Meet Wen Shin Chia, the founder of Greenyards, an enterprise which turns used cooking oil into eco soap and candles. Her passion for environmental awareness sprouted while she was still completing her graduation in environmental science.
Taking little steps towards her vision, she continued doing small projects that eventually expanded into a fully-fledged business.
For our Girls to Watch series, I spoke to Wen about the motivation behind Greenyards, as well as the impact she hopes to create on both human behaviors and the environment itself.
Manvi: Tell us about your background – family, upbringing, education and the place where you spent your initial years.
I was born in Kuala Lumpur and raised up in Selangor, Malaysia (my house is just 10 minutes away from Kuala Lumpur, but it’s technically a different state and territory). I am the youngest in the family, with 2 older brother and sister. My father is a businessman, while my mother passed away when I was 15 after battling with cancer for 3 years, thus I am more independent compared to my peers.
I studied in Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Kepong for both secondary school and high school before pursued Bachelor of Environmental Science and Technology at University Putra Malaysia for 4 years.
You started Greenyards as a university project, what held you to turn it into a full-fledged business?
I graduated 3 years ago with degree in environmental science and technology. Even though, I really wanted to start my own company right after that, but everyone around advised me to first get some corporate experience. I worked for 5 months in a multinational agri-chemical company but deep inside, I had a longing for something related to environment. Since, it’s difficult to find environment related jobs in Malaysia, I decided to turn one of my university projects into a full-fledged business with an aim to reduce water pollution by providing a platform for community to recycle their used cooking oil into eco-cleaning products and candles.
What impact do you aim to bring with your business?
We want to reduce water pollution by providing a channel for community to dispose of their used cooking oil. Also, to spread the environmental awareness through our soap making workshop.
As a founder of Greenyards and an environmental activist, what long-term vision do you hold not just for yourself, but also for your company?
Our long-term vision is to make grease recycling easy and accessible.
Female entrepreneurs find it hard to get funding for their business. Do you think this is true? If yes, how do you encourage people to invest in your business, or let’s say – invest in environment?
I am fortunate to say throughout my journey in the past 3 years, I don’t think I went through any discrimination as a female. Back to the fundamental of business, I think most important is to get enough traction to prove that there’s demand for your products/ services and things will work out eventually.
Do you really think paper beats plastic? Isn’t it a full circle? For every tree we cut, it takes thousands of years to grow another…
I would say not all plastic is bad. Plastic is actually a very good and durable material on its own. In fact, plastic shopping bags may outperform paper bags environmentally – on manufacturing, on durability, and on solid waste volume and generation. It is the misuse and mishandling of rubbish that makes it end up in our waterways and ocean. The best way is – reduce usage of both paper bag and plastic bag and use reusable bag rather than debating which is more environmental friendly.
Tell us about your journey through the Queen’s Young Leaders Program and how did it help your business?
It was definitely a life changing experience for me. Not only did it enhanced my credentials, but also opened doors for more opportunities to walk in. Most importantly, I got to learn so much from many inspiring young leaders.
If you could do any job in the world apart from what you are doing, what would it be?
I actually spent a good 10 minutes thinking about the answer. If I could do any job in the world apart from what I am doing now, I would still prefer to be an entrepreneur in any other business. Being an entrepreneur, to grow and scale a business without many resources in hand is challenging. I enjoy seeing my growth and I strongly feel I will get the learning curve I have here anywhere else.
Your favorite dish?
That’s a lot to name. Such as Penang Prawn Noodles, Roti Canai, Ba Kut Teh, Cheesecake and the list goes on!
I read in one of your interviews that you like to do outdoor activities. What is your favorite outdoor sport?
Hiking & Camping is always my favorites. But recently I fell in love with Yoga too.
Describe a perfect Sunday.
One of the misconceptions that people have about entrepreneurship is that entrepreneurs have cushy hours. But the fact is – entrepreneurs give a major chunk of their personal time including weekends to their work. Hence, a perfect Sunday for me will be just spending time with my friends and family, also having some me time for reflection.