Christoph Langwallner

Aspire, Discover, Translate, and Scale Innovation | Christoph Langwallner, NAMZ

Since meeting Christoph Langwallner nearly three years ago, I have come to understand that he is one that sees the biggest challenges that we face as opportunities to disrupt markets, and I wanted to find out about his process.

Already in a position to reach more than a billion consumers, he has built an organization where aspirations lead to discoveries which translated into products, that can then be brought to the market. It is a process that is codified throughout the organization, their exploration processes, and is a driving force for his 20+ team.

It is a quick, and highly tactical 15 minutes, and I recommend it for anyone that is still in the ideation phase... or may be stuck between a couple of great ideas, but only have the resources to execute on one.


Turnover is vanity. Profit is sanity. Cash is the only reality.


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 Christoph

Chris is a serial entrepreneur with a solid track record in Austria, the UK, Russia, India, China, Singapore and the ASEAN region.

In 2014, Chris co-founded NamZ – a bio-science based, consumer minded incubator who, in in less than 5 years, enabled the establishment of three differentiated subsidiaries each equipped with an IP portfolio and its own set of competitive strategies.

  • The first, is about to profoundly change the way 2.6 billion instant noodle portions are being made through a three-stranded technology which will make the additional deforestation of about 130,000 basketball courts worth of primary forests redundant.
  • The second, will replace coconut sugar through the novel use of the tall perennial true grass of the genus Saccharum.
  • The third, is the 28cubed direct-to-consumer skin care brand that makes use of molecules commonly used in foods and beverages instead of syntethic ingredients, and delivers their products in a 100% recycled plastic dispenser..

Through these three technologies, and their products, the NamZ Group is on its way to be experienced a billion times!

Follow Christoph
Website: http://www.NamZ.com.sg
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/christophlangwallner/


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: So welcome back everyone. I'm here with my good from Chris from Namz. Just had an amazing interview with this...I'll call him a serial entrepreneur. What he's doing here back here, future of food, also outside the body looking at resources and how to better allocate them. We just had a great discussion about how you approach a business, how do you get ....how you build your team and how you try and scale to where you become the real market and market disrupter and everyone follows your standard.

INTRODUCTION

RICH: Thank you very much for your time. Do me a favor and give me a little bit of your background as a personal introduction.

CHRIS: MY name is Christopher Langwallner. I am the co-founder of a company called Namz. We are a science/bioscience based organization that looks into disruptive technologies for what we called the outside and inside of the body in sustainable manner.

CORE IDEA

RICH: What is the core idea and what is the disruption you are hoping to bring to the market?

CHRIS: The core idea was to basically say, there are big companies out there who try to come up with sustainable approaches with regard to what we call the inside and outside of the body. That means personal care products as well as food and beverages. However, doing something different in a multinational is almost impossible or very, very slow moving. So we decided to basically say lets take an opportunity to step outside of such an environment and lets look into opportunities with an unmet needs. Wherein you can actually say if we could resolve it, if that were to happen, what if we can resolve it, what would happen? How would we actually impact.

What we did was try hard for about a year, 9 months to come up with 15 ideas and we launched a company and took 12 ideas into the lab trying to say ok, how do we approach this? What is it that we have to do or can do with regards to technology advanced and sciences, applied sciences in particular in order to fulfill or meet these unmet needs particularly on a consumer basis. That within the view of being sustainable.

RICH: What are the issues that you are dealing with? What are scarce resources that your most concerned with?

CHRIS: We are all living in a world where, we all know that by 2050 we will be 9.6 billion people, whatever depending on which reference point you are trusting more. We are going to be that many people and we need to increase the production capacity by about 70%. Now if we have to do that, the approaches that we had in the last century are not available to us anymore. They are more luxurious because we could actually take the forest down and just increase acreage in order to increase production. That to us is not available anymore particularly because, particularly in the context of food security, water scrutiny and energy security.

REALIZING THE BEST IDEAS

RICH: You mentioned that you start out with 15 ides, you brought 12 into the lab. Generically without getting to technical about your secret sauce here, what's the process that you took from going from 12 to the 1 or 2 you knew had the most potential that technically could deliver to the market that you could get your big Z...which is your scale.

CHRIS: It took us 4 years to be able to communicate that. I think what it really runs down to is our strategic pillars that we call aspire, discover, translate and size. In order to be able to filter something to apply a filter of ideas, bringing them forward and getting them from ok I have an idea, and you try out an approach and you probably have an discovery. You identify something new to use or an invention. That may or may not have any great economic value at the end of the day.

So what we are really, really trying to hard at the beginning of each and every single project to ask tough questions what if. Also, allow yourself at the beginning of a project even before you go into the lab, to dream about a different future. Travelling in your mind. We call it aspire, dream. Travel into that future and say so if our technology truly can make markets, meaning disrupt the market, how does that future then look like? How would the industry behave differently? What is our role then? I think that is one key aspect of it.

Then we take it forward to what we call a discovery phase. Whereby we say let us talk to consumer. Then we start it off talked a lot to industries and industry players. But we very quickly figured out and we learned that talking to individual brands, you get a very, very biased few. The biased few from an angle, from a few of the brand and how the brand of that particular potential customer fuels the world. That maybe consistent with a larger needs within the consumers, but it many, many cases it isn't. It is very, very tainted in a way.

So we do a lot of that work to start with. We are working together with recognized people in the industry. We have people in-house that are doing consumer insights. Then we take it into the lab and say if that is a true unmet need, how can we actually, what can we do in order to help a process and new way of doing things to come about in order to really be able to disrupt?

This discovery process and the aspiration are aligned to it may take years. Once we hopefully win and say that there is something that we can take forward, we then look into can we carve this out? Can we create a subsidiary company? Can we equip subsidiary company with different skills? People that are actually good with translating science into how to process factories, and so on. Then lastly, scale it up from there and go on the market and succeed.

