David McCaughan

Shock & Awe Marketing for Social Entrepreneurs | David McCaughan, Bibliosexual

In this episode of Entrepreneurs For Good, I speak with David McCaughan about his career as a marketer and story teller, his entrance into post-corporate entrepreneurship, and how social entrepreneurs need to deploy a shock & awe marketing tactics alongside their constant effort to tell their story of the organization.


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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 David

Currently based in Hong Kong Dave has spent the last three decades in Asia Pacific leading strategy planning and in senior management roles with McCann , one of the world’s largest advertising and communication companies.

Dave joined McCann in 1986 in his native Sydney where he built the Strategic Planning function and subsequently since 1995 has been based in Bangkok, Hong Kong and Tokyo leading regional strategy and communication campaign development for clients including Coca-Cola , MasterCard, Nestle, Cathay Pacific, Sunstar, Hitachi, Johnson&Johnson and many others’.

After a decade based in Tokyo Dave returned to Hong Kong in early 2014 but remains a constant visitor and commentator on marketing in Japan.

He has an extensive history of working on the implications of media changes, how society is influenced by and influences them. Amazingly still seen as an Asian thought leader on youth marketing ( despite the hair) he is also leading key initiatives into the aging markets of Asia.

Dave has talked at over 500 conferences globally and has been a regular columnist for journals like Advertising Age, Japan Close-Up. He is a board member and contributor for ESOMAR’s Research World.

In 2015 Dave initiated BIBLIOSEXUAL , a consultancy that brings together his long term passion for understanding the interaction of people and media with brands and stories. He describes a bibliosexual as “someone who understands the relationship between form and content and that for different people one may be more relevant than the other”

Follow David
Website: https://davemccaughanbibliosexual.wordpress.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dave.mccaughan
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/davidmccaughan/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/bibliosexuality


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 MCCAUGHAN
BIBLIOSEXUAL

RICH: Welcome back everybody, Rich Brubaker here. Collective Responsibility. Here with Dave McCaughan. We are here to talk today about engagement. He has 30 years in marketing/advertising industry. Shock and all and how sustainability, social entrepreneurs can deploy these tools to advance their issues.

INTRODUCTION

RICH: Do me a favor and introduce yourself, your background, what you've been working over the last 30 years in Asia.

DAVID: I'm an Aussie from Sydney, actually from a place called Paramania from the outskirts of Sydney. Library Science Degree, Political since degree. I worked as a children's librarian as a storyteller for 10 years in public libraries in Australia. Accidently got a job in advertising, like literally. Applied for job not knowing it was an ad agency. They didn't tell me until the second phone call that it was actually a job at an ad agency.

The day I started working they asked me what I wanted to do. I said I don't know, what do you want me to do? They said we don't know. I say that with that company with about 30 years and never had a job description.

Then about 3 years ago I decided, well mutual decision to part ways with the big company, which is fine by me. Moved back here to Bangkok and set up a couple little companies or co-set up a couple little different companies to do different aspects of marketing/storytelling. Wanted to partly do it in the traditional things in how you develop stories and why people are attracted to stories and use stories. Then the other side primarily using the sort of more advanced in how to use intelligence to explore narratives across the internet.

BECOMING AN ENTREPRENEUR

RICH: So I guess my first question is, entrepreneur right now is very romantic idea of a lot of people and love to talk about wanting to jump out to start their own thing. You've done that.

DAVID: Let me stop you right there. One of the big bump I've had for years and years is this concept that you can't be entrepreneurial if you work for a company. Now, I always use the example as I said for most of the 28 years I worked for this big American corporation, I didn't have a job description, I was allowed to do what I wanted a lot of the time.

I created for example, I created a research platform out of South East Asia that became the global research platform for this multinational company. I created a whole bunch of other tools, ways to access different bits of business, looks at types of business to go in there. For me, that is entrepreneurial. It's got nothing to do with going off and starting my own business. By the token, the last few years is this word entrepreneur is being over used, over used, over used.

If you are the nice lady behind the camera here and she decides to go off and she wants to start a bakery tomorrow and make cakes and sell cakes on a corner store. I don't call that entrepreneurial. Why? It's great, there's nothng wrong with it. It isn't entrepreneurial because millions of other young woman across Asia have gone off in the last 10 years and pray to cakes selling them out of a shop. That's not entrepreneurial, that is not being a risk taker that's actually the opposite of being a risk taker.

RICH: Because you know it's safe enough.

DAVID: Because the model is out there. Everybody's done it. Thousands of people have done it. The only risk is that you're an idiot. Are you going to pick somewhere that's obviously the wrong location? Do you make really shitty cakes? Obviously are you really bad at personal service?

But entrepreneurism is a thing that I have no problem with the fact that it's circle booming, but I have a problem when we think it's limited to individuals going off starting a brand new business in some way. I also think that one of the issues with entrepreneurism and with it the parallel thought of being a risk taker and the risk taking is good. Since LinkedIn and Facebook, etc have been mass popularize, you can't click on one of those without seeing some usually misplaced or misused quote about the fact that you learn by mistakes. If you don't fail you wont' learn. The truth is that most people that fail, just fail. Failure is never good. Failure just means 99% of cases failure means disaster. It means going hungry, never getting back up again. So it's not about you learn by failure, because most people can't learn by failure. It's you learn by success.

HOW SOCIAL ENTERPRENEURS CREATE ENGAGEMENT

RICH: Now actually, this actually is probably with our early conversation with not profit. I know you work with WTO, World Toilet Organization, the other WTO.

DAVID: The other WTO.

RICH: Jack. He's passionate about what he believes is his vision. How do these entrepreneurs create that message or better align..what's the process that you go through?

DAVID: Living in the world...we talked about before we went on camera we talked about the way society has changed. Urbanization and the desire to move into the middle class. The defining technology of middle class is a flushing indoor toilet, not a mobile phone.

As somebody pointed out to me in some research I did with newly urbanized families a number of years ago. Said, look my cousin's up in the village living basically wooded grass shacks. They have color televions. Some have refrigerators. Some have mobile phones and some have microwaves. If you can steal electricity from the highway, you can run those things, but none of them, none of them have put me into the net, which is the term she used, put me into the net. The net was the sewer syste because that is the defining technology of urbanization. The defining technology of modern life.

EMPATHY & ENGAGEMENT

RICH: On thing I struggle with is helping people from outside help what's going on, understanding what's going on locally. What you just mentioned. Most Westerners, lets just called most US, they have no idea what it means to be without public toilets. If you gotta use the lue, you got a mall or something or you've in your car. How do you talk to that group differently than you do to say the local population? Either they really understand the problem, some of them are looking for solutions and some of them are gong to act on them. That's a whole different story. But if you need the Western side to empathize, have compassion...

DAVID: Well, one of the things is you do the things like the toilet run, which we started doing, the WTO started running in more developed cities and different parts of the world. It's one of those goofy things and if you're lucky you get a photo and a couple things. Stuff like that. You're not gonna get...it's not the ice bucket challenge and take over the world. But I think what you do is one for the things you have to do is it's like shock and awe.

I'll give you an example. If you're in America, Western Europe, Australia the developed western world. Most of those countries have a population developing crisis. Maybe not quite at the level of Japan, but if you're Italy, my wife is Italian. she has 3 living aunts who all are in late 80s-90s in Italy. One of the things you do is you raise awareness. Guys our age will have ourselves or our wives will have parents who are in their 80s-90s and most invariably most in their 50s or 60s has at least one parent still alive. Or one in-law parent still alive.

You know when you get to your 70s and 80s, I mean you watch it. People basically judge where they are going to go by the availability of toilets. They do. Talk to anybody in these bit cities in any big developed western city and talk to anybody in their 80s about where they normally go, what is their normal routine in the week. I guarantee you they know where every toilet is that they normally go. I go to this mall once on a Thursday to do shopping and I can tell you where the toilet is at. I like to go for a beer with my ol buddies three times a week and that pub's got a toilet and it's easy to get into.

So what you do is take it away and take it away and say to the people who are more their son and daughters ages 40s, 50s, and 60s. So now you gotta a mother, she's 80, she's a nice lady, but she's never going to have access to a public toilet again. Holy shit...what are you going to do with that? Where they going to go?

RICH: Connecting on a day to day personal level.

DAVID: Everyone is personal. Shock and awe always comes down to the things that really, really worry us.

