty used to it already. Some of our biggest blockades have been, I don't want to say Thai, I want to say Southeast Asian here perception of what food waste is. Changing language over to surplus that it's not dirty.

I feel like culturally all over the world, we have this big problem where...Oh my god if we donate food you're going to sue us...everybody's going to get food poisoning. It's an Urban Legend essentially it really doesn't happen. One of my partner foundations has been operating in this fear for 14 years over 1 billion meals served and not a single claim. They've also been able to change the laws in Australia to get food donors under Good Samaritan. It's something that we're looking at doing here.

Right now, I offer contracts to each food donor that guarantees that we accept liability if there is an issue and we can do that cuz honestly, there isn't going to be an issue. I really firmly believe that.

RICH: You don't worry about it.

ABIGAIL: We do have global insurance, but I really firmly believe that we're not going to have an issue.

TRUSTING PROCESS

RIGH: Even though it's potentially the hottest thing, it's something that you don't worry about.

ABIGAIL: I mean I worry about it, but we practice ____ some standards. I'm _____ (9:15) certified. I have a full time food hygienist on staff. We don't take the right things. We train the people donating food. We trust our process.

RICH: So you trust your process.

ABIGAIL: We trust our process. We train our communities receiving food as well. It's not....there is nothing half-assed about this. It was really thought through. It's been really well thought through in other programs in the world. You trust your process and honestly, you can get food poisoning order at the table at a 5 star hotel just as easily as you can get it in street food, just as easy as any where in the world. So we trust our process just as much as you do sitting down at a restaurant and ordering a meal.

VOLUNTEERS

RICH: How do volunteers support your organization? Who makes the best...like, do you use volunteer on a regular basis? How are they part of your....

ABIGAIL: We done on couple..first off we take interns. Usually the interns are admin, are Facebook, social media, like doing cute little projects that we want to do that are itching in the back of our head, but like nobody had time to do a sliding scale, so our staff can see how close we are getting to our food capture goal. They bring a lot o f light and energy to the office to normally and so it's great to have some. So internships have functions really, really well for us. We've taken volunteers on web design and on different projects like that which functions pretty well and is fun.

We are having problems. I don't even know how to say it. We're absolutely having problems. We are having problems having people cancel last minute. We're having problems of people taking photos of the wrong thing and posting it on social media. Then we need to..

RICH: What's the background of your average volunteer? Are they Thai? Are they foreign?

ABIGAIL: College students born here, but maybe a foreign background is a huge section of the population. Thai people returning home is a huge section of the population. Then all of our refugees want to volunteer, which is amazing. So we kind of use refugees volunteers on site to help sort, pack and distribute. That works well. But they can't go out on the truck all day really.

We've also found some great success volunteer from spousal expats. So they're on a spousal visa, so they can't work, but they can only give so much time to it legally. It's complicated I guess finding good volunteer help is not easy.

RICH: What are some of the challenges that you face, like how you...because managing volunteers is a process. It really is. It's no different than budgeting. You ask for five people, you're going to get three. How do you, what's the process you try to create?

ABIGAIL: We've tried to create by month volunteer trainings, which happen right in this living room. Ten to fifteen kids come in, we pull out a wipe board, we sign them up for days. We go through food safety food standards, safe lifting, community sensitivity, all of that kinds of stuff. They sign up on the wipe board, we follow-up with email. Um, I learning that, that might not be a great process, so it's not enough and honestly, I would love something like what you do to help us managing volunteers. It's really... It's really hard man.

RICH: Yes.

ABIGAIL: I thought it was supposed to make my life better, but it makes it worse almost every single time.

RICH: That's the irony of volunteering.

CASH FLOW

RICH: So, how good are you with your cash flow? Like how in touch with you are and I found this out like two years ago I nearly spiked my non-profit. I had about a four month window and I mean we were headed straight for the earth. I realized there's a big difference between sales and cash flow. Like it's huge. So, how do you know that?

