PhatRice is a platform of inspirational products that have a social or environmental story. Every product that we curate and feature on the site has a positive social or environmental impact and comes from inspiring, life-changing initiatives all over the world..
Asia is the new frontier for product developers whose business model aims to create life-changing impact for local communities. This can be anything from rescuing human traffic victims from prostitution rings in China through jewelry making, to selling stylish shoes that provide 15 meals per pair sold for children in Mongolia, allowing them to stay in school. There are already hundreds of powerful initiatives throughout Asia, however, up until recently, it has been nearly impossible for these small-to-medium size developers to reach inspired consumers around the world. PhatRice brings these passionate like-minded people together on a highly engaging platform, creating a community that grows and thrives.
By telling their stories and selling their products, PhatRice will become the pioneer for enabling social and environmental initiatives, which will be integrated directly into business models. We’re aiming to encourage a community of advocates who influence retailers in Asian markets to change their business practices and to incorporate products that are responsible, and make a real positive difference for those who are looking for a second chance on life.
How many people are on your team?
There are 8 people on the team at the moment, most working part-time.
Were you entrepreneurial growing-up?
I started a company when I was 14 years old, providing a lawn care service to homeowners in my neighborhood back in Oklahoma. Over 5 summers I established over 50 steady customers and eventually sold the business to a friend when I left for University.
What were some of your biggest challenges in launching this business?
Hong Kong is a great place to start a company. However, in terms of online retail, HK is actually not very advanced, so we had a hard time finding the talent locally that we needed to build and develop the kind of interactive dynamic platform that we wanted PhatRice to be.
How are you promoting your business online and offline?
PhatRice tries to have a strong balance of online activity, as well as real-life events. We run a new online feature every single week, introducing a new set of products, which goes out through all of our online channels. We also host our own PhatRice events, where we create a live marketplace for our product partners, as well as organize dynamic workshops and conversations around social and environmental initiatives. In addition, we are heavily involved with various other events like TED talks, The Social Justice Conference and many others. Our goal is to create as much synergy with other organizations and individuals as possible, so that our product partners finally get the chance to tell their incredible stories to the world!
How are you getting ready for holiday season this year?
There are a number of important things coming up for us. The first is Movember, which is an amazing initiative to help raise awareness and funds for men’s prostate cancer around the world. We plan to develop unique products specifically designed to help individuals get involved and make a difference in the month of November! Immediately after comes Christmas, which, of course, is a time of gift-giving. We will prepare for the season by putting together items, packages and features that better suit the gift-giving time of year. PhatRice items are AWESOME gifts because not only are the items really great quality, they also have an incredible story behind each item, which makes giving them as gifts even more meaningful!
What are your biggest challenges?
The biggest challenge in front of us now is how to find and engage our target market. The PhatRice platform is already getting really busy with products and partners, so now we need to do our best to get these stories out, so that those who care about cool, well-designed ethical products can find and support these incredible initiatives.
Tell us a memorable story from running your business
Before the platform even went online I was invited to speak along with some other entrepreneurs at a HKU MBA class. I had to leave immediately after my talk, but when I said thanks and headed for the door, one of the other entrepreneurs sprinted in high-heels across the classroom and beat me to the door to pass me her business card. Obviously, I was really surprised and the students were quite amused too! The individual told me in a few seconds that they are starting a new socially responsible line of baby clothing in Hong Kong and wanted to be featured on our site. As I walked out of the building I thought, we must be on to a good idea here because people are chasing us to be featured and we don’t even have a website yet!
What advice would you give someone starting a new business?
A lot of people tell you to “go for it” or to just take a risk in order to be entrepreneurial. In contrast, our founding team spent over a year doing market research, organizing small events, securing outstanding advisors and developing product partners, well before we actually started building the site. We needed to prove that the model would work before we could raise the investment that we needed. Certainly there is no replacement for acting quickly, but it also takes a lot of patience and humility for someone to become a truly successful business leader.
Interview with Anthony Lance of PhatRice