SUCCESS

RICH: What does scale look like for you? Hop do you define success of a product or an innovation that you bring out of this lab? What is your big goal?

CHRIS: I think the moment we wake up in the morning. We come to work because we would like to be experience a billion times. We are on the path to be experienced 2.6 billions times a year., which is great. Now we can actually drill down and can we now create, can we replicate what we've done with this first partner to be able to be experienced a billion times in a quarter, in a month, etc.

That's behind that aspiration aspect of being experienced a billion times. If I were looking tomorrow, the financial aspect of it. I would say lets try to analyze it to what's the minimum size required to actually make markets. So that your technology finally becomes the norm, the standard, the status quo at some point and time. So that you have the technology, the go to technology and how can you leverage from there. That will be more of the aggressive a business aspect of it.

RICH: What's that number? How much of the market to you have to own before you really that impact that you want?

CHRIS: If you look at the entire life cycle of a business it would be about 30% of the market. Whether or not we ever get there, who knows. But unless and until you aim high, how can you get there in the first place?

STAYING FOCUSED

RICH: Between achieving 30% and today still in the lab, how do you keep yourself kid of mindful that's your goal, but keep everyone moving on a day to day basis in a grid?

CHRIS: I don't think it's me. I think actually its the folk around me. Because what we've done in this business we've set out the company and how it functions like a system I keep on telling everyone I am not the CEO, the project is the CEO. If the project needs a particular CEO because the CEO has a particular skillset or experience, so be it. Take over. Run with it.

That helps you tip toing on each other, helps you be focus, helps you stay alert, that helps you having your big goal in eyesight. So, I would not to do justice to what we stand for if I would say it is me. No, it is not me at all. I'm just one of many here who are really driving this project.

RICH: When you're going through this process you hit this challenge you know that on the other side there is something amazing. How do you get yourself through that, that challenge? Like you can't get the experiment to work. You can't get the team to buy into your idea. What's a process for you to get through a challenge that's worth getting through?

CHRIS: I never find it difficult to be self motivated. An experiment, a failed experiment is just a data point, it's just one learning. It's just saying ok, this approach didn't work lets try the next one.

SUPPORTING ECOSYSTEM

RICH: Do you have a support network outside of this albeit investors, advisors, friends, family, things like that. That you're able to call on when you have a questions that can't be answered by yourself or by the family in the company here?

CHRIS: Yes, we do have. We are fortunate to have what we call the three F's behind us. We are first to family, the friends and the fools. This is a support network that we have that the function is supporting partners, sponsoring goals. The function is counselors, advisors. They are here to ask the difficulty questions. They are here to ask those questions we haven't asked yet.

I don't think any single person, any single companies own right can be successful unless and until you built this ecosystem around you. The ecosystem includes not only the three F's as I've explained, but also the partners that work with you on saying, hey I have an appetite to translate my business.

RICH: If you were going to be advising the 25yo Chris who is entering the market, food entrepreneurship, what advice would you give him to just take it to the next level?

CHRIS: The 25yo Chris. I think the 25 you Chris didn't have a problem of taking risk. That was always the sort of aspect of mind I probably scared a lot of my family members on the way. But I honestly I think as an entrepreneur, I have done an MBA throughout my career and what you learn doing an entrepreneur is that you can quantify risk, or you think you can quantify risk. Therefore, if you think you can quantify risk, you become more risk adverse than you should be as an entrepreneur.

At the end of the day, 25yo Chris I would say take the risk and make mistakes. Learn from them. Implement a better of yourself and don't believe you have wisdom. It is a collaborative approach that brings people forward. It is not a single person. You can have an idea, but unless and until somebody else picks it up. Like in football or soccer. You can have the ball all 90mins without scoring a goal, but if you have a team that helps you out, you could win the match. The same is with a company. Your really have to think like that.

I think that's what's really, really important. Of course, then comes the more tangible aspect of becoming an entrepreneur. A crucial aspect of being an entrepreneur is always making sure you're not running out of cash. The best idea can become meaningless the moment....the best idea, the best business proposition can be meaningless the moment you run out of cash. If you are lucky, somebody else takes over but then you're not enjoying the fruits of your labor.

So cash management is of utmost importance. Always make sure you are not running out of it. I have learned in my past that turnover is vanity, profit is sanity, cash is the only reality. That holds true for that sort of entrepreneurship.

I think theses are the core aspects of really being daring to go out. Daring to go out and if you start something with friends, make sure you are ask the right questions. Make sure that you have an honest approach to things because...Actually I didn't tell you, but my very, very first entrepreneur exposure was with two other friends and we failed because we didn't ask the right questions. We only burned cash. That's life.

ORGANIC VS INVESTMENT LED

RICH: Some of the most valuable lessons I ever learned was actually through a crisis of cash flow management. I'm a completely organic entrepreneur. Everything is about how much I can sell. How much I can sell. How may I can reinvest. In that vain, you've taken on external funding and you also put all your own in. What is the balance for you? Organic vs Investment?

CHRIS: I don't think that we have a formal 90/10, 10/90, 80/20 whatever it might be. I think all formulas we would like to work on in what we call strategy partners. Money that is of strategic importance.

We at this point in time are not it the capital market that seeks venture capital funds neither private equity funds because that particular industry is not really yet geared up to support an agri kind of food setup. Particularly in this part of the world. Maybe not the part of the world, but I don't know the ecosystem in California and places like this. Probably there is money that is better suited for that sort of industry. But here, it isn't.

