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Jesrina Arshad, Founder of PurelyB

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Jesrina is the founder and CEO of PurelyB.com, namely PurelyB – a one-stop multi-lingual portal that makes it easy and convenient for people in Asia to lead healthier lifestyles.

Jesrina has over nine years of experience in the digital industry starting out in web design and development at Integricity (VLT), to leading top digital client accounts at Mindshare Malaysia (Malaysia’s largest media agency), to heading digital marketing strategies at Astro Malaysia Holdings which is Asia Pacific’s leading media entertainment group.  Jesrina holds a Bachelor’s degree in Multimedia Technology and Design from the University of Kent at Canterbury, and a Master’s degree in Marketing from Kingston Business School, London.

The creation of PurelyB came about when Jesrina was able to overcome long-term health issues by making positive lifestyle changes such as a healthier diet and exercising effectively. Based on her own journey, the healthy living content and marketplace portal was created to help and empower more people in Asia to adopt healthy lifestyle changes with greater ease.

In September 2015, at just four-months old, PurelyB was awarded one of ‘Red Herring International’s Top 100 Startups in Asia’ – a prestigious list honoring the year’s most promising private technology ventures in Asia. Soon after, PurelyB was selected to be one of only 20 Malaysian startups for the [email protected] Entrepreneurship Program at Stanford University.

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www.facebook.com/NicChungPhotography

In your own words what is PurelyB?

At PurelyB.com we help to provide all the information, products and services people need to lead a healthy lifestyle, all in one place. Our mission is to help make it easier and more convenient for people to lead sustainable healthy lifestyles, especially if they live in Asia, where many of the pain points are! There currently isn’t one trusted brand or destination in health and wellness that collaborates and connects other brands and customers end to end as well as from content to commerce.

Available in English and Chinese, we provide users with guidance and motivation through inspiring articles, videos, recipes and custom-designed health programs, complete with meal delivery whereby they can easily take action and start getting healthy! Our online marketplace then provides the ultimate convenience where users can easily discover and purchase healthy goods and services from trusted sellers globally, in all aspects of health, from fitness to nutrition to holistic wellness.

Our aim is to inspire and empower people to start getting healthy and influence positive lifestyle change and we have a long-term growth plan to become the #1 preferred online healthy living destination in Asia Pacific.

purelyb-health-programmes

How did you come up with the idea of PurelyB?

People in Asia are increasingly becoming health conscious, however, the lack of awareness, accessibility and convenience surrounding local healthy options hinders them. People don’t know enough on where to go, what to do or how to get started! And my team members and I were the exact target audience that felt this frustration! This really motivated us to create a solution through PurelyB with our mission to make it easier and more convenient for people in Asia to lead sustainable healthy lifestyles, and cater for all their needs.

Having overcome long-term health issues by changing up my lifestyle and adopting an all-natural, process-free, superfood and nutrient filled diet, I wanted to help others do the same by increasing awareness and providing the ease of finding local healthy options. Not only had my health issues gone away, I felt a positive difference in my body and had so much more energy!

This revelation was truly a turning point for me – it wasn’t that difficult to be healthy in Malaysia after all, but all the information we needed was just too fragmented! It took weeks of effort and determination in researching information from multiple sources before I made that lifestyle change and saw the drastic improvements in my health. If only there was one place I could have turned to for all this information and guidance, I knew could have made improvements to my health years ago! But no such solution existed. My team and I were then so passionate to then create this solution through PurelyB and help others, and truly make it that much easier for people in Asia to live healthier.

Could you walk us through the process of starting up PurelyB?

As soon as I came up with the idea of PurelyB in February 2015, I knew I needed a strong team in place who shared my ideals, passion and vision. I already knew most of my founding team members prior to starting up PurelyB, and that they were leaders in their fields and extremely passionate about this same cause. Together, we had a good mix of digital specialists and health and wellness experts, which I felt was an essential balance when building up a trusted and credible health and wellness brand and portal. The team came together in early March 2015 and we just had that undeniable chemistry and bond, I knew we were onto something special.

We then solidified the business model and strategy, found a great technology partner who shared our vision and passion and got the site up in May 2015 within 2 months from concept. It was an intense 2 months considering the extensiveness of the content and features on the site, as we wanted to ensure it was as useful as possible in encouraging healthy living right from day 1.

