Sonalie Figueiras is Founder and Editor-in-chief of Green Queen, Hong Kong's largest health and wellness media platform, and Founder and CEO of Ekowarehouse, the global sourcing platform for certified organic products. With over a decade of experience in publishing, SEO, digital marketing, organic trade and health journalism, she is a wellness industry veteran with a keen eye for market trends, as well as a regular on the speaking circuit.
How did you get to where you are today?
Five years ago, when I was stuck in a job that left me deeply unfulfilled, I came up with the idea to create a 'green' Starbucks-- sort of like a healthy cafe/takeaway chain. While writing that business plan, I started looking into organic suppliers, and discovered that there was no good way for businesses to source certified organic products online. That discovery led me to abandon my initial business plan and to begin the Ekowarehouse one, instead.
A couple months later, I called my best and smartest friend and told her she was going to move to Hong Kong to launch the business with me. Three days later (after reviewing the complete business plan, of course!), she called back and said yes! Everything has grown from there.
What was your toughest obstacle and how did you overcome it?
We run two full time businesses while being bootstrapped and super lean (our team is tiny). That said, my toughest obstacle is actually my everyday: that is, juggling it all and ensuring we have the runway, the resources and the rate of growth we need to keep going.
I try to have some 'blue ocean' thinking time every couple of weeks so I can solve our challenges creatively and make sure that I’m always pushing myself and our businesses to evolve and improve.
What’s the key to staying focused & motivated?
Staying focused and motivated is not really a challenge for me, since I find what I do highly engaging. My problem is actually switching off! Over time, I've learnt that taking the time to recharge actually makes me even more focused and motivated.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
The best piece of advice I have ever received is to be authentic. Be who you are in business and in your personal life. If you are living your own truth, it's easy to stand up for it and to fight for it.
What advice do you have for someone who is looking to start a new venture?
My advice is: really think about how much you are willing to sacrifice! Family, friends, social life, savings, holidays... all these things will fall by the wayside in the early days (years) of your venture when you are hustling 24/7! It's hard to work every Friday night for a month and not to take a holiday for a year when it seems like everyone you know is having a ball (thank you social media!).
If you love what you do, it won't feel like much of a sacrifice at all. But my point is: be ready for the sacrifice! I am by no means suggesting you will have no life as an entrepreneur, but certainly in the beginning, you will have less of one.
How do we get more women leaders?
I think the whole system, heck the whole world is rigged when it comes to creating women leaders. The change needs to start early: in schools, in government policy, in media, in culture, in the corporate world- the whole way we communicate about women is off. We need more education and awareness about how to communicate to everyone that women are vital members of humanity. It's not just the big things, like the fact the the US has no federal maternity leave or the fact that in this day and age, many women across the world have no control over their own bodies. It's also the little things: like the second shift that women take on domestically, or the way your guy friends talk about dating, or the fact that powerful people in all countries and all industries are almost always men. All of this sends a strong subconscious message to women and men about what and who women should be. We all learn from our environment. The whole world needs to do better here. As women, we all need to do our part: speak up when you see a woman being flattened by society, share stories of inspiring women around you, offer to mentor younger women and bring up these issues, challenge the men around you to be more conscious of institutional sexism...