You don't want to go into you know getting a license, a factory license takes you 9 months and then you have a funding you who wants to sell you in like 12 months. It just doesn't work. There is a misalignment from what the cash wants to do to the business aspects are. So I think the expectations with regards to the cash management of what the cash ought to do for the business has to be considered very, very smartly. If that is align, doesn't matter who owns what stake, but what's the value that we can generate. It could be something very, very small, but hugely big in terms of return. It could be very, very small loan, but a huge return on something that is greater.

The recipe as of now for us is work with strategic partners, you can call it smart money. In the true sense it has a to have a strategic impact on the business. Just bringing in money for the sake of bringing in money ends up with managing balance sheets and P&Ls and it doesn't really help you on the project.


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.


Ada Yip

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

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

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

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


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


About the Entrepreneurs For Good Series

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

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


About Ada

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

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

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


About Rich

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

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

Contact Rich
social@richbrubaker.com


Full Interview Transcript

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

BACKGROUND

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

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

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

ADA YIP: I hope so.

THE PLASTIC PROBLEM

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

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

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

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

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

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

MARKETING THE IDEA

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

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

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

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

EARLY ADOPTERS

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

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

FUNDING SOURCES

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

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

RICH: So they can sell this.

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

DEFINING SUCCESS

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

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

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

EXPECTATIONS vs. REALITY

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

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

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

IT's JUST BUSINESS

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

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

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

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


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

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


Christina Dean

Changing Consumer Mindsets and Persistence | Christina Dean, Redress

Through this episode of Entrepreneurs For Good, I speak with Christina Dean about the problem of waste in the fashion and textile industry, and the work she is doing at Redress to bring awareness and solutions to the forefront.


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 Christina Dean

Christina is the heart and soul of Redress. Since she started Redress in 2007 as Founder and spokesperson, and has steered the organisation’s powerful course towards a more sustainable future with less waste in the fashion industry.

Voted one of the UK Vogue’s Top 30 Inspirational Women, Christina delivers the Redress message to the world through talks, seminars, thought-leadership pieces and documentaries.

The indefatigable ex-dentist and journalist consistently drives the organisation towards inspiring positive environmental change in the world’s second most polluting industry. To Christina, Redress is not just the future of fashion but the future way of living.

Follow Christina and Redress:
Website: https://www.redress.com.hk
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100006862236443
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dr-christina-dean-7694a652/
Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/getredressed/
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/RedressAsia
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Redress_Asia


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

I'm Christina, and I'm the founder of Redress. We are an NGO reducing pollution and waste in the fashion industry. Probably my ultimate mission is just to inspire people to kind of get active with being a part of a solution.

REDRESS

The original problem we were trying to address is the rampant pollution coming from the fashion textile industry and we're still trying to do that. But ultimately after 9-10 years of experience in this sector what we're really trying to do is question human's relationship with consumption and trying to awaken people's minds to better ways of consuming and using and disposing.

EVERYTHING IS A MESS

Well, honestly, the industry is facing way too many problems for me to be able to isolate it. Firstly, taking a whole look at the entire fashion and textile industry, it's the second biggest global polluter and so if you want to look at pollution, you're going to have to address water, chemicals, carbon, green house gases, the whole spectrum of pollution and its all coming out of the fashion and textile industry. Of course, if you wanted to isolate the absolute worst of the worst, I think you could possibly isolate water.

The textile industry causes about 20% of all industrial and water pollution and in China, the textile industry is probably the second biggest water polluter in China. You've got to think, ya know, see China has got a huge industry across multiple sectors. So, even if you look at China the amount of, if you look at China...if you look at the pollution coming from the textile industry in China, the textile industry is actually causing twice the amount of pollution for water than the coal industry. And China's coal industry is actually supplying around 50% of the world's coal. So, I mean that's, that's just looking at textile, sorry, that's just looking at water as being one major problem with the textile industry.

When you start looking at the... I mean cuz there's also chemicals. You know, you need 8,000 chemicals to turn the raw material into a fabric. Eight thousand different chemicals. One pair of jeans requires three kilos of chemicals. And when you just multiply that by the amount of clothes that are being produced out there, it's truly horrific.

CHANGING CONSUMER HABITS

Well, I think if consumers keep going with buying, buying and dumping, dumping, then we're not going to address the problems of the fashion industry. Which will mean, that the fashion industry will continue to speed up, it will produce more and more clothes and it will create a lot of pollution and waste long the supply chain. And we will be continually facing a huge amount of wastage going into the landfill. So what is that going to do? It's going to continue to damage the environment, polluting the planet and killing people.

WHAT'S THE SOLUTION?

I think, from talking to a lot of people in the industry, is that the biggest threat...if you could look the industry is facing almost every single challenge that you could possibly think of. But if you really wanted to nail it down to something, what the industry really needs is a reliable, sustainable, renewable, cheap source of new fibers. Because you know cotton is a mind filed of problems and recycle polyester is wonderful.

I mean we've got a whole spectrum of materials and fibers that you're feeding into the textile industry and the search is on for the miracle fiber that you can feed this monster with less of an impact and that is what fashion brands need. Because they know that most textile garment fashion businesses know that they can't source the way that they did before because there's competition for food, for land to grow food, versus fibers. You've' got under priced resources like water. You've got consumer awareness that has spiked in recent years an you've got a chancing consumer sentiment. So basically sourcing has to change.

REDUCING WASTE. IT'S OBVIOUS

The reason we focus on waste reduction is because it's so obviously an environmental benefit to reduce waste and its also an economic benefit for anyone wanting to improve their bottom line, reduce waste. I mean, come on it's obvious. So that's why we want to reduce waste because we think that we can demonstrate, impact that way. If you want to reduce waste and you want to go talk to a brand and you want to a supplier, the doors open. Because everyone loves reducing waste. So that's why do that. Why we are not trying to find the miracle new fiber, because honestly the solution will probably for that will come from technology and we are not, ya know, I can barely operate Facebook. So you know we are not going to be going down that route.

