Singapore is a incredible city filled with passionate brilliant people who have a burning desire to create awareness, stimulate change and generally want to make the world a better place. Two WYLD women who fit this profile are Stephanie Dickson and Erin Chen. They are both expatriates who have founded their own start ups here in Singapore and have joined forces to create Green is the New Black X SPARK, The Conscious Festival being held at the Equarius Hotel at Resorts World, Sentosa on Friday 12th and Saturday 13th May.
We had a sit down chit chat to the girls last week to find out more about their companies, a glimpse into their entrepreneurial journey, why they love what they do and a hint of what's in-store for us at this awesome event!
KB: You founded a company here in Singapore called The Wedge Asia. What was the driving force behind your startup?
Steph: The Wedge really started because I wanted to build a conscious community. A place where we could really raise consciousness around different issues in Singapore. I felt there wasn’t a place I could go to really talk about sustainability in a fun way and talk about some of the bigger issues there were affecting me and people around me. I realised I was on auto-pilot; I wasn’t really living my life to the full and there were others that felt exactly the same. People were kind of escaping through drinking, partying, traveling and weren’t really grounded in their lives so The Wedge really started as a place to bring everyone together. To learn from others who have gone through things that we maybe struggling with, actually connect with people and have a break from technology.
KB: Entrepreneurs always get asked about the challenges they face and I am sure you've had many but we would like you to let us in on what has been the most exciting thing about being an entrepreneur?
Steph: There’s so many things but I think the best part is just doing what you love. I do however, enjoy just being able to go on holiday when I want. There are times when you don’t feel free and are completely run by your business; what you want to achieve, your dreams and goals but on the flip-side, there is a sense of amazing freedom and I honestly don’t think I could ever go back to having a boss.
KB: You founded a company here in Singapore called Lila Sutra that is focused around women’s sexual wellness. Share with us the meaning behind your mantra “You do you”?
Erin: It can mean many things. But it literally means ' you do you! ' (laughs) I hear a lot from women and men like “is this normal?” or “is it okay that I don’t like this but so many of my friends like this?” We don’t question ourselves when it comes to food like we know what we like and we know what we don’t - it's the same with sex. So it means do whatever it is that you love. If you don’t like it, don’t do it. Love your own body, love your desires, love the people you love. It’s all encompassing.
KB: How did Green Is The New Black come about?
Steph: I started doing a lot of research and started watching a lot of documentaries, which is a good and bad thing to get into and realised we were really screwing up the planet! There were Scary facts I couldn’t even escape from like, there’s going to be more plastic in the ocean by 2050 than there are fish by weight! So, I was like what can I do with my skill set to actually play a part in this bigger conversation and to help people live a more sustainable life and live more consciously? With my background in events I was like okay I’m going to do an event where I can bring all these amazing people together under one roof where we can really celebrate change makers, celebrate things that are done in a better way and work towards living a sustainable and more conscious life together!
KB: Was there one documentary that really hit home for you?
Steph: There are a few... For fashion, ‘The True Cost’ is definitely a must watch. ‘Cowspiracy’ is a really big one both for climate change and other lifestyle choices. My favourite one is definitely ‘Before the flood’ with Leonardo Dicaprio, because in my view they’ve managed to create a documentary that isn’t preachy. It scares you enough that you want to do something but it leaves you feeling hopeful and I think that’s a really beautiful thing, for a documentary to actually leave you feeling hopeful and inspired but gives you the confidence to take the next step which is to Act. Inspiration, knowledge and action.
KB: Creating festivals is quite an intense process. So what have you learnt on this journey so far?
Steph: I would say the best thing I’ve learnt is how important partnerships are. When we partner together we can be louder, stronger and reach more people. When we unite with our collective missions we achieve more together. However, doing big festivals like this is really stressful, I have more wrinkles because of it, but when it all comes together it is the best thing in the world because we are bringing people together, connecting with ourselves and others which this is the most important thing.
KB: With SPARK, it’s not just about women but it’s also about couples and relationships. Why do you feel this is relevant today? Why create this festival?
Erin: Common feedback I receive from women at my Lila Socials is “what about my partner?” They always want to bring in their partners into the conversation and it makes sense. I think female empowerment is not just a conversation that’s for women and so we wanted to create something that was more inclusive. This may seem a bit morbid, but if I imagine the end of my life, what are the things that I really care about? Money, fame, fortune? For me and for most it's about love. Did I really love myself and the people in my life fully? This area is the one that we’re embarrassed to talk about, we don’t know how to talk about it cause it feels awkward and it doesn’t have to be that way. SO we’re trying to make the Konversation more inclusive for everyone not just couples. If you’re not a couple, that’s cool too. If you love multiple people, that’s cool too. It’s all about love.