SHOCK & AWE

RICH: What I find with a lot of social issues that are environment are that the people you are helping, you can bring this message to and talk about the benefits and impact. Then you have to switch tact. You have to find donors, government, average twitter users to click into your message. As someone who spent 30 years in that, how difficult is that? What are some things that social entrepreneurs who have a small team, how should they tackle that?

DAVID: Shock and awe. If you think about the big brands in the world. Yes, of course now they we take them for granted. That's because they spend mass amounts of money to keep themselves in your face. Then go back in history to most of the big brands that we associate with, what made them successful in the first place? They didn't have massive TV spans, or massive putting every time you clicked on your FB page there was an ad running along side with your favorite beer.

Most of these things were because at some point they did something or they had a line or they had an angle that the relative world space that we are playing in grabbed your attention. The truth, those sort of ads and campaigns they can't help to get at people. They don't get at everybody. The truth is that hard hearted people and there are people that don't care. But there is going to be a large enough lump of people quite often that that one photo alone will shock and awe people into it.

TEARS OR SMILES?

RICH: How do you keep attention? Do you use crying babies or do use happy teenagers who benefited from the process.

DAVID: You're right. That's quite often the shock and awe has to be dialed down in different ways. The truth is we've had the crying babies thing for since the 70s. Literally the 70s. Yes, you can still do it slightly different photographic ways or whatever. The truth is, for the most of us it is sort of a background noise that we've been seeing a lot. But you are right, the shock and awe of it becomes personalization. We start to see some things where in today's world, a bit like you are doing. You create, YouTube type messages, films, whatever that are about peoples' experiences.

MAINTAINING ENGAGEMENT

RICH: Social media is tough. Because it's moving so fast. It's not just shock and awe, it's a consistent shock and awe. So how do you like...

DAVID: So here's the thing. ALS, the ice bucket challenge. Really great, obviously had a huge impact.

RICH: Raised 60 million dollars

DAVID: Raised 60 million bucks. Obviously big into the business for the next year the number of companies, nothing to do with ALS, nothing to do with disease, charities The number of FMCG companies that come in and say we need an ALS ice bucket type of campaign. Don't be ridiculous. It's a bit of a fluke. I mean it is a bit of a fluke to be that successful.

RICH: What do you think made it work if you break it down?

DAVID: I think that it helps that there is not much else going on. So you know quite obviously, if it was in the middle of the Trump madness YouTube everything else before is full of that. If it's in the middle of what's his name up in North Korea gong off again and the worked gets distracted. If you are in the middle of summer and especially in the US and there's not anything really big going on that helps. So timing helps. What else is happening around you helps.

CHOOSE THE BEST TACTIC

RICH: You probably had 10, 15, 100 ideas. How do you narrow down what's the best idea? How do you know what the lay down in Giza is verses something just so.

DAVID: First, you have to understand what people want. The second thing you gotta understand are the cultural things that go on. There are things in some countries that you can't or cultures you can't do and others you can't. The simple act of saying, look we are going to, with police permission because it's Japan, with police permission, we are going to block off a section of the Ginzo or the route around the imperial palace and a bunch of people lay down there. Wow, that is pretty shocking. That is pretty wow.

What you are looking is for something that is going to draw a bit of a crowd, but the journalists are going to look at. That film cameras are going to turn up for. Because you have to have the stuff that is going to appear on, depending on the country, on the mainstream media. You/d would love e to get your 60 seconds on CBS or BBC or whatever. That's ok, in Japan that's a little easier to manipulate. What you really want to get is 50 people filming and it showing up on YouTube or Facebook.

RICH: What is more important now? Getting HKTV to give you a 60 second air?

DAVID: Depends on the country.

RICH: Depends on the country.

DAVID: It depends on the culture. Again, we think of social media in certain ways. Those of us that are in communications business. Because we are trying for that by basically by the American models and the American marketing media. But if you look at simple things like if you compare Japan to the United States. I always often say the look, those are two no more dark, metrically opposed than Japan and the United States. In so many ways.

But if you look at it this way, in a survey that was done a couple of years ago of mothers in about, I think we did it in about 30 countries around the world, we asked about 1000 mothers a bunch of questions in each country. One of those questions was, ok when you think aobut your toddler, your infant, what is the beset source of information if you are going to be buying goods - food, clothes, whatever for your infant. Not surprising number 1 was your mother. So if you are a new mother, you ask your mother, older sisters, best friends. So, people who physically really know and you've known for years and years.

Now, of course things like blogs come up. They are high everywhere. But the difference between Japan and America was? One of the highest scoring things in Japan was broadcast television. Why? Because it's the number 1 social media in Japan? Why is it the number one social media? Because Japan is a collectivist country. Everything is based on what every body else doing it. So if you see it on broadcast television, it's s safe bet. If I see it's on a blog, I'm not to sure how many people have seen that blog.

RICH: Interesting. So you got to know your market.

DAVID: You got now what matters to people their culture that's going on and what will work.


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

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


Gift Chantaranijakorn

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

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

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

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


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


About the Entrepreneurs For Good Series

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

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


About Gift

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

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


About Rich

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

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

Contact Rich
social@richbrubaker.com


Full Interview Transcript


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

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


Jon Newton

Selling a Sustainable Value Proposition in China - Jon Newton, Life Solutions

One of the first thing that an entrepreneur needs to learn how to do is to sell. After that, learn to manage growth. Both of these topics, and a whole lot more are at the core of the conversation I recently had with my good friend (and disclaimer: client) Jon Newton, co-founder of Life Solutions China.

It is a conversation where we quickly move into the weeds to talk sales tactics, product development, and teams, and while Jon's primary region has been Mainland China for the last 15 years, the lessons of his conversation are universally true.. and IMPORTANT.

Hope you will enjoy the discussion, and if you do, please remember to like, share, and comment!


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 Jon and Life Solutions

Jon Newton is the Managing Director and China Co-Founder of Life Solutions Filtration Systems which offers water filtration solutions and services in over 20 cities in China. He has been living in China for over 15 years and can be contacted on LinkedIn.

Life Solutions was founded in 2003 to provide customers with the very best, state of the art drinking water systems, aimed at improving health. We pride ourselves in providing a 5-star service to our clients in the sourcing, supply, installation and maintenance of our systems. We offer a variety of solutions tailored to suit any requirement related to water treatment, resulting in the purest form of fresh potable water.

Follow Jon
Website: http://lifesolutionschina.cn/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jonnewton/


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.


Arch Wongchindawest

Change the World Everyday | Arch Wongchindawest, Socialgiver

In this episode of Entrepreneurs For Good, I speak with Arch Wongchindawest, founder of the Bangkok based platform Socialgiver, who shares with me his vision for where philanthropy is broken and what he is trying to do to built a better path for financial sustainability in the third sector.


This interview is about wanting to change the world, being surrounded by great people, and learning (fast) from mistakes


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 Arch

Named to Forbes “30 under 30” list, Arch Wongchindawest is a force for innovation inside Thailand’s burgeoning social enterprise sector.

A former consultant for the UN Development Program and UN Environment Program in Asia Pacific, Wongchindawest has launched several highly successful social enterprises, including IDEACUBES, Food 4 Good and Wipe the Tide.

In 2013, he co-founded Social Giver, an online platform that allows consumers to shop and donate a portion of funds to charitable causes. Social Giver recently won first place in the Singtel-Samsung mobile app challenge in Indonesia.

Follow Arch and Socialgiver:
Website: https://th.socialgiver.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/boomw
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/archw/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/socialgiver
Twitter: https://twitter.com/socialgiver


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 here today with Arch from Social Giver in Bangkok, Thailand. I just had a phenomenal discussion about what he's been trying do in converting the mindset around how you give. How to build an organization and like getting through the headaches, but maintaining that vision. Making sure your impact and your revenue align that you can have an achieve everything you want. So, thank you very much Arch for your time. This has been fantastic.

ARCH WONGCHINDAWEST - SOCIAL GIVER

RICH: Tell us a little, tell me a little about yourself and then Social Giver.

ARCH: My name is Arch Wongchindawest. I am from Thailand. I run a social enterprise called Social Giver. We are a lifestyle and travel company that raises funds for local charities. So we work with over 160 leading brands in Thailand from hotels, restaurants, bars, activities, events, airlines and we work with them to convert their best services into charitable contributions.