Everything we did for the first few months was trial and error, as being a first mover in Asia, we weren’t sure which of our plans, our content or our features would appeal most to our audience. Thus why we never even ran any paid advertising nor launched in a big way, everything was within a somewhat controlled environment and only spread amongst our own social media platforms to our family, friends and peers through word of mouth. We were then pleasantly surprised to achieve 10K Unique visitors and 30K page views within our first 4 weeks, which then tripled to 30K Unique Visitors within the next few months mostly through organic growth and word of mouth referrals. But beyond the numbers, it was the positive and touching comments we received from users all around the world, who showed appreciation for what we were setting out to achieve.

The overwhelming positive response and gratitude we received from users especially in Asia within our first weeks of soft-launch alone, showed how we can truly help make a difference in people’s lives and empower them to live healthier, which really makes everything worthwhile.  From there we knew we had the potential to really make a difference, but we needed to grow faster, stop bootstrapping it, and strengthen our team, technology and offerings. That’s when we started to raise funds and thus recently closed our seed fund round led by 500 startups.

Along the way however, the past 8 months have been an absolute whirlwind, from PurelyB being one of the 20 startups in Malaysia selected for the Silicon Valley Immersion Program at Stanford University to us winning the Red Herring Top 100 Startups in Asia award held in Philippines, each milestone has helped us apply key learnings, make valuable connections and strengthen our business along the way.

Did you encounter any particular difficulties during startup?

As a bootstrapped startup, in the first 6 months (up until just 2 months ago), we couldn’t afford to pay salaries thus most of our team members were part-timers who were volunteering their time out of drive and passion, and the belief in our business. It was difficult to juggle and achieve smooth execution of the fast-paced and ambitious roadmap we had planned with lack of a full-time team. We managed to pull it off however by keeping the team motivated and focused on the long-term goal and potential successes of the company. By keeping everyone driven by passion, inspiration and strong faith and belief in PurelyB, we managed to turn a ‘part-time team’ into the hearts and dedication of full-timers, despite them not getting any monetary benefits.

Also as we are a first mover in providing an online content-community-commerce ecosystem in health and wellness to consumers, there isn’t a successful model anywhere globally to compare to or set benchmarks against. Thus every phase along the way is experimental based on prototyping and beta testing. But what we made sure was that every element created was based on a need verified by our target audience and to continuously improve users’ experiences through fast turnarounds in optimization and implementation. Speed and agility is a definite factor in helping us overcome certain challenges.

It’s been such an exciting journey so far though and we are grateful for the growth and visibility we’ve achieved organically and the incredible support from our followers.

How have you been developing PurelyB since startup?

Our aim is to inspire, support and empower people in Asia to live healthier and bring the entire community together. Thus we’re focused on building up a holistic ecosystem that provides ultimate convenience for users to easily discover and purchase healthy goods and services from trusted sellers globally on our site. For sellers they are able to leverage on our platform, our payment technology gateway and most of all our highly targeted community who are interested in healthy goods. Thus we’re building up the platform to be extremely data-driven and seamlessly integrate the entire user journey across all aspects of our portal, from content to marketplace. We’ve also recently launched our Chinese site too, so we can truly cater for different markets in Asia and collaborate with a range of partners. We are focusing on web for now though as we launch marketplace in March this year, and from these learnings we will then develop our mobile app within the 2nd half of 2016.

What kind of feedback did you get for PurelyB so far?

Within our first few weeks of launching, we had received touching messages from people in Malaysia and all around Asia, who loved our cause, and shared their inspiring stories with us. Not only did they share their gratitude for what we had built through PurelyB, they wanted to contribute and be a part of our mission. We honestly did not expect such a positive response especially as we were only known through word of mouth! This really moved us, and this continuous outpour is what keeps us motivated and inspired to really build up PurelyB towards our long-term vision and truly help make a positive difference in people’s lives. We’ve also noticed quite a number of corporations reaching out to us to participate in their wellness movement this year; it looks like 2016 will definitely be a year of driving positive lifestyle change in Asia!

What is your strategy against your competition?

