Sonalie Figueiras’ mission in life is to make it easy for consumers to make green choices every day.
What’s your story?
Over a decade ago, I was struggling with a range of health conditions for which there was no cure. Allopathic medicine was of no help. After many years of my own research, I made the connection between health and diet, and the importance of what we eat on our overall wellbeing. This led me to better understand the connection between what we eat and our environment. I had a sort of ‘green awakening’ and I realized that the world was going to change: people and businesses were going to have to consider health, wellness and sustainability from here on out. From there it snowballed into wanting to affect change on a systemic level as an entrepreneur: how businesses source and how people consume. Hence: Ekowarehouse and Green Queen.
What excites you most about your industry?
Every day, I work to get people to change the world for the better. Most founders and companies in my industry are working to make the world safer and people healthier, as well as to protect our only home and its resources- Planet Earth. We are fighting the most important issues of our time, like climate change and future food security, and we are offering solutions and hope for consumers and businesses. This is incredibly inspiring to me.
What’s your connection to Asia?
I have very strong Asian roots: I was born in Hong Kong and grew up here to an Indian Punjabi mother from New Delhi (who spent her formative years in Tokyo). I grew up in Hong Kong and Singapore and then came back over a decade ago to continue my career after stints in the US and London. My husband is also a born and bred Hong Konger- his parents arrived over 40 years ago and are still here. Our son was born in Hong Kong. Asia is home!
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Hong Kong: it’s international, cosmopolitan, sophisticated, dynamic and fast-paced. People always tell me that X city is going to take over Hong Kong or Y place is the new Hong Kong but…Hong Kong is a pretty irresistible blend of everything I am looking for- the food, the hikes, the night skyline, the energy…I love it all.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Your brand (professionally) and your reputation (personally) are priceless so it’s important to cherish and protect them. Once you lose them, you can’t get them back. So, no matter what you do, do it with authenticity, integrity and graciousness. I would also say, if it’s not a big ask, help others within your network as often as you can, especially those just starting out or those working in the non-profit sector.
Who inspires you?
People who do jobs that require bravery, patience and kindness without expectation of glory, power or financial rewards inspire me. Teachers, nurses, domestic helpers- we can’t live without these jobs and the people who do them- they deserve our respect and support.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I have just learned that the preloved fashion industry will be worth over US$ 50 billion by 2024 and is on track to overtake fast fashion. It blows me away to see that kind of systemic change in an industry that needs a complete overhaul can and will happen. The circular economy is within reach!
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Launch more, test more, try more, do more! The more time goes by, the more I realize that fear, doubt and caution are a waste of time. If I could start over, I would go for it more, mistakes be damned. Failure only makes you smarter, stronger and hungrier.
How do you unwind?
Hiking Hong Kong’s trails and cooking plant-based meals for my family. And now, spending time with my little bubba- he takes my mind off everything else!
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I love Vietnam: the food, the culture and the landscape. I am also partial to my ancestral home: India. The colors, the chaos, the cuisines- it’s a beautiful country that I feel I will never fully discover- there’s always more to explore.
Everyone in business should read this book:
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson and Conscious Capitalism by John Mackey. I enjoy reading stories about people who have fundamentally changed the status quo.
Shameless plug for your business:
Green Queen is an award-winning impact media platform advocating for social & environmental change in Hong Kong with a mission to shift consumer behaviour through inspiring & empowering original content. Ekowarehouse is the global sourcing platform for certified organic products- we are on a mission to make safe, quality food accessible & affordable for the whole planet.
How can people connect with you?
I am old-fashioned, I like email: [email protected].
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’.