Seng Choon Koh

Employing the Unemployable. Profitably | Seng Choon Koh, Project Dignity

In this episode of Entrepreneurs For Good I speak with Seng Choon Koh, founder of Dignity Kitchen, an organization whose mission is to build and return the dignity to the disabled and disadvantaged through vocation.

When I arrived to meet him, I thought I had the wrong address as his office is literally in the middle of a hawker market that serves as a live training ground for a wide range of "unemployable" individuals.

It was a wide ranging interview, and one that gets super tactical in areas of process, business planning, and remaining grounded during the tough times.



From 0 to 25 you learn. You get your degree, you learn
25-50 you earn. You earn your money. You earn your reputation
50 onwards you must give back


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 Koh Seng Choon

Mr Koh Seng Choon is the founder and Executive Director of Project Dignity, Singapore’s first social enterprise for the disadvantaged and people with disabilities.

The aim is to help these people regain a sense of dignity through their work. Project Dignity comprises of

  • Dignity Kitchen – hawker or street training centre for disabled and disadvantaged
  • Dignity Mama – second hand bookshop managed by the mothers and their challenged children
  • Dignity Cottage - bird’s nest processing for lower functional disabled youth
  • Dignity Meal – free meal for foreign workers and the poor
  • Dignity Angels – engages professional to support charities and corporate in their corporate social responsibilities

Mr Koh Seng Choon is an engineer by training and holds a MSc in Computer Integrated Manufacturing. His career spans UK, USA, India and China. Authored of three books – Elements of Success: Business, Elements of Success: Education and Elements of Success: Living – of which the first book mentioned is a best-seller in India.

He is also the owner and management consultant of Christopher Benjamin Consultancy Services which help Chinese companies to develop business in India and Indian companies for the China market. He is an adjunct lecturer at SP Jain School of Global Management.

Follow 
Website: http://dignitykitchen.sg/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sengchoon.koh
LinkedIn: https://linkedin.com/in/kohsengchoon


About Rich

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

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

Contact Rich
social@richbrubaker.com


Full Interview Transcript


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

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


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.


Jessica Cheam

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

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

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



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


About the Entrepreneurs For Good Series

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

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


About Jessica

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

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


About Rich

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

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

Contact Rich
social@richbrubaker.com


Full Interview Transcript

ECO-BUSINESS

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

JESSICA: Thank very much you Richard.

INTRODUCTION

RICH: Introduce yourself briefly and Eco-Business.

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

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

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

GETTING STARTED

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

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

EARLY DAYS

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

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

ADJUSTING TO SOCIAL MEDIA

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

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

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

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

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

LEARNING THE TOOLS

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

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

MEASURING ENGAGEMENT

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

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

PAYING THE BILLS

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

JESSICA: We aren't that new anymore.

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

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

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

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

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

VALUE PROPOSITION

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

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

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

MAKING ADJUSTMENTS

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

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

RICH: What's your bounce rate?

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

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

LEARNING FROM OTHERS

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

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

BECOMING AN ENTREPRENEUR

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

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

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

GROWING PAINS

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

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

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

FOUNDATIONS FOR SUCCESS

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

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

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

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

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

STAYING INSPIRED

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

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


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

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