THE BIG CHALLENGE

RICH: What was the big challenge? What was the idea that was, wait a second...we've got a problem here and we need to fix it.

ARCH: I started off working in the social sector. I raised funds for a lot of charities and I noticed that when I raise funds for one charity, it most of the time takes away money from another charity in the sense that someone who just donated money, would not donate again to another charity. So I try to figure out a better solution. What I was trying to find out was how do we convert this, ya know, consumer spending power, which was huge and have a portion of that become new revenue for the social sector to help sort of grow the sector that has been overly reliant on donations alone.

TURNING DONORS INTO BUYERS

RICH: How have you been reaching out to potential buyers then? Because you are turning a donor into a buyer. How do you reach them and how are you changing that mindset? That they are not just donating, that they're actually getting a value for the product.

ARCH: Yeah, actually that's a difficult question that we have to sort of answer because, ya know our motto is quite new. When we first tell people that you buy on our website and you get the best deal and the business doesn't take any money, they donate it to charity. It sounds unbelieveable. Like people have the tendency to not believe it. So, that's a big one of the challenge that, ya know, that we have to overcome. So we usually end up having to explain the whole idea, like with the capacity. Like if they don't use it they're going to waste it so they'd rather give it to you and, ya know raise funds for charity or then not use it at all.

RICH: On that note, I'm even thinking usually, there's a lot of almost push back right now if you're profiting off of this space in any way. Like, the Dan Pollotta book the Uncharitable. Like you take 30%....you're taking a free thing and then you're selling it. How many people question you on that? Even in the industry and how do you respond to that?

ARCH: There are definitely a few, but as..there are I think equally like people who think that 30% is a lot and there are people who think 30% is to little. Usually the finance ones will think 30% is to little. The social ones, the ones that are usually donating money will think that 30% is al lot, then we would just have to explain to them, hey, like when you go on holiday, how many percent of that goes to charity and....not a lot. What we are offering is 70 as opposed to almost zero, which is actually a much better deal if you look at it from a consumers point of view.

The bigger problem that we have actually is not when people understand the model an question, but it's when people don't understand it and make a judgment. As for example, they see oh donate profit to charity, they probably going to donate 1% or something. Or someone who would just see tomorrow and think hey, they're trying to use donation to market these businesses. So they don't realize that actually these business are giving away their service for free, but they don't know that because they haven't read it, but they are making a judgment call right in advance because this is a new model. But they don't know it 's a new model. They just think it's the same as everyone trying to sort of promote. Trying to do good.

CURRENT SIZE AND IMPACT

RICH: How big are you guys now?

ARCH: Our team is 12, 12 people. Sort of about subscribers we have 68,000 subscribers. Our Facebook fan page we have around 40,000 fans. We've just started sort of tying to build our Instagram page up and mostly our Instagram is posting nice photos from the businesses. We have around like 4,200 fans/followers.

RICH: Then how many deals? How many transactions do you have on an average week? A month?

ARCH: So right now, we have like more than 160 business and the deals that we have live on our website should be around 100 right now. We don't have that many..as much transactions per month as I would have liked, but we're growing continuously. We sort of like year on year we are doing pretty well around 300-500 % growth. So, we're sort of, yeah, trying to push that up more.

SOCIAL MEDIAL & ENGAGEMENT

RICH: A lot of charities particularly struggle with how do I create social. Like I only got 32 likes, I only have 100 likes, like what does it matter? What were some of the techniques you use that you realize like wow, we got 50 more we got 5% and not just they click through. What were the things you learned through social?

ARCH: Well, it always changes.

RICH: It is a bit of a whack amole right?

ARCH: Right. But, I think that the most important thing is quality content and I mean its...it's an easy word, but it's one of the most difficult things to do.

RICH: It depends upon who is....Social Giver or something else.

ARCH: Yeah. Having quality content is probably one of the biggest factors to getting people to share. Then when people do share, like how do you get, how do you make sure they like your page as well. So that's more difficult.

RICH: So if you look at the content that you put out and you said it has to be good content. Now obviously that is in the context of social givers own business model. I talk a lot about you shouldn't put crying babies as the lead image, right? You should inspire people.

ARCH: Although that does work. But we try to avoid it for a lot of charities that actually works very well. In Thailand especially, a lot of charities go through..like with drama. They create drama. Like, this big rich company is about to close down this house, which is like could be a museum, let's raise funds for it. That raises loads of funds. Or like a charity that has been working to protect elephants is now 60 million bhat in debt we need to close down. Then suddenly, people donate like 100 million bhat to it. So, you know what I don't know. I think these ya know sad stories sometimes work and work very well.

RICH: But can you do it over and over and over or can you only use it once?

ARCH: I think if you over due it, like people would sort of like kick you for it.

CONTENT (STRATEGY)

RICH: How do you then position content? How do you try and inspire people to be engaged?

ARCH: We, ya know, I think like there was a time when I thought about these two ways of advertising and the first way is promoting the cause. Sort of like if I promoted the cause, I would be targeting people who already cared .

The second way is promoting the deals. I think like the reason we decided to go with the second option is because I felt that by promoting the deals, what we are essentially doing is getting people who might not have cared to suddenly now donate money to charity. When they do, and we provide them the content of ,ya know you're last vacation put a child through school and this is what happened. I'm betting that this will have an impact on them, on them becoming a socially conscious consumer in the future. So, we see this as more of a long term bet where we're building sort of the community of people who will eventually care more about society. That's sort of what I'm very interested in, like creating change.

WHY SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP?

RICH: Why choose this? What's going on here that made you say I have to do this?

ARCH: Um, I think it came more because like I decided that this is what I wanted to do with my life. Like, many, many years back before I joined the social sector to help other organizations, I sort of felt like I wanted my work to be meaningful because it is something that I would have to do as a majority of the time that I spent of my life. So I sort of, my goal or my mission was I wanted to change the world. So I, so I look for ways that I thought would be best for changing the world and I think I believe that this is it.

RICH: What are some of the headaches that you've had that...lets' just say the ones you've learned the most from, but only in reflection.

ARCH: Actually I think my biggest headache was building this model. Because we needed to build a model that was a win/win/win for every party that got involved. This sort of development of this took me about 2 years. Ya know, at the time I was doing other things, helping other organizations and getting paid by other organizations to sort of consult for them. This was sort of something that we tested out and redeveloped and rebuilt.
The biggest headache when we were building this actually besides the model now that I mention, is the website. In the beginning we outsourced the development and we had to build 3 different websites before it was something we could use.

RICH: Was it because you over engineered it?

ARCH: Yeah.

RICH: I have the same problem. What do you got planned going forward? What do you hope to achieve?

ARCH: So, we are planning to launch an app in November. Right now we have an app, but it's a sort of mobile version of our website, but...

RICH: HTML5?

ARCH: Honestly I don't know. But we have a native app coming on the iPhone and Android in November. So I am really looking forward to that because we've sort of seen like most of our users shifting to using our website on their phones. So now, around 65% use Social Giver on their phones. So, I think we're sort of moving in an a direction is that our customers are using us more. We have a few pending deals from big companies that we're planning to close soon. It might be possible that we might have a car on our platform.

MOTIVATION

RICH: That would be cool. What keeps you going? I mean you got a bunch of headaches. You're building an enterprise. You got staff...they're not even working over here! They're just eating chips in the middle of the interview! So what keeps you going on a daily basis? Like entrepreneurship is hard.

ARCH: I think the biggest thing is having a great team. Our team is actually very cool.

RICH: I can tell!

ARCH: As you can see.

RICH: That's good, that's good.

ARCH: When you have a great team and everyone is sort of working together toward one really cool goal, that sort of is inspiring by itself. Us having that ya know, big vision that we want to change the world. Sort of seeing that, you know what this is possible from what we've done so far and from what we've achieved so far, sort of gives us hope that ya know, that we might actually get there. But it's still a risk.

(SOCIAL) ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN BANGKOK

RICH: So I have a question just generally of what's happening in Bangkok with social entrepreneurialism. Ya know, Singapore's been a hub. Bangkok's tried to be a hub. Shanghai we've got a little bit. So what's happening here in Bangkok. How's the echo system, is it more Thai than foreign, is it more foreign that Thai? Like' what's happening here?