KB: Why is it important to you to live more consciously and what do you hope for others to gain from this festival?
Steph: I really think that if each of us were more conscious, a few aspects of our life would be healthier, happier and less burden on the planet. I can be quite psycho and I want to be more grounded, I want to be more connected to myself, lessen my burden on the planet and ultimately be happier. I want to be able to help empower people because together we can achieve more. Living consciously is in everything that we do. It’s how we speak to ourselves internally, it’s how our choices directly affect others and how we can actually vote with our wallets; our choices and decisions.
KB: What can we expect form the intimate Konversations at the festival?
Erin: There are 2 stages at this festival. The intimate Konversations are on the SPARK stage and talks will be given on the Green Is The New Black stage. This is the only ticketed part of the festival. The Konversations are in 3 parts. There’s one focused on self-love, one on relationships and one on pioneers. All the speakers are so cool! We have the chair of the national Australian society, a sexologist. That’s like an actual profession, people who study sex. (laughs) We have a panel that answers the one question you hear all the time which is how do I keep things spicy and interesting? We have a couple’s therapist, a women’s health coach and the head of sexual medicine at NUH. They'll all be amazing but the speaker I’m really excited to listen to from the pioneer segment is a guy who'll talk about how we use the internet to communicate, touch and smell and taste which will leave you thinking about what that means for the future of intimacy and how we connect. People can just come away with more inspiration as well as really practical things that they can then incorporate into their lives.
KB: What was the selection process like when picking the brands that will be featured at the festival?
Steph: We have 5 different categories that we look at for the conscious brand. So the first one is People. Are they prioritising people and supporting and empowering people? Are they reducing their impact on the Planet? Are they using recycled, organic materials? Are they Innovating in a crazy way. For example, one of our Speakers Kevin has created bio plastic bags. So it’s non-plastic plastic. It’s freaking amazing. His plastic bags literally biodegrade in water overtime and also his plastic straws biodegrade in water. You can find them at the event. People who have created something entirely new that’s pushing boundaries. Then Wildlife. If the products are vegan or if they’re supporting animals in some kind of way as well. The last one is Transparency. If brands are very open and honest in the way they do business or about where their products come from.
KB: Do you have a favourite brand?
Steph: My favourite brand is Twin Within, a Jewellery Brand who supports and empowers women in the Philippines. My favourite clothing brand, from Singapore is Matter. They are an ethical brand who support local artisans in the region, just recently they posted an Instagram story breaking down the cost of their items!! It’s just so amazing to see a brand that’s willing to be so transparent. The one I’m most excited for the festival is Avani. I think what Kevin has done is just amazing.
KB: What are the things that you do in your daily life to empower yourself?
Erin: I do myself. "wink" (laughs) And yoga. Spend quality time friends and family.
KB: What is a common misconception people have when they think about sustainable living?
Steph: I think people think it’s for hippies and for tree-huggers and it’s just not cool and we’re kind of trying to shake that up. There’s so many innovators and amazingly cool people now in this space and doing stuff in a really great way with amazing products and ways of living. You can even start by switching to salads at lunchtime, or switch to natural skincare or just be conscious of what you are putting on and in your body; everything has a big story and it’s all connected - there’s so many great options now. Another common misconception is that it’s expensive. It can be expensive for sure but at the same time, they last longer. Instead of shopping at fast fashion clothing giants which may be unethically produced, research and invest in alternatives.
KB: What are your tips on improving one's sexual wellbeing?
Erin: I think one easy thing that people can start with is just put a mirror down there and have a look. For some people it’s a bit scary. You’ve had children or it’s very confronting. That would be one thing to start with. Just to connect. And it’s okay if feelings come up and it’s confronting but yea that would be one thing.
KB: What do you hope for people to take away from The Conscious Festival?
Steph: We hope that they take at least one action or one step to work towards living and loving more consciously. Whatever their cause is, whatever they’re passionate about, we hope that we’ve been able to give them at least the next step working towards that goal.
It truly is an honour to know and work alongside these two beauties. They've worked extraordinarily hard to create and pull together such a unique event. Thank you girls, Stephanie and Erin for taking the time to chat and also for being loyal and supportive WYLD Ones we know the festival will be a huge success! I look forward to hearing some of those talks! #excited
Entry to the Festival is FREE. Register Here
So what are your plans for next Friday or Saturday? We hope to see you there WYLD ones! We will have an exclusive collection of MINKPINK to showcase at the Love & Play Marketplace. I hope you enjoyed reading the interview, please feel free to leave us comments or feedback.