Hello and welcome to The ReCo Podcast, hosted by our founder Danling Xiao.
As we put a pause on the product launch due to the COVID-19 condition, we thought, why not take this best opportunity to reflect, share and nurture our community? The idea of this podcast was born.
We are excited to share The ReCo Podcast with you. The ReCo Podcast is for social entrepreneurs. It’s about the stories from building ReCo and the wisdom discovered from the journey. In Danling's word, it's a new way of living and doing business.
What's in the first episode?
As our product launch has been largely impacted by the COVID-19 condition, our first episode is about the impact on our production as well as the launch, and what Danling has done to get ReCo prepared.
Listen on! If you like this episode, don't forget to subscribe to our newsletter at the bottom of this page.
The ReCo Podcast is releasing a new episode every fortnight.
Hello again! It’s Danling here. In this episode I am going to talk about the impact of COVID-19 on ReCo, and things I have learnt and have done to manage ReCo in this crisis.
Here in Sydney we are in Stage 3 lockdown. Most of us have been working from home for two weeks already. I am with my cat Colour and Anett, my partner. You might hear Colour meowing sometimes or Anett non-stop clicking her mouse. So, please, excuse us!
We are working from our living room. I've been using this space as my photo studio and I can’t believe I am using it as a podcast studio now! I am super excited about creating this podcast, and can’t wait to share with you all the things I’ve learnt from life and work.
Whenever I find difficulty doing anything, I always write myself an email, jotting down my questions and thoughts. It usually reveals so much clarity and wisdom. Doing this podcast, it feels like I am writing a super long email to myself.
In each episode, I will share these questions and thoughts and the wisdom I’ve discovered in the ReCo journey.
COVID-19. Wow. What an event. I have no words. This has been THE topic my parents and I have been talking about since the outbreak started in China earlier this year. I was worried about my parents in China. I kept telling them to wash their hands often and stay at home, but now, it’s their turn to worry about me and tell me the same things everyday.
In my almost 20 years in Sydney, Sydney is home, Sydney is love and peace. Would Sydney be in a pandemic? No way.
In mid March, I carefully drafted a plan to launch ReCo at The Conscious Space in Sydney. A day later, the Australian government canceled all the events of more than 500 people. That was an early sign of a full lockdown, I thought. Not looking good. Our event will be postponed. But, I could still launch ReCo online and deliver the products to the customers.
Everything was in place. I had been preparing for this launch since July last year. The website was nearly done. The reusable containers were ready.
The products from SimplyClean, from Lismore, New South Wales, were delivered. We had generated some interests around ReCo. People loved the idea that the empty containers can be collected and the products are free from harsh chemicals. So, are we not ready?
Everything sounds right, but I had some big questions. First of all, can I risk my delivery partner’s health and safety, while everyone is recommended to be working from home? Even so, in this critical period, all we need is food and medicine to be delivered to our door, how can I take up the logistic capacity? After all, is it really the right time to introduce ReCo?
I packed up all the jars and bottles and put them into the storage, sat down, jotted down things I’ve learnt in the past 9 months since I started building ReCo. And then … the idea of making this podcast was born.
HERE IS THE WISDOM FOR YOU: Alignment. Whatever we do, we are all part of this world. If the world is doing well, people are healthy and optimistic, it is much easier to do businesses. On the other hand, if the world is in a crisis like this, it poses problems that might not align with our values any more - and we might need to try extra hard, or let other people to try extra hard, to make things work.
In other words, why try hard? Why do we need to struggle to pursue our dreams?
When I was a junior designer 10 years ago, I wanted to have an online shop. My Dad encouraged me to give it a go, so he gave me $10,000 to start it. You would think that anything would be super easy if money was given to you.
But it turned out to be much more difficult than I thought. I struggled to get everything done. I struggled to find a good web developer. I struggled to make a sale. I even struggled with myself. Who was I? I was a daughter trying to impress a high achiever father, who also had high expectations for his daughter.
Thinking back, I remind myself every time whenever I feel difficulty in doing anything - am I struggling? Do I feel angry, sad or helpless? Is this really what I enjoy doing? If it is, it should come from my heart and I will always be able to find a solution … So why do I have to struggle?
On the other hand, when would be a better time to take a rest while the world is in lockdown? Every misfortune comes with a silver lining and this may be the best time to learn, to grow and to reinvent ourselves.
If you are also embarking on a new journey at this time, if you can, put a pause. Review what you've done, reflect what's been done well and refine what can be improved. By the time the world comes out from this crisis, you will be ready for an even more exciting journey.
The ReCo journey started as a secret dream of mine 5 years ago. It was only last year that I decided, ok this is the right time to kick start it.
There are many components in getting ReCo to where it is now. First, I had a trial for 3 months, to test the model and learn about logistics with my delivery partner. What’s the most efficient route for the delivery? How do we pick up the containers for the next use. How can we create the most intuitive user journey for our customers and so on.
The trial was the most exciting part in building ReCo and I highly recommend anyone who’s starting a new venture, start with a trial first. Find out what the problems truly are, instead of assuming what they are, and work out how to fix them with other people.
From sourcing the products to creating the user journey, online and offline, I was able to fund everything by myself and build almost everything on my own, with help and support from friends and Anett.