ARCH: I think the social enterprises are mostly Thai's doing it. But the sort of tech startups. There's a lot of foreigners coming in to do tech startups here in Thailand. I think social enterprise in Thailand is growing, but it's not..I think it was growing, but it might have stalled a little bit in the past two-three years, two years.

RICH: Because of?

ARCH: I think that's just a lack of success with the existing social entrepreneurs. I feel like we don't get enough support from the government. Not even as much as startups get. So, a lot of social entrepreneurs have sort of jumped into startups instead.

RICH: Do you consider yourself a social entrepreneur or a tech startup?

ARCH: We are both. Lucky for us!

RICH: So you got the good and you got the good.

ARCH: We have both. I think, yeah, I think that!

HOW TO CHANGE THE WORLD...

RICH: That's really a romantic idea that sucks a lot of people in. Their like I'm going to change the world too. So if you have a viewer here that is like, I want to change the world...what would you tell them to do? Because wanting to change the world and changing the world is very different things. What are three things or five things that if you're going to get into this space, you have to know and do as daily practice.

ARCH: I think the biggest thing is asking yourself what would you give to change the world. A lot of the times you're going to come up with, come up against challenges that you never thought you'd have to face.

RICH: There's a story in that!!!

ARCH: Yes, there is! Yeah,

RICH: You're on video, why don't you tell it?

ARCH: Sort of you need to be able to, ya know, pick yourself up and sort of remember that hey, this is what you'd said you'd do. Really believe or really, yeah, really believe that you will actually sacrifice all these things for it. So that's one thing.

The second thing is I think you need to test out the idea with a lot of people and that sort of involves talking to as many people as you can. When I started out, I thought man this is such a great idea. I'm not going to tell anyone about it because someone else is going to steal it. Then, ya know, up to the point I was like damn, I can't keep doing this anymore ya know, I gotta tell people. Then I realized that the more people you tell, the more people want to help. So we get like loads of people coming in offering help all the time.

That sort of is to test whether one, you're idea is good enough yet. Two, whether you can find enough sort of super fans or advocates who will help make this happen. Because I think on of the biggest factor to a startup success is how viral could it be and how viral could it be is sort of dependent on how likely that it is that someone will recommend you to their friends. Sort of telling people is the best way to test that. Then you know when you get more and more people sort of telling more people about Social Giver, then you sort of see that, yey, this is starting to stick. People are starting to talk about it. That's the second thing.

The third thing is to test if you are impact and revenue model works and if its aligned.

RICH: Are you actually helping anybody, right? If not, get out!

ARCH: Ha, right. If your impact model does not work, then just become a business. Then you can donate your profits. If your revenue model doesn't work, just become an NGO. If both of them work and if both of them are aligned, then you can run a social enterprise. Sort of having these two be aligned is very difficult actually, much more difficult than you'd imagine.

RICH: And if none of them work, go get a job.

ARCH: Right!

RICH: That's great. Thanks very much.


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.


Simon Vogel

Food Entrepreneurship, and Bootstrapping, in Shanghai - Simon Vogel | Entrepreneurs For Good

In this episode of Entrepreneurs For Good, I speak with Simon Vogel about his attempt to build health food delivery platform, from the 17th floor of an apartment building.

It is an amazing look at how creative entrepreneurs can get when bootstrapping!


Simon's Story is one about bootstrapping in China, failing fast, and (hopefully) learning faster


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 Simon Vogel

When coming to Asia a couple of years ago, he wanted to open a restaurant but quickly realized that it would not be as easy as he thought. Instead of that, he launched a business in delivery food.

Follow Simon and Saucepan:
Website: http://saucepan.co
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/simon-vogel-87055715/simon


About Rich

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

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

Contact Rich
social@richbrubaker.com


Full Transcript

SIMON VOGEL, SAUCEPAN

My name is Simon. I'm from Switzerland. Working here what we set up a company called Saucepan, which is a food delivery company. Been here in Shanghai from, lets say almost two year now.

WHY SHANGHAI?

Well, I, well basically me and my partner both came, we cant to Shanghai because we had like some family members here and definitely the markets is very interesting market to be part of nowadays. Previously, me, I was studying in a hospitality school in Switzerland and also I was working for sometimes for hotels, different 5-Star hotel brands.

WHY BECOME AN ENTREPRENEUER?

Well, to be honest, like I said like we were always like involved in a food in the food industry, in the food and beverage industry. Me coming closer to the thirty year, but the age 30 I was thinking like I need to do something which has more meaning. Well, looking at the market like Shanghai or China or if you take the big picture Asia, I think there is a lot of things you can do here in terms of foods. Especially delivering clean and trusted food to people's home.

THE FIRST STEPS

To be honest, it was more that we didn't had like a clear plan. I'd say like this because we came here with the idea of more opening a restaurant. So, we came here in 2014 and then we just realized it was like at the time where all the rents was getting higher and higher and it was just commenting suicide if we would have open a restaurant at least back then in the days. So, then more and more we were looking about what was existing in the markets and what we saw. How the consumer behavior. How they are like ordering delivery food delivery form time to time. We were saying okay, this could be like an interesting concept like to actually bring the food to people's home.

Initially, we started with a three specific business model, which we completely failed. Then, we had to privates back in December last year and now we are like right on track on a food delivery ready-to-eat business.

THE FIRST CONSUMER

Well, we specifically targeted expat at the beginning because we were feeling much more comfortable with the expat markets. We were coming form what we both know this how I conduct the consumer behavior of an expat. However, more and more we were like working on our concept. More and more we were realizing that the locals were also interested in a healthy food delivery concept. So that's how we realized that our concept would be both, as a market fit for both expats and locals.

So we started targeting the expat markets because we both, the two founders of this company are true expats and for us it was much more easier to tie it to stats with a consumers that we knew in the past. It was much more easier for us to target this clientele. However, more and more we were operating, we realized that Chinese, local customers were also interested in this concept. Now we feel that we have the right market fit for both locals and expats.

PILOTING AND PIVOTING

Well, I said we had like low capital to start with. We could not, this is also why we switch the concept initially not to go into a restaurant idea because rent wise was too expensive. So we were really looking about how we could save maximum amount of money. Initially we started from an apartment. Then we said okay, where can we find a place where we could operate. Then we checked a bit around the market and we saw ok, we could like here we're in China. We could maybe rent out an apartment and really like renovate it and then operate from there. This is how we decided really like to inject money like step by step and first to see if the concept is working before like investing a higher amount of money.

For instance, with our initial plan it was more, how do you say? We could say the first five months we tested the product, we tested the market and it the way we say the initial, our initial idea, there was no real demand bind it. This is where it pushed us to pirate the business model in December and this is where we now are fully operational.

EXTENDING THE RUNWAY

I believe first, was the rent issue because running a food and beverage business you need a good location. We could not afford this at the beginning so this is why we initially started off in an apartment.

Second thing is definitely manpower. Manning represents a very high cost and this is where we initially had and still today, have hands on in operation and try to avoid, just like hiring a lot of people because we can do it ourselves. We need to be in operations.

The third thing which represents also high costs. If you don't have an IT team. It definitely building up the website building up an app or building up a WeChat store. This is where we looked into our friends and family network. If there was not someone who could like assist us in building a website, which also we found.

I think these are three major expenses that we're going on us. Definitely the personal expenses because we can't like, how do you say? Give us a payroll at this early stage. So, making sure that we are outside work we are living on a very low profile and making sure that we can survive here without spending all the money from the company.

BOOTSTRAP MARKETING
Since day one, we spend zero on the company marketing. The only cost we had in marketing was maybe was like for some like fairs that we took part of, but it was very, very little cost. The thing is we could, we don't have, we didn't have the budget for this marketing and we believe more in word-of-mouth. So, we believe that if we have a product which is, how do you say? Good enough, people will talk around this product and talk to their friends.

How we also managed to have a very low marketing cost was like doing like partnerships with already existing startups, existing company's we have already renamed here. Food bloggers, everything that we can do where we are increasing our visibility, our brand image in the city.

LEVERAGING SOCIAL MEDIA
We don't pay for influences. Again, I said, it's more we are going to food bloggers. We would maybe pay them in foods like we are trying to do this strategy of influence the influences. Where food bloggers who would try our food and then write on a blog post about us. Or, for instance, now we recently also started with some brand ambassadors. Like people who are working out in the gym or working out as a yoga teacher that they can influence their class. The people who are joining them in their class. Otherwise, was mainly social media was managed by ourselves. You have like WeChat, which is very strong here. Posting, accepting friends, trying to get like a big network of friends. Let's say posting on the asking people to post on their movements and so on and so forth.