BUSINESS MODEL

We are an educational organization essentially a social enterprise driven by education. So, in order to do that, we have to make money. The ways we make money are, entrepreneurial at the very spirit, but completely varied according to where we're digging for cash. If we're looking in the supply chain, or if we're looking for cash from consumers and funding. So we don't have any one funding model that actually serves us because we're not actually serving a product or making a product. Instead we're basically incredibly creative about getting money out of people, companies and organizations and governments.

So another model that we're working on and it's a business model, although I'd like to be richer on it. The model is we take clothes from people who use them..the business model is that we get clothes donated to us and then we sell them. It's pretty easy, but we could collect say in a year, year on year is different, lets just say 20 tons in a year, 15-20 tons in a year, But we can probably only sell about 3% of that through our popup shops. so it's a goo funding mechanism. It doesn't really kind of touch the sides of the budget, but it does help a little bit. and Of course, it's not, when you run a social business or a social enterprise, it isn't about the money. Yes, you've got to grow, you've got to make money, but you also have to change people so you can't always value things by the dollar.

CONVERTING CONSUMERS IS DIFFICULT

It's not easy to convert a fashion consumer. It's really difficult because if you look at organic food, it's obvious right? People are selfish. They want the best for themselves, so if you eat organic, you're going to be healthier, hopefully.

But people, to be really a conscious fashion consumer, you have to be very altruistic and you have to be able to think beyond your wardrobe and your daily life. You need to be be able to think of the cotton farms, of the garment workers, of the people living their polluted rivers.

To do that, it requires an emotional kick up the you know what. And you can't do that in one second it takes a lot to really inform someone like that. Inform someone to be able to change, and you have to..the problem with fashion as well as that its so deeply emotive. You know, what we wear is so important and so to ask peole to really make big changes over the outer appearance of their clothing, is actually to ask quite a lot.

The way to convert people is to make them understand that 1, the fashion industry is so polluting. It's not just causing problems with the environment, dirty, dirty rivers, it is literally killing people. That's number 1 and of course, this huge amount of social issues that comes with our clothes.

If you can lodge those two things into people's minds and certainly nail it home by saying every time you buys something, you're actually part of that. Because you're buying that. You're paying for all that suffering and if that's what you want to do...well, no one actually wants to do that. That's the good thing and I do think that most people are great and they truly don't want to be a part of that. They just don't understand that its' that bad.

So the way to change them is that you've got to make them realize that they're part of that. It's changing people and we changed so many people because people who come to our pop-up shops are on the hunt for a deal. They are not kind of green, they don't have a halo shining as they walk through the door. They're looking for clothes. They want nice clothes. They become very inspired that you can actually get great second hand clothes. So we do convert people while they're in our stores.

CARROTS AND STICKS

Now I think, its a carrot and a stick. I think you have to paint the harsh reality of the truth. That is, you know, the stick. The carrot comes in the form of saying, what fundamentally is fashion? It is the most beautiful, creative, expression of who you are as a human spirit. If we can capture that positive, that positive thread of fashion and make it ethical, make it value the planet, then you can actually love dressing in a more sustainable, ethical way. In fact, when you become more in tune with the fashion industry and you dress more ethically, what you...I've discovered that you actually start to enjoy style so much more because it has meaning.

I would love to say that our message resonates with Millennials, because you know that is such a powerful group, but I actually think we are talking much more to the more sort of older group of 25-45ish more woman than men. We talking a lot, I think to people who are searching for something else in their life.

CHANGE THROUGH COLLABORATION

At the end of the day, we're just 10 people. We ya know, we have a huge mission. We are 10 people and we are up against one of the biggest industries in the world, which actually look at the fashion and textile industry, it's the second biggest economic trade. So, are we going to be able to dent that industry if we work alone? Of course not. You have to work with industry to change industry.

So one example of one brand that we have been helping is Shanghai Tang, obviously China's leading luxury brand. We partnered with them for a couple of years on one of our projects, which is the sustainable fashion design competition. Basically competition, we find a winner, the winner goes work with Shanghai Tang, designs a collection and the collection is made using up cycled fabric waste. It's all of the fabric inventory and excess that is lying around from previous collections from Shanghai Tang's business and with our designers who we've trained, we've targeted, we've found them, they create a collection for global retail. Now, why that is great? On the one hand, you're educating emerging designers, you're transforming the ethos amongst emerging designers, but then we flip over and we effect the business. So we are looking at transforming supply chains of some big fashion brands in order to put upcycle products into their store. Ultimately because we want consumers to buy more sustainable options.

Shanghai Tang's reason for getting involved with us is because I think number one, they are a very responsible company who actually like doing good through their business. But much more than that they see the opportunity of working with our designers, who are ya know, Central Saint Martins standard. Incredible designers as reinvigorating the brand with a much edgier collection, actually that's just in-store and also integrating sustainability into their collections. So a refresh invigoration is probably one of the unexpected benefits that we also give to these brands.

TIMING IS EVERYTHING

Timing's everything. Timing in connections is actually very important you know. We've, had a very big partnership with a Esprit that went on for four years, big global rollouts of very mass mainstream fashion collections. People chop and chains.

These big fashion companies...their CEO's change everyday it feels like. And you can't actually make a long...it took about 20 mins over lunch. Well I went out, see he's a chairman, not executive direction, chairman now. I went out with the chairman Rafa ___, he is a friend of a friend. Sat down for lunch and said do you want to partner with us on a sustainable fashion design competition. And he said yes before I really finished the sentence. And that's because you know what I find and I you know, we speak a lot of fashion brands is that I don't think fashion brands are like, you know the evil people in the world. It takes us all. It's about catching them at the right time, getting in there with the right people, and selling them the right message.

