Pamela Chng believes social ventures are the future for all businesses. She is using coffee as a vehicle to change lives with her “business with a social heart”, Bettr Barista.

What’s your story?
I spent the first 12 years of my career in the media and web world, witnessing the rise of the dot com boom and very quickly, the crash as well. The crash of 2001 eventually led me to co-found a web consultancy that specialised in working with the government to make web content and experiences more readable and usable for citizens. The financial crisis of 2008 then eventually led me to my 2nd and current social business, Bettr Barista, using coffee as a vehicle to change lives.

What excites you most about your industry?
I see us being in 2 exciting industries right now – specialty coffee and social business. Coffee has experienced tremendous growth in the past 5 years and presents great opportunity for us to connect communities across the world in celebrating skill, craftsmanship and excellence, whilst enjoying the beautiful beverage. Social business because I believe it is the future of all business, using the tool of business as a force of good, to positively impact our people, environment and communities. Being in the middle of this every day is deeply challenging, but undeniably exciting.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Born and bred Singaporean. I lived in Melbourne for a few years, but came back because Asia/SE Asia is where all the opportunities for change, growth and impact are right now.

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Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore, for its absolute ease of setting up, running and growing a business. Things work remarkably well here and this allows us to focus on the most important matters – developing an ecosystem where we can maximise positive impact in the communities we work with.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
There is always a choice, and you have the power to

Who inspires you?
People who make the most of what life has given them, and persevere and strive to be a better person despite whatever challenges they may face.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
There are 53 million people in Myanmar! I have recently gotten to know the country better and am fascinated and excited about what these 53 million human beings can achieve in the years to come.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing. Who and where I am now is the total sum of my experiences. I believe everything happens for a reason and our job in life is to understand and embrace those reasons, so we may fulfill our purpose.

How do you unwind?
Good meal, tasty beer, with my closest family and friends. Getting lost in a good movie, helping me take my mind away from the pressures of the business.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Anywhere with great food. Bad food makes me unhappy. And a beach! Being near the sea always makes me happy.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Can I offer two please:
Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big by Bo Burlingham
This book, through real life examples, opened my eyes to how businesses could be built, by daring to do the right thing, by daring to follow the beat of their own drum; that greatness could come in all shapes and sizes.

Building Social Business: The New Kind of Capitalism That Serves Humanity’s Most Pressing Needs by Muhammad Yunus
This book opened my heart to the world of social business. I was trying to make sense of business as we knew it post-2008, and so much of it made absolute sense to me, that this was our future.

Shameless plug for your business:
Bettr Barista Coffee Academy (www.bettrbarista.com) is a leading provider of specialty coffee education and currently the only organization in Southeast Asia to offer international certifications from both the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) and the Specialty Coffee Association of Europe (SCAE), as well as Singapore government-funded training via the WSQ framework.
At the heart of its business is a social program that arms disadvantaged women and at-risk youth with vocational and life skills that pave the way for long-term careers in the specialty coffee industry. The Academy adopts a whole-person approach that focuses on mental, emotional and physical training, and works with social service organizations, family service centers and other community groups to engage potential students.

The Academy also offers consultancy, a full-service mobile brew bar for events, coffee-themed team-building experiences and programs for corporates, retails coffee machines, accessories and wholesales freshly roasted coffee beans from its dedicated roasting facility, sourced from community-focused, sustainable coffee farms around the world.

Business with a social heart
Bettr Barista is Singapore’s first Certified B-corporation, won the 2013 President’s Challenge Award for Social Enterprise Startup of the Year, and was Singapore’s first recipient of the Arthur Guinness Fund in 2012, which targets businesses with a social heart, who are committed to finding innovative solutions to real world social problems.

How can people connect with you?
[email protected]

Twitter handle?
@bettrbarista

This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:

CallumConnectsCallum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries. He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence. A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.

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