BEST WAY TO INFLUENCE CONSUMERS

Yeah, basically it's a mix. It's like on a way its food porn in terms of food. So like attract the customers towards our foods, like showing them images of our food that we are doing.

BOOTSTRAPPING
Yeah, well hire the right team is definitely one of a very important factor. Then also yes, spend your money but wisely on marketing for instance. We didn't have money and we achieved pre a successful milestone without spending any money into marketing. So I think you don't need to get funding and suddenly like just spend all over marketing. You need really like to make like, I don't know, smart investment in this kind of field.

Another thing would be like don't spend all your money on like useless equipment, especially like in kitchen. You need a lot of equipment whereas it's fridges or knives or whatsoever. So, better to choose like a more safe way to spend money and like really like see what you need, really need rather than just buying all kind of equipment. Packaging as well, for us was like a big waste of money at the beginning because we were testing the waters. We were testing our concept and we were just buying packaging right and left.

Finally, we found ourselves with, I don't' know, more than 2,000 boxes which we were not using. So definitely these are important things.

WHAT'S THE MISSION?
I think we are trying to change the future of food delivery. We really want that people have access to health foods, trusted meals with healthy meals using trusted ingredients. So we really want to disrupt this market of food delivery and fast foods by giving like products which are very like healthy for your body, but also like very using like clean ingredients. Like something that you can really trust.

So what are we, what we are trying to solve here and what we are, our mission really to disrupt this food delivery market. We want to give people access to clean food and healthy meals. So this is where we are trying to disrupt all this food delivery and fast food industry.

SCALING WITH LIMITED RESOURCES
Well, I think we have a pretty smart business concept where it's pretty easy to scale because you can all like produce centrally and then dispatch in like further delivery units. You don't need to control or build up a kitchen for each of your units. You just need to build up delivery hubs. If you go in cities and then just like build up a central kitchen and then be able to dispatch to the oldest units you can scale pretty fast in a short period of time.

CHINA. IT'S HUGE
I think China is a huge market. That's what makes it so interesting. It's so big and there's so many people here. Which makes it like anyone, not any conept can be successful here. But it gives you a lot of room even if you have, even if it's highly competitive market, it gives you enough room for you to get your customers and then operate your business.

YOUNG ADVANTAGE
Well, at the end of the day, we both, we don't' have a family so if we fail and now we will try to do something again. Maybe fail again and if we don't have like something that, yeah that where we have to succeed in the first concept we are launching. I think is even if we proven with our old concept we failed fast, we modified the business model, we switched, we made a pilot and then we try it again.

This is what we are both strongly believe in. We will keep moving and keep trying until we have the right market fit and keep failing, that's for sure.

BIGGEST FAILURE
I think you know, we were I think we were pretty frustrated at the beginning when we tried this initial concept. Because we believe in our, in one concept, but it was not what the market was asking for. So this is where we learned on actually you need to listen to what the market is demanding rather than listening to yourself and just think this could be a great concept.


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.


Nissa Marion

Sustainable Luxury and Social Entrepreneurship | Nissa Marion

In this episode of Entrepreneurs For Good, I speak with Nissa Marion, a lifelong environmentalist who launch EcoVision magazine from her apartment floor in Hong Kong.

Looking to convert readers to a sustainable lifestyle through a link between sustainability and a luxurious lifestyle, she set about the work of identifying brands, writing stories, and build a community of followers who would support her work.

As we discuss in the interview, the work wasn't always easy, and she did not always know what to do, but that is the path of entrepreneurship and one that she was committed to.


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 Nissa Marion

Nissa Marion is a Hong Kong based environmentalist. Born and raised in Canada, she deeply loves nature and wild places, and believes that education, engagement, and collaboration are the keys to sustainability.

In 2003, Nissa’s passion for conservation led her to work with Ecovision, a fifteen-year established non-profit social enterprise specializing in environmental education and events. From there she went on to cofound and direct the well-loved Hong Kong Cleanup (HKcleanup.org), a large-scale community environmental event that has engaged more than 250,000 participants and cleaned up over 17 million pieces of trash. This successful initiative raises awareness of personal, community and corporate environmental responsibility as well as advocating for sustainable government policies regarding waste management.

Nissa was also the Cofounder, Editor in Chief and Event Director of Ecozine, Asia’s premiere guide to modern sustainable living, which produces a quarterly print magazine, a daily-updated website (Ecozine.com), a weekly e-newsletter and world-class events such as Hong Kong’s own Zero Waste Week, successfully launched in 2015. She is committed to using popular media to focus the world’s attention on environmental issues and inspire change for the better.

Follow Nissa:
Website: http://onpointhk.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nmarion
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nissamarion/


About Rich

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

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

Contact Rich
social@richbrubaker.com


Full Interview Transcript

My name is Nissa Marrion. I am the co-founder and editor in chief of Ecozine magazine and also the co-founder of an NGO called The Hong Kong Clean Up. My mission in life is to make the world a better place, no really. To be a contribution in my personal and professional life and I've been really lucky to create a career where actually my job is about that too.

IT'S PERSONAL

I've always been an environmentalist. Like I grew up in Canada, camping, canoeing, all that wonderful stuff. And just communing with nature. I went to a pretty progressive high school, so hung out with a lot of hippie, dippie, fantastic people who just got it. That kind of planted the seed for me of wanting to make sure that I do my part in protecting the planet. And it sounds cheesy, but like I'm just a real tree hugger, ya know? I love nature. It makes me really sad the way that our development as a people has destroyed the planet in many ways and continues to do so. So honestly, I just wanna see people care about nature. So that's one side of it.

Then, I've always been interested in the publishing world and one day, four years ago now, my best friend came to me and said hey I 've got this idea. We know so many people in the environmental sector, and so many small startups and great companies and cool NGOs and fantastic campaigns that need a platform to reach the public. Why don't we be that platform? Why don't we start a magazine? It just made sense. I was like yeah, ok! I had no idea what it was gonna take. Like what that would actually entail. But, it sounded really cool and excited and right up my alley, so I said yes. And we co-founded Ecozine.

GETTING STARTED

We have this NGO called the Hong Kong Clean Up and we've been running that since 2000. My best friend and business partner, Lisa, founded that. And through it, you know, we engage corporate, schools, community members and other NGOs, and government. So we were able to create this incredible community of companies, especially but also other sectors that were doing great things. I had great CSR profiles or launching cool eco products, or just you know, wanted to make the world a better place. At the same time we were seeing more and more sort of evidence that consumers, the evidence that consumers were interested in more than just a label on a product, or the price of a precut. That they really wanted to see products of province and responsibility from companies that they trusted. And wasn't necessarily in Hong Kong a really strong publication that connected those two worlds. That brought, you know, the people with the great ideas and products and CSR initiatives to the consumers that wanted to buy from those companies.

So, we decided that we wanted to be that crossroads because we had such access to both sides of that. So at the same time, having always been passionate about magazines and publications and popular media as a means to convey important messages, it just made sense for us. To start a magazine.

We started by launching an online publication, Ecozine.com. That name came after a good 3 months of thinking about names. I mean this process was very much of a backburner, sort of passion project for us, in our spare time, late nights, mid night coffees, that kind of thing. Just creating what we thought would be cool. The website was the result of...(not noisy at all! (ha, start at midnight coffee's. A lot of helicopters today)). And the website was a result of literally nights of just sketching and drawing what a cool website would look like and referencing hundreds of other websites and you know. We had no experience in this whatsoever in building websites, in developing media, in editorial and advertising. So it was a really fun, but challenging journey. A really steep learning curve and that was just for the website.

So we got that launched in 2012. The model was sponsorship. Because that's where we had experience from our NGO background. But it turned out to be more challenging than we expected to get companies here in Asia to sponsor a page in a website. It was a quite a new and innovative model that wasn't...people weren't ready to embrace it just yet in Asia. So we did some asking around and we thought about what to do and we decided that okay, a print magazine might be a good addition. And people thought we were crazy because so many publications are going from print to digital and cutting their print publications because of costs, because of change to the industry. But we found that here in Asia, although a lot of companies were saying they wanted to do more digital marketing and be online and take advantage of the digital world, actually when they saw a proposal with a full-page ad cost this much will be in this many issues and seen by this many people, they really got it and were able to say yes.