WORKING WITH INDUSTRY

The benefits for us or working with...so for example, Shanghai Tang is immense because through them, we're able to message that China's taking sustainability more importantly and that upcycling is a business solution and that is important.

Through working with a company like Esprit for a number of years, we're actually able to say look, Esprit, one of the biggest players out there in the more mainstream industry is looking at waste reduction in their supply chain. And that actually pushes a lot of the agenda across the industry and of course, reaching consumers as well.

EVOLVE, GO TO THE GAP

I actually think, I know this might sound really unstrategic, but the end game keeps moving. Ya know, we need to be going and doing the hardest work possible so there's no end to this. The fashion industry is always going to be disgusting. It is. I mean, you know who are we kidding. It's always going to be a massive, massive problems, and yes, we can try and do our best to make just some if it better, but I'll go to my grave and it will still be really bad.

So, the end game is to evolve with the deeds of the industry and that has already changed in the last ten years. Like ten years ago we started collecting clothes and selling clothes, trying to inspire people that second hand clothes are okay. Now everyone is doing. The market is crowded with entrepreneurs, startups, for profits. Everyone is collecting clothes. You barely luck to leave this office with your shoes on. Everyone wants your old clothes and everyone is flogging clothes. So there's not a gap in the market for us anymore, but that's fine we are still doing it. But we need to move to where it's harder.

One example of that is for, for example, we provide teaching materials to universities. Because universities around the world really realize that they really need to teach their design students sustainability, but most Unies are way too busy to even think about it. So we've created a teaching module so all they have to do is download it and teach it and I like to say any monkey could do it because...there's your pack, read it out, teach the students.

Now, why did we do that? Because we are addressing a gap in the market. The gap is there's a huge need to educate young designers. The universities don't quite know how to do it. We're there in the middle and that is what a successful social business does. It goes to where there is a gap. There is no point hanging around the gap if it's filled up.

CELEBRATING SUCCESS

It's very difficult and actually quite sole destroying if you're a social business or enterprise because you can have a success every day, but the challenge is still so big. So I'm very proud of a lot of our successes, and even yesterday I felt really happy about a couple of things. Which is quite rare. Because really, if you're pretty driven with your cause, the cause remains this monkey on your back and this monster. And so, yeah small successes along the way, but the challenges are still so big. There's no point in patting yourself the back that much really.

MOVING BEYOND THE FOUNDER

CD: Sustain...no our current challenges are actually strategic, man power, internal systems, efficiency, management and funding. Always fudging, funding is always there that's taken for granted.

RRB: So how do you overcome these challenges? Is it you against the world? Do you have a board that helps you?

CD: Yeah.

RRB: Or do you talk to other entrepreneurs? Like, is it wine?

CD: No, I think...so having...I started it almost 10 years ago and I've been winging it for all of this time, but now as we're growing into a big organization, we can't just winging it. And so about a couple of well, a year ago issues we set up a new board and we've got a much tighter team structure with a new executive director who is reporting to the board. So what we are trying to do is move beyond a founder into a proper set up of a business with an active board, which we do. We have that now.

The problem of course, with anything is that things take time. You can't just set up a board and expect it all to work the next day. You can't just employ an ED, an executive director, and expect that to just happen over night. And so we are in a deep transition stage of moving beyond the sort of passionate founder to a sort of top management board structure. It's not that difficult, it just takes time. You've got to keep working at it. You can't ever really expect it to just happen. It constantly needs attention.

Well, a few years ago, must have been six years ago I went to INSEAD in Singapore and I learned so many things. But the one thing I learned was that the founder can ultimately kill the growth of an NGO and that really stuck with me as my abiding lesson from that entire INSEAD course. It was on social entrepreneurship. So I'm very conscious of being a founder and enabling the team to take it on. Personally, I can't separate my life from Redress because I love it. But I think, I think I can that, I can walk away because I'm not really walking away, I'm just walking away to other opportunities.

IT NOT EASY, BUT IT'S WORTH DOING

CD: Yes, definitely..

RRB: What happened?

CD: Well, you know what, sometimes you can be working on a project slogging your guts out and it's so demanding plus I've got, ya know, three young children. So I work really, really hard and yeah...It's just soul destroying sometimes.

RRB: Why do you beat yourself up?

CD: I think you, I mean it's easy to beat yourself up because when you've been doing it for so long, it's your second nature. You're not going to give up. Anyway it depends on your character. I'm not someone who gives up anyway. Yes, it's not fun. Anyone who says its fun is definitely lying. It's true. It's hard work. Yeah.

PERSISTENCE AND UTTER DETERMINATION

I think another thing I've learned is just how long everything takes. Back in the early days, I was talking from a shaker when I was setting this organization up. You've got to take a 10 year view on it. I thought that's ridiculous. I'll be done with this with in a couple of years and 10 years on I've barely scratched the surface. I think a lot of people who are staring up don't realize A, that they're going to work themselves so hard for so long before you even see impact and even when you start to see impact, you haven't really scratched the surface. So, persistence and utter sheer determination. Otherwise, I don't think there is any point in starting.


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.


David Yeung

The Future of Plant-Based Proteins | David Yeung, Green Commons

In this episode of Entrepreneur for Good, I speak with David Yeung, founder of Green Commons, about his impossible mission to encourage people to leave the meat-based lifestyle for the betterment their health and the planet.

This mission was born through David's personal experience and difficulties as a vegetarian who regularly traveled the world and lived abroad. When he returned to Hong Kong, he found some like-minded others interested in creating a change, called “Green Common”. Over time, David has scaled that group into a number of organizations with the same mission, including "Green Monday", an initiative centered around the idea of helping people replace animal-based protein with plant-based protein.