There are definitely a growing number of players in the health and wellness tech industry in Asia, however we have yet to come across one that holistically addresses the pain points of healthy living, for which PurelyB was created for. There are a lot of renowned and upcoming health and wellness brands out there but we are a partner and a collaborator to all players in the health and wellness industry rather than a competitor. We help connect the community through our platform, where users can discover local health brands and brands themselves are able to tap into our growing and highly relevant and targeted audience base. We intend to be that go-to platform for both users and brands in health and wellness.

Our strategy in staying ahead is definitely in ensuring we strengthen and upkeep the values of our brand. In health and wellness, brand trust is everything and it’s so important for us to stay true to our vision and continue to build the trust and credibility that PurelyB stands for.

What can you tell us about the industry? 

Health and wellness in Asia is definitely on an upward trend with beauty, anti-aging, healthy diets, nutrition and weight loss making up the bulk of the interest. The key drivers for this change are the rising health awareness as well as local healthy options becoming more readily available! The sudden influx of healthy lifestyle solutions from healthy food deliveries, cold-pressed juice bars and one-stop fitness solutions such as KFIT and Guavapass in the past 1 year is a clear indicator of the growing demand.

It is however more women-skewed in terms of the interest and demand, and expectant women and mothers are the biggest advocates of health and wellness, making up the majority of our audience. Their children’s health is of course a priority and they would go all out to ensure their children are getting the right nutrients and use only safe, natural non-toxic products. But before it would be difficult for them to find these solutions for their kids, having to always import from overseas thus why with PurelyB we help to make it that much simpler and convenient by providing everything they need on our platform.

What is the future of the industry?

The future of the industry is definitely now shifting more towards holistic wellness and natural health which is also our main focus. The healthy eating, nutrition and weight loss segment is currently a US$585bn market expected to grow to US$737bn by 2018; CAGR of >8% for the next 5 years. Out of which Asia Pacific will be the highest growth market! (Source: Euromonitor International Report 2014)

It’s exciting to see so many solutions emerging in health, wellness and technology particularly in wearable technology. As this industry grows, even more so the importance of an ecosystem like PurelyB that brings everything and everyone together. Thus continuously keeping up with the latest health trends, offerings and consumer needs, whilst staying true to our vision and mission, is key to evolving our platform and staying ahead of the curve.

Were there anything that disappointed you initially?

I wouldn’t really use the word disappointed, but it’s expected that the past 8 months have been a rollercoaster journey with ups and downs along the way. But with any negative experience, there was always something good that came out of it, thus I’m always a strong believer that you have to go through some disappointing times to eventually achieve greatness.

What do you think about being an entrepreneur in Asia?

It’s not really fair for me to compare as I haven’t yet explored entrepreneurship outside of Asia, but entrepreneurship is definitely challenging either way and I feel those who are truly passionate and dedicated about their cause and go all out to make it happen, will be able to stand strong even during the most trying of times. The startup ecosystem and support provided in Asia has really strengthened so much over time though and I do believe it is much easier today to become an entrepreneur than it was a few years ago.

What is your opinion on Asian entrepreneurship vs Western entrepreneurship?

Social and cultural factors create some of the main differences between Asian and Western entrepreneurship, understanding the different languages, traditions and cultures is imperative to become a successful startup in Asia, and simply replicating a successful model from the Western markets would not work in Asian markets. Hence, the reason why some Western startups fail in expanding to Asia due to the lack of localization and true understanding of the local market. On the other hand, from a tech standpoint, there are also many Asian startups who try to emulate the Silicon-Valley way of entrepreneurship, even though their funding strategies which it itself can cause issues as the processes, expectations and standards are so different in both worlds.

What is your definition of success?

For us, success is meeting the goals we set out to achieve and becoming the #1 go-to online destination for healthy living, truly helping make a positive difference in people’s lives in Asia-Pacific but even potentially Worldwide. Just being able to see that we’ve played a key role in encouraging people to make that change, live healthier and experience drastic improvements in their health, would really be an invaluable achievement in our eyes.

Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?

It was always an aspiration of mine even early on in my career, every job I had I treated it like it was my company, my baby and would put my all into my work with constant sleepless nights. I knew one day though that I would channel all this energy and drive into my own business but it was a matter of finding the right idea that would hit me like a rare ‘aha’ moment!