So the print magazine turned out to be a terrific thing for us in so many ways. One, it was self indulgent. I mean, so nice to hold a product in your hand and say I made this...every font, every page, every word, every photo, the size of the margin, the texture of the paper, it's all...we created it. So that was pretty gratifying. Also, as a revenue stream, the online just wasn't cutting it at that time so having a print edition gave us a way to bring in dollars and make this a real company and not just a side project. And also, a marketing tool. So now that the print magazines on shelves and in cafes and all over the place, we're able to say hey, you like that? There's more online, come visit us. Our online traffic has increased.

WHY HONG KONG?

We chose to do this in Hong Kong just exactly because this is Hong Kong and it is struggling with sustainability and it is behind in a lot of ways. There would be no point in launching a magazine like Ecozine in San Francisco. They get it. They're there. Okay, the market has arrived. Whereas in Hong Kong, it's such a huge opportunity. There is a niche for a thing like me, a magazine like Ecozine. There are people who, who really want this kind of content and aren't able to access it easily. And also, we really embrace a challenge and so, we also we love Hong Kong.

Ecozine is created by two people who chosen Hong Kong as their home. We weren't born here, we moved here. We chose to stay here because we love this place.

BRINGING GREEN MAINSTREAM

It's easier to start by sharing what we didn't want Ecozine to be. We didn't want Ecozine to be a magazine for the deep greens, for environmentalist, for people who already, like me, love hugging trees. We wanted it to be a lifestyle magazine for the general public. The idea of Ecozine is to create a sleek, sexy, appealing, even aspirational package for sustainable living. So you know, we put celebrities in our covers. We talk about food, family, travel, cars, lifestyle, you know? We just slip in the sustainability angle, it's trough a green lens.

But it's not a magazine that's pitched for people who consider themselves environmentalist. It's actually designed to bring green mainstream, is one of our taglines. To brig it to the masses. To show that sustainable living can be aspirational and not just something that you have to give up some part of your life or attend protests or wear Birkenstocks or live in the forest. You can live more sustainably and have a terrific life. That was what we wanted to bring because Hong Kong is very much about consumptions. What can I buy next? Where can I go next? What can I see next? Whose coming to town...what celebrity? So we want to bring sustainability into that lifestyle aspect that Hong Kong embraces.

What we find actually is that there isn't a consistent element between every story that needs to be maintained. There needs to be a thread, of which in our case is our voice. Our voice we maintain sort of light-hearted, layperson, friendly, slightly tongue-in-cheek lifestyle a voice. So we always try not to be too corporate, to use too much jargon, be too green, assume that the readers know everything there is to know about a certain topic. So that thread is our voice. But the subject matter and the way that we treat each topic varies widely. Because we have everything form you know, great advice from CSR professionals in really successful companies to taking great strides. To you know, top 5 veggie cafes to go to this weekend. So it really varies. That way we're able to engage a wider audience because some people like the sort of....the top 5s, and the way's to and the how to's, and some people really like the meatier stuff. So we do offer a variety.

BECOMING AN ENTREPRENEUR

For me, one of the biggest challenges of becoming an entrepreneur was that I, I didn't feel like I had an entrepreneurial spirit. Like I, I'm risk-averse. I'd rather just have stability, a steady income, I work hard, I take home my paycheck. At least that's how I thought I was. So for me, just embracing the idea of being an entrepreneur was a big challenge to cover come. I think I have. It excites me now. But there's still you know...I'm a natural worrier and so you know, that from time to time comes up for me.

In practical terms, just learning how to do this business. It wasn't like...I know I have expertise in something, I'll start a business in it. It was, I'm passionate about something and I've zero expertise in it, I'll start a business. So, learning about pagination and selecting paper and printing and the whole production cycle of a magazine and what kind of roles need to be filled, HR. I'm not an expert of running a business either. So not just a publication, but any type of business, you know? Steep seat learning curve, but exciting because I love learning so that was part of the appeal.

IT NEVER STOPS GETTING SCARY

It's funny, because I was asked to give a talk a couple months ago on risk at an event called Creative Mornings. I was like, risk...I'm not really sure I'm qualified to talk about that because I'm risk-adverse. Then they were like, but you're an entrepreneur right? So, okay, that's like oh yeah! I should probably...I could come up with a couple of things.

It never stops getting scary for me. Like it's always my hear plummets or my stomach gets tense, you know, when there something for example hiring people, you know? When it's just you and your business partner and your own late nights and your own you know, tears and bloodshed and sometimes laughter at stake, that's one thing. When it's other peoples livelihoods at stake, it just feels like...it's just such a huge responsibility for new entrepreneur and the there's lots of us out there. Who've just been a one man or two man band for a while who suddenly take on staff . That was one of them, you know? It was and still is as we're still growing and continue planning to grow....plan to continue growing our team, that was and still is you know, a terrifying thing in some ways. But, you can't grow a successful business without hiring people. So the impetus, you know, is obvious. Like it's do it or fail. Or work yourself to the bone and burn out. So you, know.

Oh my God. We have asked for so much advice over this journey and will continue to because we fully acknowledge that we don't know crap about some of the things or didn't know that we're doing. So, for instance, when we decided we wanted to start a magazine. We reached out to a magazine publishers that we knew. Models that we knew that met modeled for magazines. People that we knew who wrote for magazines. Luckily, we have a really strong network and some incredible friends. And even you know, people who in some terms could end up being competitors, just giving just the most generous support and advice along the way.

I'm such a proponent of just ask. Ask for help. There's nothing to lose. I don't think I've ever been told no. I've been given weak advice or advice I didn't take. Lisa and I, as business partners you know, from time to time we're like...did that make sense to you? No, okay that's fine, you know. But ask. Why not? I totally am all for hearing other people to have other people have to think. Especially people who know more than I do about a topic. Oh gosh yea.

GETTING GOOD ADVICE

So we've...the best advice we've been given, I think, are from two pools. Again, we've asked everyone we know, you know various points along the journey. But people who are already in the business we're in. So in our case, publishers, editors, writers, people in the magazine business and then investors. Whether or not we're seeking investment, investors know what companies need to have ready, need to look at, need to have in their business plan for success because that's what investors look for.

So, people I have in my personal network, who are investors, angel investors or fund managers or whatever, tend to have terrific business advice for, for startups and entrepreneurs because they're looking for other startups and entrepreneurs and they know what to look for in a successful, or in a successful business model.

PERSONAL RISK AND BUSINESS DECISIONS

So when you ask what my worst fear is, I don't tend to give a lot of time of day to thinking about my worst fears because it's really defeating. But if I were to give it a second, I'd probably say my fear is I'm on a persona l note, planning to you know I just got married last year. Planning to start a family and that needs to be a stable situation and the entrepreneurial world is always one with you know, instability and risk.

So, I guess my worst fear would be not being able to provide for my family because of a choice that I personally made or one of my staff not being able to provide for their family because of a choice I made with the business. I hope to god that never happens. You know, that's a new fear for me. So I wasn't driven by it before. Before my own personal life you know? Before I got married and decided I want to start a family, the only thing at risk,really was me. My time, my energy, my, my...maybe chance of dying younger. But there was no sort of other things at stake.

So as your, I realize now that as your life evolves and your priorities change, that can cause, that can be an impetus and a catalyst for making smarter decisions about your business. That's where I'm at right now actually. Is knowing that I have something more at stake causing me to be...wanting to be wiser about how I approach the business.

So, practically I don't think comes into it because we always have a practical hat on. You know, we always make sure that bills can get paid. And because you know the priorities that I mentioned are my future family, for instance, the main mission of the magazine is still the most important thing to me. Because I'm now talking about future generations and the planet we leave them. So for me, that aspect of the business is absolutely vital for my job satisfaction.

ALIGNING INTERESTS

Our advertisers for the most part are not just , are not bad companies doing a couple good things, but good companies. I mean we're...and there's more and more of them. Like I said we're very fortunate working with companies that are, that I genuinely...that I buy from, that I admire. I mean, those are the first people I reach out to ever issue. I put my sales pipeline together to reach out to advertisers and the people top of that list are people, are companies that I genuinely respect and admire.