Being very pragmatic about achieving his mission, David has had a very simple goal at the outset, which is to get people to give up one meat-based meal a week, one day a week, and take steps from there as they’re comfortable.


"We’re entering uncharted waters, so by definition, it’s a learning and trial-and-error process. So think big, dream big, but be ready to fail – and simply learn from it very quickly, and move on. And I think that applies to any entrepreneur in any field."
– David Yeung, Green Monday & Green Common


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 organziations 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 David Yeung

David Yeung is a noted environmental advocate and founder of Green Monday, an innovative social venture that takes on on climate change, food insecurity, health issues and animal welfare with a diverse platform that shifts individuals, communities, and corporations towards sustainable, healthy, and mindful living.

Under Green Monday, David launched Green Common – the world’s first plant-based green living destination – to introduce a revolutionary food and lifestyle experience. The movement of Green Monday has now spread to over 10 countries, with 1.6 million people practicing Green Monday at its Hong Kong origin.

Follow David and Green Commons:
Website: http://www.greencommon.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/davidyeung.hk
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/david-yeung-77094b1/
Instagram: http://instagram.com/green_common


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

David: So I'm David Yeung, and I’m one of the co-founders of Green Monday. And we're trying to change the way people eat around the world towards a more sustainable and healthier diet.

THE PROBLEM

David: Well, there are a lot of things that are wrong with today's food system, in many ways. One of the key things is people eating way too much meats. Livestock industry, a lot of people do not know, is one of the biggest culprits for carbon footprints, and it's also a very inefficient way to produce food. It takes a lot more land and a lot more water resources to produce the same amount of food if you're eating meat versus if you're eating plant-based food.

And also, from a health standpoint, with the animal factory farming practice these days, so many chemicals and artificial things are added to food that this is not the healthy way to eat.

GREEN MONDAY

David: So what we're trying to tell everyone – and what we're trying to empower and enable everyone to do – is shift towards a plant-based diet and a plant-based lifestyle.

Now, we don't necessarily ask people to “convert” to become a vegan or a vegetarian, but rather a holistic shift. So if someone used to be a big-time carnivore, we say, “Hey, can you go green one day a week, or can you cut down on the portion of meats that you eat on a regular basis?”

Which is why we came up with the name “Green Monday”. The idea is – well, Monday is symbolic to a new start, and at the beginning of each week, let's start a new habit. And of course, from Monday, we hope it will grow into every day – and from food, it will grow into the whole entire lifestyle, to become healthier and more sustainable.

When people talk – when we talk about the term “sustainability”, or when we mention “climate change”, “global warming”, people think of these as mega issues that only major corporations or governments can deal with. So each one of us is quite powerless. So because our impact is so small, people would think that, “I may as well not do anything, because at the end, what does my little change mean to the world?”

However, the way we look at it is, if we can engage everyone to take a baby step and synchronize that baby step to be taken together, then it becomes a giant impact and a giant leap.

So the key is: How do we lower the barrier and make it engaging, make it approachable, make it super easy for anyone to do? But at the same time, they know that if they do it on an ongoing, sustainable, long-term basis, and if they start to spread this among their friends and family, this will create a mega impact as well.

And at the end, governments and corporations – no matter how big they are – they still need the change from individuals.

Well, on one hand, it is a very tough sell because food is such an integral part of everyone's daily habits. And of course, people want to choose what they love to eat. But on the other hand, food is also a great entry point. Because if you can find a way – if we can find a way – to make plant-based green diet delicious, tasty, affordable – and hip, trendy, popular – then it also becomes something that is super easy for a lot of people to jump onto the bandwagon.

So we look at it as a difficulty or obstacle, but at the same time, is also an opportunity. It's also the quickest way to engage people, because you will never forget to eat.

Now, with the rebranding of Green Monday, rather than calling ourselves – “Hey, try to join our ‘meatless movement’,” or “Try to join our ‘vegan movement’,” we simply use the word “green”, which is a positive, engaging, encouraging platform.

And we say, “Even if you do a tiny change, you are still making a step towards a greener world.” So we turn a negative into a positive. We turn what people perceive as a sacrifice into something that they can add value and contribute to the world.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR ENTREPRENEURS

David: Well, this is a – I think people are losing their trust in big companies. And that is not necessarily just big food companies, but big companies in general. The last seven or eight years, too many things have been exposed – how big companies have exploited the system, whether it’s from the food industry standpoint, in the finance industry, you name it. So a lot of those behind-the-scene things have been exposed, and people are losing that faith or trust in these brands.

And also from a second – I think another reason is, these mega companies, they do not know the “pulse” of the new – whether they're Millennials, or the New Age customers. They simply don't know exactly – what are they eating, and what is the trend going to be.

So that gives a huge opportunity to a lot of food entrepreneurs – or nutrition, innovation, etc. – a lot of opportunities. And consumers at the end will vote by the consumption and say, “Hey? You know what? This segment,” such as almond milk, or coconut water, or aloe drink, or whatever that is , “is the feel that I want.”

So a lot of times, the big companies – first of all, by default, because they're big, they also move slower. But second is, they simply don't get the pulse. And again, finally, is people losing trust in them.

Well, it used to be – when we think of “vegan” or plant-based food, it used to belong to the niche. Just the ultra-healthy people, the yoga people, fitness – just that niche group.

But now, people are all very aware that hey, the protein that you're getting from meat – whether it’s through our education and advocacy, or simply from many news that they read – they know that this way of acquiring protein is not the healthy way.

