As Founder of successful media platform Green Queen, a health and wellness resource for Hong Kong, and Ekowarehouse, a global sourcing platform for certified organic products, Sonalie Figueiras’ knowledge of the wellness industry is vast.
Having grown up in Hong Kong and Singapore, Figueiras moved to the US to study. Later, as a graduate, she worked briefly in London as a Management Consultant before returning to Hong Kong to explore further professional development in real estate and wealth management.
Then came the idea for Ekowarehouse, at which point Figueiras ditched the corporate life and started on her entrepreneurial journey — launching Green Queen as a personal blog in 2011. What started as a ‘side project’, evolved into Hong Kong’s largest health and wellness platform, now receiving up to 150,000 page views and 3.5 million digital impressions per month.
In the meantime, Ekowarehouse, which officially launched in 2012, has grown to be the largest database of certified organic suppliers in the world.
Now a regular speaker, with up to 50 engagements per year, Figueiras doesn’t have any plans to slow down. Here, the media-savvy entrepreneur discusses her ambitions to explore video and live content, and why expansion outside of Hong Kong is definitely on the cards…..
On the original mission behind Green Queen and Ekowarehouse…..
Our original mission for both Green Queen and Ekowarehouse was to make it easy for consumers and businesses to make healthier and more environmentally conscious choices. We have not wavered in this mission since. We provide information, resources, access to everything people need to live better, safer lives.
On creating not one but two wellness businesses…..
Ekowarehouse was meant to be my one and only business. I left my corporate job in order to build and launch Ekowarehouse, it just so happened that I had started the Green Queen blog to share information about health and wellness resources in Hong Kong on the site. I had no intention of it becoming anything.
When Tracy Turo, my business partner, moved to Hong Kong to Co-Found Ekowarehouse, she discovered that Green Queen had built up a small but loyal following. We decided to try and build it out, to learn about digital marketing and SEO, hoping to use our knowledge for Ekowarehouse. Four years later, it has turned into a big success and now we have two businesses.
On turning a concept into reality…..
We rolled up our sleeves and did the work. Too many people think it’s all about delegating and expanding… and this is important as you grow. But in the beginning, do the work and learn your business from the inside out. It’s incredibly important when you are making decisions, working with contractors and building software – the less you know about your business, the more others can take advantage of you or make decisions that don’t have the business’ best interest at heart.
In terms of funding, we bootstrapped until we started making revenue. We have a lean and nimble approach so we are able to pivot when we need to and we can see what works from a bottom line point of view quite quickly.
On the shift in understanding and engagement with the health and wellness industry in the last 5 years in Hong Kong…..
There has certainly been a shift, and I see it as a result of a combination of factors.
The question of safe food comes up a lot across Asia. China has over 100 food scandals a year. This has pushed the safe food message up to the forefront of people’s minds. I also think millennials in Asia are the same as millennials in the west: they want brands that echo their values, they want products that are safe for their health and for the planet.
Also, I think the proliferation of the internet has made it so that everyone in Asia can now access information about health and wellness, and this accessibility allows people to take control of what they eat, how they exercise, how they manage their mental health and what types of products they buy.
On the biggest challenges when it comes to growth…..
I think we face the same challenge as everyone in the digital business: how do you cut through the noise and keep your target audience engaged? I think we are very good at this but we need to get even better to stay competitive.
On the key to Green Queen & Ekowarehouse’s success in the region…..
With both Green Queen and Ekowarehouse, we were absolutely the first to market and we have the best SEO in the business, so we don’t feel we have any direct competitors. Beyond that, Green Queen has outstanding content: original, well-researched and relevant.
Our content quality has made all the difference. Others come and go, but for us, content is queen, and we continue to lead in that arena.
For Ekowarehouse, our USP is that all our suppliers are verified in-house. Our platform is the only place where you can source certified products and verified suppliers. This makes us unique and also very trusted. Our users know we do the hard work to make it safe for them to trade — that’s been key to our success.
On making mistakes and learning lessons…..
Overall the biggest mistake we’ve made is waiting to launch things and being too focused on perfection — there’s no such thing.
Your users and how they interact with your site and software will teach you more than any plan, so it’s vital to get your product out there and then collect feedback so you can iterate.
On expansion into new channels…..
World domination….? But in all seriousness, the sky’s the limit for Ekowarehouse. The platform will definitely be the key tool for sourcing teams all over the world as more and more people make the switch to organic food.
For Green Queen, we continue to be content trendsetters, keeping Asia abreast of the wellness world’s latest news. As SEO and content creation experts, we offer an ideal solution to our partner brands. One piece of exciting news: we are expanding into video content.
On launching a wellness-related business in Asia…..
We hear business pitches daily and one thing many people forget to do is to research and get to know their target audience. It’s not just about what you want to build/sell, it’s about what your audience/customer is looking for.
Asia is a big place with dozens of different cultural traditions and it’s important to understand what the market you are looking to launch in needs/wants. Don’t be like Uber, who thought they could just bulldoze their way into China, only to cease operations and be taken over by Didi, (Uber’s China-friendly homegrown equivalent) — do your homework.
On leaving an imprint on the wellness industry…..
There is so much to do still, but I would like both Green Queen and Ekowarehouse to be market leaders in their respective fields. For me personally, I really enjoy telling inspiring stories and sharing market insights, so I hope to be able to continue speaking to audiences across the world on a larger scale.
To find out how Green Queen’s digital marketing and SEO expertise could help grow your wellness business, head to our Business Services Directory here.