It turns out that the companies that I genuinely respect and admire happen to be the company often times that want to reach the audience that we have. So, we haven't had to really give up anything in terms of our morals and ethics and mission. We've been able to meet that, that requirement. So, far anyway and I can't imagine this changing, our advertiser pool matches the, you know, aligns with what we want to create for the planet.

TELLING THE RIGHT STORY

Where the challenge lies, is that companies we think are doing good things, but that have been burned by accusations of green washing or that you know 100% of their business isn't sustainable. Like maybe they're...maybe they're saving millions of liters of water, but they still haven't figured out their dyeing process exactly yet. Or, they're a luggage company that makes products for life for the lifetime guarantee, which is think is very sustainable instead of like fast fashion. But, they don't market themselves as eco luggage, they market themselves as luxury luggage so they don't see the fit.

So that's one of the challenges that we see, is you know, convincing these companies. Or even like, let's say a fast-fashion company like H&M that is taking huge strides to try and be a sustainable business. When you're a business that big, it is challenging to do and they've been burned by green groups telling them that they're doing it wrong and they have done things wrong. But they're really making efforts in this journey. So at what point along the way can they say, yes we're doing good things and feel comfortable about it, you know? And even that applies even more so for the companies who've never tried to say anything about doing anything green, but that we perceive as a business that we perceive are doing something right. So sometimes it's about convincing the advertisers that they deserve to be in your magazine.

So, we're lucky that we have quite a bit of flexibility in our content. I mean luckily because we....we're lucky that we have flexibility in our content because we can then, you know. Some of our content is, its consumer facing in the sense that it's not even about the story of the companies, it's just about what you can do as a consumer to be more sustainable in terms of you know, seeking products with less packaging or saying no to straws or not even you know recommending certain businesses to work with, just lifestyle options.

Then when it comes to telling the states the sustainability story of a given company or organization, every company's story is so different I don't think there's any formula you can use. Some of them are you know really making great strides in work life balance for their employees. Others are just doing incredible things to the environment or the production or this you know the supply chain. Others are making great social strides providing clean water, looking at water waste. There's so many different ways a company can approach the sustainability that there's an equal number of ways that we can tell the sustainability story for them. So it you know it really is so case-by-case.

One of the things that we...this has been a part of our evolution over the development of our publication, is the definition of sustainability that we adhere to. Because it is such, I mean just every throws the word around now right? It's the new eco or green, it's sustainability. For us, it's about, and this is sometimes hard to convey because the name of our magazine is Ecozine, but it's not just about ecology and environment for us. It's about overall sustainability.

So personal sustainability, wellness is a big part of what we talk about. Social sustainability, you know. People doing good for people, looking after themselves and each other. Social issues and of course economic sustainability too. So, that you know, conveying to people that we're not just about trees and animals, but about actually the wider, broader definition of just being a more responsible creature on this planet, towards ourselves, others and the planet itself is something that we often have to bring up in conversation.

STAYING INSPIRED

Yeah, it's pretty easy to say what in spires me actually. I'm just, I love getting out in nature. I mean maybe it's cheesy, like yes, nature inspires me. Nature inspires everybody, but after a long week or three weeks in a row without a break, let's say a work...one hour in the forest, one hike, one afternoon at the beach is just enough to revive me incredibly. So and that's exactly what we're working to protect you know? In a broader sense, so I really need to get in nature on a regular basis or I start to feel defeated by just the vanity of urban life.

In terms of the business itself, the other thing that's really inspiring is when we get emails from people saying you know. I just discovered this product or I sign this petition or I had no idea that my X action had Y impact. I will never do that again. Even when we get emails from people asking for advice, you know. Where can I get, where can I recycle this? Where can I buy vintage clothes? Sometimes I like, go buy the magazine!! But then you know I feel it's really gratifying that people are confident that there's a resource. That somebody will answer them. That they don't have to wonder. So that's also inspiring that people look to us as some place with answers for that kind of question. So when we get individual human responses from people, it's just incredibly gratifying and it gives us that drive to continue.


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.


Sustainable Tech

Developing and Scaling Sustainable Tech in China

With the size of economic, social and environmental challenges growing at a scale and scope that can shatter limits set by global governments, Mother Nature and society, sustainable tech will become the gauge by which we analyze resource levels, measure system performance, identify efficiencies, curb consumption and influence stakeholders to make better decisions.

We are already seeing the results in a number of areas, and the gains made by streamlining our lifestyles and systems to increase efficiency is a win-win for both individuals and the environment around us.

Food & Agriculture
Over the past 30 years, China has experienced rapid levels of urbanization and its citizens have become richer.  But the trade-off has been depletion in arable land while structural inefficiencies in the food value chain have made it difficult to provide safe, accessible and affordable food to the market.

With available arable land diminishing and what little there is of it increasingly over utilized, one solution that can boost production in order to meet demand is aquaculture and hydroponic systems .   Alesca Life Technology is an example of a firm taking the next step forward, through the adaptive re-use of shipping containers where food can be grown within the proximity of urban centers.  Another example is Oceanethix, whose urban aquaculture process can turn any warehouse or retail center into a highly productive, environmentally clean, and transparent fish farm.

As China lurches from one food safety scandal to another, it is clear that consumer confidence has deteriorated and changes are being demanded to improve and introduce sustainable practice. Using smartphone applications and online solutions, consumers can now easily scan and receive information regarding products’ life cycles. Shenzhen Vanch and IBM group are among those who have invested in traceability systems in China, a lucrative business opportunity that also gives consumers peace of mind.

There is also tech progress being made at other steps along the supply chain . For example, the introduction of drones that leverage advanced sensors, low-cost aerial camera platforms and autopilot capabilities can give farmers the ability to view their crops from above, detect and assess irrigation issues, pest infestations, plant health and provide soil analysis.  Tech products provided by companies such as DJI innovations and Ehang are now being used by hundreds of farms across China.

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Healthcare
While it has made great strides in improving the quality of life for its 1.5 billion residents, China’s healthcare system has seen increased pressure to meet the size, scale and speed required for the country’s urbanized population.  This pressure increases by the day as China’s elderly population grows, and its residents transition into an urban lifestyle that includes higher levels of processed foods and lower activity levels.

To overcome the challenges faced, the government predictably made investments in hospitals, equipment purchases, and in training medical professionals. However there are a number of areas where technology has already proven itself in improving the accessibility, affordability, and quality of healthcare in China . In response to the long-standing problem of vast queues and growing inefficiencies in Chinese hospitals, solutions to cut the time spent at the hospital have grown popular. Guahao, a leading mobile app in this space, connects patients with doctors, allowing users to search for physicians in their geographic location and book appointments.

At the other end of the spectrum is personalized medicine. In response to the lack of trust between patients and doctors, medical tech companies offer a more personalized approach to healthcare where consumers can “shop for doctors”, review their qualifications, and contact them instantly . Tech has also become an important element in preventative medicine and one of the biggest trends these days is wearable medical devices.  Once luxury items for sports enthusiasts, for many people wearables are now becoming a part of daily life and may soon present an opportunity to improve quality care at the personal level. Many see this as a crucial area for healthcare, with users able to measure an increasingly wide range of metrics including heart rate, sleep patterns, blood pressure, blood oxygen, and blood sugar. There are already a number of products on the market from Xiaomi, Huawei, Fitbit, and Apple that are growing in popularity and use.

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Education
China has a national goal of economic prosperity for 2025, but the country’s rigid education system makes it difficult for students to develop skills required by both domestic and global employers. They are constantly pressured to achieve high standards but have minimal resources to adapt to the rigorous system, paving the way for an unsustainable future in education. There is limited access to quality content and structured English language classes in rural areas, while the gao kao – a high-stakes exam for high school students hoping to get into college – is seen by many as a measure of who is best at rote learning.  But there is help available in the form of online tutoring and test prep . These range from simple mobile apps such as Baidu’s Homework Helper and Kuailexue that allow students to crowd-source homework help, to online websites such as Genshuixue and Superclass, which allow students to select courses and teachers to learn interactively.

Then there are online language teachers: although English is taught in school, there are few opportunities for students to practice speaking the language. To fill that gap, startups like italki and mobile apps like CCtalk from Hujiang, are helping students connect with native speakers and teachers. This creates a personalized learning environment for students and gives them real interaction with the language.