So with plant-based, I mean, there are a lot of companies such as Beyond Meat, such as Impossible Foods. And there are many, many examples that are coming up and using pea protein or other types of plant-based – a lot from nuts, for example – and to come up with these new products. These could be plant-based chicken, plant-based seafood, plant-based burger.

And they taste very much the same as what people are used to tasting from the regular food, but is healthier, and is also nowadays affordable. So this no longer just belongs to that healthy, ultra-healthy sheep niche of people, but rather, this is getting into mainstream.

Now one very, very good example, I think, is the dairy industry – dairy versus non-dairy. There are a lot of data that is showing that the dairy industry is losing market shares significantly, simply even over the last three years.

I just read the news couple days ago that skim milk, the sales of skim milk in the entire United States dropped 13% in one year. We're talking about an entire segment, a sector of product dropped 13%.

That's actually a debacle, basically. It's not a single product or single brand – it’s a whole category of things, because people realize that, “Hey, if I'm gonna drink skim milk, I may as well drink almond milk.” That is lower calorie, and healthier, and also better for – well, there's no animal involved, so no cholesterol.

So what we see is there a lot of alternatives that are now becoming mainstream. So it's not just that tiny, cute niche that it used to be.

Well, what is very exciting is, from an innovation standpoint – and even from an investment or venture capital standpoint – there are so many opportunities that are coming up from everywhere around the world. The food business, or food industry itself, is a mega-business. A lot of these blue chip companies that have been around for 30, 40, 50 years – or even 100 years – these are mega, multi-billion dollar market cap companies.

But now people are starting to shift and say, “Hey, I'm aware that that is GMO food,” or “I'm aware that this food has way too much antibiotics or way too much pesticides in it.” And they want to shift towards – whether it's organic, or natural, or plant-based, or non-GMO – and that is a mega trend that is happening around the world.

And food safety is such a major issue nowadays, because everywhere – particularly in many countries in Asia – food scandal is almost becoming a regular thing that they see or they read on the news. So I think from a business or entrepreneurship standpoint, this is just an amazing time.

Well, I think 2015 or ‘16 is definitely the tipping point. We've been kind of growing and getting up to that point when the mainstream starts to realize the natural food market, they start to come in, they start to try and then ultimately just adopt it for good.

And I think in the US, the last seven or eight years, that momentum has been building. But around 2015 or ’16, that's when we just see that natural food – or healthy food – is becoming the food industry.

When we go to the food – the Expo West, which is the biggest food trade show, based in LA – I mean, not only do all the vendors fill up the halls, but the number of visitors and people who come to visit that is just unbelievable. And it is exceeding any expectations in terms of the organizer of how many people are coming to these trade shows.

And then organic food, right now in the US – Whole Foods is not the biggest retailer of organic food. It’s actually Costco. So from a pricing standpoint, is also coming down to the point that it's becoming mainstream, and affordable, as well.

I was in San Diego not too long ago, and I was looking at organic kale for US$1.69, and I'm like, “Wow! I mean, 10 years ago this would be like $4.99. But now, it's US$ 1.69.” And actually, it even looked better than the version from 10 years ago.

Rich: But what about in Asia? I mean, okay, San Diego, the US – like, what about in Asia? What's happening here?

David: Well, Asia is a little bit behind the curve, but it's catching up very fast. When we started Green Monday and Green Common in Hong Kong, at the beginning, people were like, “Hey, people in Asia are not going to follow this. I mean, this is a ‘Western thing’.”

But of course, before you know it, everyone is saying that, “Hey, I want to go Green Monday. I want to try a ‘flexitarian’ lifestyle”, meaning moving more towards plant-based – not necessarily full-time, but shifting the ratio.

Right now in Hong Kong, about 23% people are adopting a flexitarian diet, meaning through cutting down on the portion of meat, or choosing a day, or two, or three to go vegetarian. They're doing it. That's one out of five – one out of four, actually, nearly 1.6 million people.

So that's – you're talking about a lot of people, are ready to jump in. They just need a platform, and you just need to provide the tools to enable and empower them.

TRANSPARENCY AND COMMUNICATIONS

David: Well, I think number one is: At the end, we still need all the basic skills that an entrepreneur would need, so marketing is always important. Research, in terms of nutrition, in terms of all the environmental impact – I think those are all important. Because the more transparent you are, the more people know that your food is clean, the more they will lean towards choosing your product. So from a nutrition/R&D standpoint, and then from a marketing standpoint.

Now, we still need all the techniques of traditional marketing, but now these people want transparency more than ever. So the more honest, the more frank you are, the more people would welcome or embrace your product.

And then, at the end, we are still talking about distribution. I think that is something that food, or food tech, is very different from other technology. You cannot just download it into your cell phone and eat from your from your mobile device, right? So distribution is still a piece that, from a food entrepreneurs’ standpoint, you cannot overlook – because at the end, people need to find the food at a restaurant, or at a supermarket, a local grocery.

So it is kind of like mixing between innovation, but at the same time, the traditional way of doing business.

SOLVING A PERSONAL NEED

David: I have been a vegetarian for 15 years, and I started vegetarian when I was living in New York. I then moved back to Hong Kong about 12 years ago, and it was very difficult for me to find plant-based food – whether it is going out or dining in. Both was a ultra-difficult.

And at the same time, I always needed to explain to people, one meal at a time. People would ask me, “Oh, so what happened to you? Why are you vegetarian? Where do you get your protein? Are you sure you'll be healthy?”

They showed genuine concern about me, and then I showed genuine reverse concern about them. I say, “Actually, you know what? Do you realize what you're eating is full of GMO or antibiotics? You're eating secondhand antibiotics if you're consuming meats nowadays.” So people are like, “Really?”

I mean, so that has gone on for a long time. And finally, the opportunity came along when a good friend of mine – he's also an entrepreneur, a social entrepreneur – and he happens to be a vegetarian as well. He is a big marathon runner, and the less meat he consumes, the faster he runs.