ABIGAIL: I do all the forecasting. I am on it. I am picky about receipts. I am watching it all the time. Know when I say that we have x-amount for this program, for this month. There is usually a buffer in there. I build buffers all over the place. I always when I look at fundraising, I forecast on the fact that what this person that's gonna to do this campaign for me, he's going to raise me a million Baht, I put in my forecast, 25,000 Baht. You know what I mean? I don't put anything in my forecast until I have ink on the paper. There's no pipe dreams in it.

RICH: I have three sheets. One that is current and this is what I booked and I have exact numbers for. There is realistic what I'm pretty confident I can sell through. The other is potential. This is not just the revenue side, but it's also how many people can I add. Like when they want a raise, I have to bake the raise in. That way I can figure out how many months do I have at present. I sort of hyperventilating under 6. I started loosing hair at 3. Sort of my doctorate at...
ABIGAIL: Yeah. When I do my end of 3rd quarter books, I mean I just...I just like to be hiding under my table with a bottle of wine going I have to fire everybody.

RICH: At least you don't end that sentence with again. Right?

ABIGAIL: Again, no. It never...and that's what buffers are about right? There's guarantee, their bonuses aren't guaranteed. Now are they all siting on my forecast like they're all going to happen at 100% at all times, yes. Then that gives me another, that gives me a whole another month lets say something goes horribly wrong, that gives me another month. There's things in there, there's stuff in there like we know that our refrigeration is often unkind. Or we're working on getting trucks in Kind now. But I still build my budget and forecast like I'm paying full price for that. That's a lot of ways that I manage it. By telling my staff that we have less money than we do.
SCALE

RICH: This give us the idea of scale. I think we'll close it out here. Everyone's like you got scale, you gotta do more. Bigger impact. More people. More trucks. More this, more that. How do you, how do you approach scale?

ABIGAIL: How do I approach scale? I mean...

RICH: Because this is a pilot right?

ABIGAIL: We're still in pilot and I'm like looking at the real thing like I've proven it. Now we know stuff like for every US dollar we spend I can provide 4 meals. That's the fuel I need for fundraising. Now I know that I've done operated for almost over a year and we haven't had any food poisoning cases. Now I can say that. Right? I can really say that so now I can sell it stronger and better. Chicken/egg is a huge problem in what I'm doing here. Do I have the truck waiting in the wings and the staff sitting there with nothing to pick up while I'm out pitching to hotels? Or do I get the hotels on board and tell them I can work wonders and then when they call me and say can you start on Tuesday and it's Monday and say, hey who can go buy a truck today and hire a staff. So we're kind of balancing on that right now. I'm at the point where I'm at capacity and I'm still selling and the program to more food donors.

What I'm saying is that I'm going to get another truck, which we are. In the beginning of 2018 and then we would like to start your program on this day or this day. I also don't pick up new communities and new food donors at the same time. For example, Hilton started on the first. Chatruim will start on the 15th. We've got a new recipient community starting on the 25th once I know that that's all there and ok.

Because so that's kind of the stuff that I'm doing. Just praying, there's a lot of praying. I say to the kids, I call my staff the kids, everyday I kind of walk in and put my purse down and I'm like alright, what are we doing to get to the end of the day. If we can get to the end of the day, we can get to the end of the week. If we can get to the end of the week, we can get to the end of the month. Then eventually we are going to get to the end of the year and if we just keep doing the right thing every day...and if we just keep communicating and if we just keep pushing ourselves, our other team members, our donors, our recipient communities appropriately and just a little bit, we're going to make progress.

If you're doing the right thing, the money is going to come. The stuff is gonna come. I know it feels like ______________(17:35) I talking to you just like my staff talk, like I know today felt really hard, but we did it. It wasn't impossible, it wasn't maybe graceful, but we got to the end of the day, so now when this problem comes up gain, we're going to be able to get to the end of the day with a little more grace. Then we're gonna be able to prove our numbers and then we're going to get more.


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.