Tech rules
Thanks to the development of technological solutions, and through the analytics that will come through the Internet of Things and meta-data analysis, smart products and services are able to tell us more and more about our daily lives. They help us identify areas for cost reductions, create opportunity and improve the uptake of technologies that help drive increased sustainability across a number of systems that will be at the core of managing the development of megacities.

To date, the firms best positioned to bring the solutions needed have been data driven firms like IBM, Alibaba, Apple, and others, who have spent billions of dollars over the last decade building the infrastructure to capture and analyze the data necessary to act on. But for entrepreneurs, this is also proving to be a huge opportunity ; this is particularly true of those looking for answers to tangible problems, and where development of local solutions can be supported. This is already being seen as particularly prevalent in the expanding cities of China and the rest of the developing world where urban populations are growing at the fastest rates. For tech-savvy entrepreneurs, there are myriad opportunities for well-executed planning to develop these cities into modern, sustainable urban centers .


The Next Big Thing For Entrepreneurs

[In] the last century [the thinking was], if you wanna grow as entrepreneurs, you should find a good opportunity. But today, if you want to be a great company, think about what social problem you could solve.” – Jack Ma, Founder of Alibaba

When looking for leadership on sustainability, and for those who are going to deliver the solutions that are needed, the search typically begins with big businesses like Wal-Mart and Unilever and their leaders.  The search tends to focus on firms, and leaders, who have large platforms from which they can announce their commitments to changing products, processes, and people as they execute their vision for sustainability. At times these announcements have been backed up by significant investments in time and energy.

However, as the challenges of maintaining balance between economy, environment, and society has grown more difficult to maintain, it is the role of the entrepreneur as visionary and solution provider that has begun proving the power of business, and markets. They have the power to not only solve crises, but to create a new business model.  One that starts with a vision of sustainability at the core, and captures an ecosystem of customers along the way that shows that a “sustainable business model” isn’t an unprofitable one.Take for example the food sector, one that is rife with consumer scandals and resource challenges in China, where large brands have been largely focused on risk mitigation, resource efficiency, and crisis prevention. For traditional “big food” players, the challenge is compounded by the size and scale of their supply chains plus the speed with which China, and other markets, is growing.  Firms need to identify, assess, and engage tens of thousands of farmers on one end of the value chain, while creating thousands of new distribution points that will deliver product to the market on the other.  There is no time to slow down or go back to do things “right”

For the Hong Kong-based OceanEthix, their aquaculture (fish farming) systems were built with sustainability in mind in an industry that is known for numerous environmental impact, social, and consumer safety challenges. Their system, one that is closed loop and modular, has water efficiency, transparency, and product quality at the core of its design, and their modules are now being deployed at various sites in Asia.  For the Shanghai-based FIELDS China, a food delivery platform, it was a business model born from the entrepreneur’s own experience with trying to find clean, safe, food for his family, and has quickly grown into a multi-million dollar business that is scaling into China’s second tier cities.

Entrepreneurs that once occupied the long tail of the economy, and applauded for being “nice” as a result, are now gaining the interest of “traditional” business as they are now seen as market leaders . Leaders who have created products and services with loyal ecosystems of consumers, and markets that are moving from niche to scale.  Dynamics that are leading to a shift in mindsets across the board:

  • Business leaders are looking at social issues as new markets, and successful social minded enterprises as potential investments .
  • Consumers have begun looking for safe, reliable, high-value products, and more importantly they are showing that they are willing to pay a premium for them.
  • Employees are now willing to leave comfortable lifestyles and jobs behind for the prospect of building a new model for change.
  • Governments are now investing significant time and energy to help solution providers incubate and scale their business models, while looking for ways to decouple their economies from models that are seen as risky, resource intensive, or destructive.

These shifts are helping entrepreneurs validate their vision and markets, creating the awareness needed to help reach consumers, bringing economies of scale and profit, and most importantly bringing exit opportunities.

As China’s economy transitions towards maturity, where conversations of “balanced growth” replace those of “growth at all cost”, the opportunity for entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs to develop new markets for sustainability has never been better .

It is an opportunity being supported by consumers who are willing to pay a premium and governments who now understand that the challenges that have plagued them for years have become a threat to their development models. For those who are able to meet this need, China will only be the start.


sustainability rules leadership

Throw The Old Rules Out The Window

Changes in China’s environmental rules and regulations, the first revision in 25 years, take effect January 1 next year with stiffer penalties for companies that flout the law. In recent years, as well, there have been a number of cases across the country where residents’ objections, because of environmental concerns, have led to major projects being scrapped. China, it appears, is now getting serious about finding an economic model that balances social and environmental needs and this will change how business is done .

The Chinese have joined ordinary people all around the world who are being catalyzed to take action against firms that are polluting their air,  water, or undermining their local economy.  Consumers are being catalyzed to take action against companies whose products are unsafe or practices are unfair.  Governments are being catalyzed to improve standards, largely in response to the actions of citizens and consumers, and this increases the cost of doing business. This is why, for executives leading global firms, large or small, it’s more important than ever to rethink their vision and value chain when it comes to sustainability .

For years, investments in CSR and sustainability programs were touted as the best way to create engagement and insulate a brand. But those investments are often separate from the core business; so when failures snowballed into a call to action, the short-term nature of these programs quickly showed through. Going forward, companies will have to break through this cycle if they’re going to keep up with, and stay ahead of, the changes in regulation and consumers’ expectations.

To do this, business leaders must understand the need for recalibration at the very core of their organizations. This would be a major shift that moves a firm from the mindset that ‘compliance and good CSR is merely strategy’, to one where a new vision for the firm is born, risks are removed entirely, and new market opportunities are identified, innovation created, and stakeholders are engaged.

In this scenario, no templates exist. The issues are intangible and, depending on each firm’s structure, industry position, and capacity, it will need to develop something highly customized. But, in general, there are 6 steps to making this change:

  1. Rethink: Explore and analyze your value chain to identify areas of risk, opportunity, and action. For many firms, this is a critical first step. It provides the data needed to identify and understand the issues of environment, society, and economy that will challenge the value chain. These are challenges that will force leadership to scrap boiler plate definitions of sustainability, and create customized, tangible, definitions.
  2. Re-Vision: Be committed to a crystal-clear vision and purpose. In the cases of Unilever, Interface, Whole Food Markets, and many others, this vision came from the CEO and/or founder, who had to personally drive the move forward. For Ray Anderson, founder of Interface, the process has been ongoing for 20 years. Before his passing, Anderson had built the capacity within Interface’s ranks to maintain their path towards summiting “Mount Sustainability” and achieving their 2020 goals of zero waste and zero virgin material usage.
  3. Restructure: Create a blueprint for implementing your ‘re-vision’. Redesign products so that unnecessary processes can be eliminated, so that usage and waste of material can be reduced. This, in turn, leads to a restructuring of equipment specification and buying practices. It also means positively engaging employees, suppliers, and customers in the journey towards ‘good’.
  4. Realign: Strategy needs to be closely aligned to stakeholder needs, interests, and capacity. Review where you make your investments for long-term engagement. Short-term CSR exercises are a good start. But for the recalibration to have maximum impact, these engagements need to focus on how stakeholders up and down the value chain see where the firm is exposed, where opportunities for collaboration exist, and where there are new business opportunities.
  5. Recalibrate: Conduct a series of pilot projects that are meant to test, tweak, and prepare for a systemic recalibration of the firm over time. Interface is 20 years into their process; Wal-Mart and Unilever are both five years into theirs.  It will take time, and experimentation, to get the mix right. For those firms that have completed the first four steps, this is when innovation and an innovative culture will begin to bear fruit.
  6. Remain Committed: Building a ‘good’ business demands the wholehearted adoption of the process, and a commitment to taking steps forward in realigning the firm’s vision, value chain, and product offerings.

Ultimately, leaders need to understand that, going forward, the issues of sustainability and CSR will become more vital to their business as the negative effects of “business as usual” increasingly disrupt the lives of their stakeholders.

This understanding will push them to take up the challenge to recalibrate their firms towards a new model, a model that is not a complete tear down of their old approach – or predicated on worst-case predictions of environmental collapse. It’s one that’s built on solid foundations of understanding how issues of environmental, social, and economic exposures map into their value chains. It’s about re-visioning their business to remove those areas of vulnerability, and then taking the steps necessary to move from inspiration to action.