So finally – we’d always brainstormed a lot of ideas, and finally it came to the topic of food, and then my eyes light up. I was like, “Hey, you know what? I really wanted to do something about this for a long time – both from a selfish reason, because I want to have more choice – but at the same time, I want everyone to join in.” So that was how Green Monday was started.

Besides transparency, I think authenticity is something that's very important. They do want to associate it with a face or someone. That someone doesn't necessarily need to be a mega-celebrity or a superstar, but rather someone that they feel like it's just one of them. And they can see from that person, “Well it's okay to change, and actually, this is a better way to live.”

So we have a couple –myself included – a couple people who are on the core team. So on a day-to-day basis, we are either talking to business or talking to the general public market and telling them that, “Hey, this is a lifestyle that everyone can adopt.”

So authenticity is one – and the other one, I think, is simplicity. People, when you say “vegan”, “non-GMO”, “dairy-free”, and then “raw”, “organic” – there's all these criteria that are from people. And they just say, “Hey, at the end, I mean, I'm not a PhD in food. I just want to eat healthier, but I still want tasty food.”

So there are people who are getting very sophisticated and educated about what they're eating, they would study the entire label. But if you talk to the general – the entire market of just mainstream people – they want something simple.

So that's how we came up with names such as “Green Monday” – or our shop, which is called “Green Common”. It is meant to be so simple and easy – that hey, if you come in, we have done that selection on your behalf. You can trust this choice. We want to make it easy for you. You do not necessarily need to be a PhD in nutrition in order to eat healthy. And of course, the food that I selected are tasty. They're not the type that’s super healthy, but also completely unappealing in taste, right?

So I think these are all kind of the mix that makes our engine work. So for any food entrepreneurs, I also suggest that it should be fun, it should be engaging, and authenticity and transparency. The more they can associate with a person, rather than just a big logo, and a lot of marketing dollars, and billboard advertising – those actually are starting to lose that appeal.

THE SOCIAL MEDIA MEGAPHONE

David: Well, I think usually with transparency, with authenticity, it means taking a long time to build that momentum. But thanks to the age of social media, we have a mega broadcast platform that 10 years ago, we did not have.

If you have to wait for word-of-mouth, wow! How much long does it take to get to seven million or 70 million people? But with social media, it gets viral so quickly. So I think if you have a good cause, if you have a good message, if you have something that people genuinely feel that they can share to their friends or their family, it actually can get viral super easily.

So we have only been around for four years, and we're in 16 countries right now. Even I am amazed and stunned, in a way, by that progress. On a daily or weekly basis, we hear stories from people in Indonesia, in Holland, in the UK, in Mexico who are adopting Green Monday. And I'm like, “Hey, where did we get these people from?” And of course, it's through the Internet and social media.

So I think that kind of compensates for the traditional deficiency, or the disadvantage, of doing it that human, authentic, personal way. Because it used to take a long time, but now social media really helps completely accelerate that.

Now, for example, with our food emporium – our grocery market and restaurant food service – the way I look at our measurement of success, it's not just from a business standpoint. Of course, we need to be profitable, but beyond the margin – beyond the top line, bottom line – the other side of our business is wholesale.

The more people know about these products, the more existing restaurants and existing supermarkets will say, “Hey, I want that product, too. I want that product on my shelf.” So we are also distributing these brands and products into other supermarkets, and also other restaurants. Now, that makes it a lot more scalable, and also scale way faster – because at the end, building a store takes a long time. And of course, it's also capital- and human labor-intensive.

So once you start to spread that out, and then you see that restaurant is using our product, that restaurant is using our product, and that supermarket is selling our brand, too­ – then it becomes a citywide, or soon maybe, a region-wide thing. That these products are simply everywhere, and they're included naturally into the general food spectrum.

So, when I see that, “Hey, people are just picking up that product on the shelf,” or when someone just tells me out of the blue that, “Hey, I've been practicing Green Monday, or Green four days a week for the last six months,” those are all our measurement of success. And the more that happens, the more we know that the whole paradigm and ecosystem is really changing.

Well, at the end, scalability is always the biggest challenge. We cannot scale fast enough. I mean, we want to impact 100 million people – or even one billion, two billion, seven billion people. I think that is absolutely the ultimate goal.

How do we get there fast? How can we reach 100, 200, and then one billion? How do we get there? We're still trying to solve that puzzle, but I think we are on the right direction, and that from the team standpoint is super encouraging.

3 TIPS FOR ASPIRING FOOD ENTREPRENEURS

David: Well, first of all, food entrepreneur or any entrepreneur – I still believe that accumulating business know-how and general business experience is still key. A lot of times, people are super excited – too excited about becoming an entrepreneur, entrepreneurship in general.

And I would actually say that: Hey, do work in a big company – even for a couple years, because that is still a good way for them to see how companies work and what is missing from the big corporations. Because by knowing what they are not doing well, then you know what you can do well.

So first of all, the David Yeung four years ago already has been in business for 14 years, I think. So it wasn't like I was a completely rookie entrepreneur, but rather, I've been doing other business and accumulating business know-how. So that's one.

Number two, I still think is: Think big and dream big – and also be ready to fail. You're not going to get it right the first time, and chances are, there are a lot of things that…

We’re entering uncharted waters, so by definition, it’s a learning and trial-and-error process. So think big, dream big, but be ready to fail – and simply learn from it very quickly, and move on. And I think that applies to any entrepreneur in any field.

If authenticity is so important, then the third one has to be: You’ve got to do something that you absolutely believe in, and that you love. It has to be a part of you – genuine you, and what you believe in.

Rich: That’s awesome.


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.