How did you begin your company, susGain? What inspired you to spearhead this enterprise?
We (Carolin & Jeebar) are a German-Singaporean couple, both deeply passionate about sustainability and conscious living.
After returning to Singapore from a stint in the US and Netherlands 5 years ago, we noticed that the local sustainability movement was still far from hitting the critical masses. While we all know about Climate Change and have good intentions to do our part, our everyday choices and actions do not necessarily reflect this. We identified that there is a real intention-action gap noticeable in poor recycling rates and low consumer demand for sustainable products and services.
Drawing from our professional experience (Carolin has an HR consulting background and Jeebar works in Accounting/Finance) and our international exposure, we crunched our brains on how we could play our part in driving the change towards a more sustainable Singapore.
This is how the idea for susGain was born, an app to make sustainable living more accessible, fun and rewarding.
We both got excited about our idea, but with full-time jobs and a young daughter, we felt it would be quite a commitment and risk to jump into entrepreneurship. We decided to first test the market and only after receiving some positive feedback embarked on incorporating the company and starting to work on it as a side hustle.
Carolin became a full time entrepreneur in July 2020 after receiving a grant from Enterprise Singapore. While our initial ideas was running susGain as a side hustle, we soon realized the immense effort and time needed to build this business. We were grateful for the opportunity for Carolin to make the switch.
I see that susGain’s Sustainability Framework not just focuses on environmental consciousness, but also social responsibility. What motivated you to pursue this model?
Our sustainability framework, which we use to assess business that we partner with, is based on the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which focus on both social and environmental sustainability.
While the SDGs are a great general direction, it’s not so easy to relate them to our everyday actions and choices. As such, we decided to define 8 badges (ie. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle / Locally Made / Socially Responsible / Carbon Conscious… ) which help our users consider sustainability in their purchase decisions and vote with their wallets for the world they want to live in. Based on one’s personal values, sustainability can mean different things. For some of us, sustainability means being socially conscious, for others the environmental aspect is more important.
We hope to demystify sustainable living and create awareness for the variety of sustainable options we have locally. We strongly believe that collectively, we have the power to change for a better tomorrow.
What are some of the setbacks susGain has faced? How did you overcome these challenges?
Touch wood, I don’t recall that we have had any major setbacks thus far. It has definitely not been an easy journey to launch a business in the midst of the pandemic, but we consider ourselves fortunate for what we’ve achieved over the past 18 months despite all of the movement restrictions and other external challenges posed on us.
Who or what keeps you going?
It’s definitely the passion for the cause and the many, many amazing local sustainability advocates that I’ve been fortunate to meet since the beginning of my journey. Be it dedicated citizens who volunteer their time to restock community fridges or clean up beaches or small business owners who go an extra mile to reduce their footprint through their products and business practices. I’m also super grateful for the support of my susGain team members and last but not least my husband and daughter, who are my backbone for everything that I do.
What is the most memorable experience for you since starting the enterprise?
susGain has recently been awarded at The Sustainable Business Awards 2020/21 by Minister Grace Fu. This was a milestone in the short history of susGain and a great motivation for us to continue on our mission to accelerate the change towards a more sustainable nation.
Earlier this year, I also received the Finder’s 2021 Expatpreneur Sustainability Award.
What is one message/experience you would like to share with public? Why?
I believe that it doesn’t matter how small your action, most important is that you give it a start. The susGain app is designed to make it simple and convenient to kickstart a green journey. Putting it in Anne Marie Bonneau’s words: “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people to do it imperfectly.”
What do you hope Singaporeans will do more of as sustainable living gains more traction here?
Each of us has a very powerful voice, which is the everyday choices we make with our wallets. I hope that by combining our collective efforts and collating our wallets, we have the power to change the status-quo of the environment we live in and can create an impact.
Lastly, what does thriving mean to you?
Keep pursuing my passion for sustainability and progressing in what I do, even if only small steps at a time. Both entrepreneurship and sustainability are not a sprint but a marathon and it’s a matter of not giving up too early.