In your opinion, what are the keys to entrepreneurial success?

1) Stay true to your vision and never give up on your dreams! Just stay focused and work hard, and know that all the highs and lows are a stepping stone bringing you closer to achieving your goals.

2) The team is everything! Have a strong and diverse core team who all share the same passion and vision in the business’ values and success. The power of a dynamic and talented team with undeniable chemistry can plough through even the most challenging of times, and can even make the impossible happen.

3) Speed and agility which enables you to adapt to changes quickly and action on trends and insights that can make improvements and majorly impact your business.

 

Any parting words of wisdom for entrepreneurs out there from your personal experience?

Firstly, the power of perseverance! You have to go through the lows to get to the highs, so never give up even during the most trying times. You have to just persevere through, address the issues as best you can and have confidence that it will all pay off.  Sometimes the outcome and rewards can really surpass your expectations!

Also the importance of building that network of mentors, peers and investors, will really help you along the way. The startup (tech) industry in Asia has really evolved and developed that culture of ‘pay it forward’, with everyone happy to help out and offer guidance and support. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Connecting and building relationships with investors early on even before starting to raise funds, is also important in building their trust and interest as they get to know more about you, your team and your business. This will help in ensuring a much smoother process when closing deals and for you to also know which investors are best suited for your business.

Connect

www.Purelyb.com

www.Facebook.com/myPurelyB

www.Instagram.com/PurelyB

www.Twitter.com/Purely_B

https://www.linkedin.com/company/purelyb-sdn-bhd

 

 

Callum Connects

Cassiopea Yap, Founder of Ashleigh Ivory

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Cassiopea Yap founded Ashleigh Ivory a health and skincare business in 2007.

What’s your story?
Ashleigh Ivory is a key business venture that I began way back in 2007. Since it has been 10 years, some may be inclined to think that we have a whole repertoire of fine skincare items.

This is not the case. In fact, we don’t have a plethora of products because I’m a bit of a perfectionist. Instead of common focus on the finished item, my journey begins from the backend. This is where products undergo QC, stringent tests and personal use to determine if First Impressions Last Forever.

A product may be subject to 600 tests in three years before being released to purveyors and consumers.

What excites you most about your industry?
The Health and Skincare aspects of it. I am excited even though the industry is filled to the brim with products and solutions, a fact that challenged me to come up with something totally new.
The result? Ashleigh Ivory’s Black Diamond Beauty Roller and Fuji Shiitake Age-Defying Serum set.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Asia is dynamic and happening. What is more, in several countries, there is a niche for bespoke, handcrafted and anti-ageing products and services. Hence, my connection to Asia and within Asia lies in my travels to various countries in search of these special items.

One example is how I found my sensei in Japan, and the result is my Made in Japan Roller in combination with the Fuji Shiitake Age-Dying Serum. The specially formulated Serum has eight amino acids as well as a high content of Vitamin C. It is also rich in Kojic acid that helps in brightening skin, fading pigmentation and reducing acne scars.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I love Singapore. Because the infrastructure of the city supports the employment of reliable staff for a personalised, face-to-face shopping experience.What is more, technology thrives in Singapore so this supports our omni-channel shopping experience as well, whether it is for B2C or B2B business models.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
We need not pursue beauty under the knife.

Who inspires you?
Princess Diana. Like she said: “People think that, at the end of the day, a man is the only answer.”

To me, a fulfilling business is better for me and yes, I am going to own it myself and be true to myself. I no longer want to live someone else’s idea or life. I just want to build my own legacy before I leave this Planet Earth for my next generation to come.”

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Lip Service Providers out there who lie without blinking when offering their services.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Not marry my present husband.

How do you unwind?
By listening to music. Music sets the tone right in the hustle and bustle of city-dwelling. I wouldn’t say no to a glass of wine or chocolates either.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
It’d have to be Japan. I love the scenery, and how the Japanese respect aesthetics indoors as well as outdoors. Even with functional items, they tend to make them beautiful as well. I love their onsen too, with great hygiene practices and rejuvenating soaks in hot springs. Guess this is a way to unwind too.

Everyone in business should read this book:
God is my CEO, Following God’s Principles in a Bottom-line World by Larry S Julian. It contains real-life accounts of business leaders and other people in authority. When reading these real stories about how ‘Rome was not built in a day,’ I can fully empathise with how important work takes time.

Shameless plug for your business:
Don’t get addicted to my Black Diamond Beauty Roller & Fuji Shiitake Age-Defying Serum set because its effects are so so good. In a way, this is true, because you’ll only need to use it twice a day, 5-10 minutes each time.
Alright, I succumb. You can use it three times a day.
Ashleigh Ivory’s Black Diamond Beauty Roller and Fuji Shiitake Age-Defying Serum set. We can all apply well concocted creams and serums on our skin, but how do we maximise its penetration?
The Black Diamond Beauty Roller is designed to penetrate deep into skin, acting directly on the cell level for optimum results.
Each Roller is handcrafted from terahertz ore in a diamond cut of 48 facets to reduce crow’s feet, diminish fine lines, tightenpores and lots more.

How can people connect with you?
I am just a text or phone call away

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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Entrepreneurship

Women on Top in Tech – Laina Raveendran Greene, Co-Founder at Angels of Impact

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(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

Here is our interview with Laina Raveendran Greene, Founder of GETIT Inc. and Co-Founder of Angels of Impact, an impact network focused on women social entrepreneurs helping to alleviate poverty. She is an entrepreneur and social impact investor, whose passion is female empowerment, and enabling women to be key agents to help alleviate poverty in Asia.

What makes you do what you do?
As a minority female Singaporean from relatively humble beginnings, I have never taken anything for granted. I learnt early on that I have to work doubly hard to overcome the “glass ceilings” but if I persevere, I can succeed. That is why I chose to focus on helping women-led social enterprises as I know how hard things are for them and I hope to make things a little easier for them.

How did you rise in the industry you are in? 
I rose by being courageous enough to push against the “glass ceiling” and seizing opportunities open to me no matter where they were. Early on, I realized I would have better opportunities overseas, so I worked in many countries, including Switzerland, USA, and Indonesia and used these opportunities to learn and open new avenues for myself. I now come back to Singapore with many more networks and skill sets.

Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics)?
Yes, as a minority Singaporean, it may appear that I am not the usual leadership demography in Singapore. In my own way, however, I think I have amassed my own international accolades and work experience such as serving as the first Secretary General for the Asia Pacific Internet Association, CEO of one of the first few tech startups in Singapore in the early 90s, being on the International Steering Committee of the Global Telecommunication Women Network, and most recently selected as one of the 2nd cohort of Edmond Hillary Fellows in New Zealand.

I am now moving to the next phase of using these networks and skills to help other women to social enterprises, which seem to be exactly what I want to do in my next phase of life (after more than 25 years of global work experience).

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work? 
It was harder in my younger days, as one of the few women in tech to find mentors but today I do.  Men were reluctant to mentor me for fear of rumors.

How did you make a match if you did, and how did you end up being mentored by him? 
I found my mentor when I was taking an executive program at Stanford. He was one of the keynote speakers and I went to talk to him. Intrigued by my background, when I asked if he would mentor me, he said yes. I meet with him at regular intervals and I always ensure I have put his ideas to test before reporting back to him. I feel that I value his time if I do actually listen and act on his advice.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent? 
The key qualities I look for is an eagerness to learn and humility to be open to new ideas. Also, when asked to be a mentor, I usually give homework and see how proactive they are. Only the ones who do their homework, take the advice and act on it, are the ones I actively mentor.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?
I consciously and unconsciously support diversity, as I see the importance of diversity on true innovation. You never get anything new, talking to like-minded people. It is always good to have different perspectives to create new ideas. I am also an active supporter having faced racial and gender discrimination in my life and want to ensure that others are given a better chance.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb? 
A great leader to me is one who has empathy and humility, and a genuine spirit of service. Today’s challenges such as climate change and social injustice, requires many players to apply their knowledge and skills to solve and have a sense of ownership in solving these issues

Advice for others?
The only advice I can think of is do what you are strongly passionate about. You need to persevere to succeed so it helps if you truly care about the endeavor you are working on.

If you’d like to get in touch with Laina Raveendran Greene, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/laina/

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