Was it a struggle? Not at all. One big part thanks to my friends, collaborators and clients who have come along to support. Without everyone, it will be a real struggle. I often say that ReCo is made by people. And I am only here to facilitate its existence.
Thinking this way makes me responsible, but also allows me to be in a flow.
Whenever I need a solution, there is always inspiration. Whenever I need help, there is always a collaborator who lends a hand. It also makes me appreciate the design projects for my clients even more. While I bring value and inspiration to them, they also inspire me and enable me financially to keep going.
HERE IS THE WISDOM FOR YOU: Trust. It frees us from our ego, stress and worry.
I’ve been through periods of not being able to trust. I have been running Mundane Matters as a creative practice for 5 years. During the 5 years, it almost worked like this: When I only had a few design projects, I was worried that this quiet time would go forever. But at a busier time, I was also in fear that I wouldn't get any new projects as soon as the current ones were completed. I was in fear all the time.
I needed to experience these waves of fear, to be in a position to create ReCo. We could worry for our whole life, but we could also choose to be free.
So next time when you start worrying, practice this:
- Trust yourself and trust your capability to solve the problems.
- Trust your idea. You’ve chosen what you do for a reason. The outcome could be to bring your idea to life, or learn a lesson. You can only trust it and find out in the end.
- Trust your gut feeling when it comes to decision making.
- Once you’ve made the decision, trust that it will have a good outcome. If not, it will be a lesson to learn from. Your intuition was guiding you to make this decision so that you can grow.
- Very importantly, trust people. Something my Dad has been saying to me since I was little: to do business, first we need to learn to be kind to people. When it comes to working with people, he often refers to this Chinese wisdom in his own words - trust the person in position, no doubt. If there is doubt, don’t work together. You will sleep well at night!
Every night before sleep, I practice body scanning and deep breathing which I learnt from my reiki master. It stills our mind and gives us a sense of deep inner peace. When we focus on our breathing, we naturally can’t focus on other things. It shifts the focus from the external to the within.
You can lie down, get ready for sleeping. Close your eyes. On your inhale, through the nose, fill the lower belly, then the rib cage, lungs and up to the throat. Exhale through your mouth. Slowly, in and out for 6 times.
Practice deep breathing and trust for 30 days, or for as long as the lockdown is going to go. It’s much needed at this time. You will be very surprised seeing how things just flow for you and shape into the way you want it to be.
All of the sudden, we have COVID-19. Within a short period, as of today, more 700,000 people around the world are infected with the disease. It brings unprecedented disruptions to basically, how the world has been operated.
Early January, the production of ReCo’s containers in China was delayed. Instead of 10 days, now I had to wait for another 20 days for the production to finish. This means I had to delay the shipping as well. At the time I thought, it’s a bit disappointing, but it’s fine. We just have to work with the supplier.
20 days later, China imposed a lockdown in Wuhan to contain the spread of the virus. Very soon the whole country was in lockdown.
That was the end of January. I believed the shipping would be on schedule because China is the factory of the world. It can’t stop. If it stops, the world will stop. How would that be possible?
But looking at what we are experiencing now, anything is impossible. Although the factories were planning to go back to work in early February, it was till the 7th of March, a month later, that my containers were released from the factory. This means, by the time I get the containers in Sydney, it will be May already. How am I going to have my April delivery?
The rational side of me, instead of worrying, I started questioning myself, what is the lesson to learn here? Was it a wrong decision to source the containers from China, instead of locally in Sydney? How could I have done better? What is my strategy to reduce the risk in the future? Should I have vendors both locally and overseas - outside the factory of the world, China?
But like many Chinese, this sudden outbreak and lockdown was something that I found extremely difficult to understand. I was in China during the SARS outbreak. At the tail of the outbreak, I flew to Melbourne to study in Australia. I just turned 18. I was alone but I was brave. Not many people on the airplane. My mum was worried. She actually talked about it recently and I saw her eyes teary on the video call. SARS was one of the biggest outbreaks in China, but it was just quiet in my memory. It was nothing compared to a nation-wide lockdown. Something must be very, very bad.
Wait, it started from Wuhan, located in the centre of China. And it’s happening before the Lunar New Year, the biggest traveling season in China. Millions of people travel interstate and overseas. After the festival, these people will also be traveling again to return to their places. How is it going to impact the health and safety of everyone in the world, including my parents and grandma in China, all my friends all over the world and our community in Sydney? What if the virus spreads in Sydney?
I was absolutely paranoid. But I know there was nothing much I can do. The restaurants in Chinatown and Eastwood were already dying because people like myself were too paranoid to go in. In fact in the first four days as soon as my parents’ city went into lockdown, I locked myself up too. I ended up being more depressed and confused. What is the world we are living in? Outside, people were still eating out at cafes, going to concerts, traveling around the world and I am sitting at home worrying?
After 4 days I decided to go out. I went to my local cafe 0.6. I usually work from there in the morning, on my laptop and sipping my favourite chai latte. My friend Michelle, who owns the cafe, laughed at me for finishing my self-nominated isolation earlier than I planned. I told her earlier I was going to stay at home for 2 weeks to see how this virus spreads overseas. Turned out in Australia we only had a few cases. Phew. I went back to focus on ReCo, feeling a sense of ease.
I went back to my drawing pad. Started another round of research, looking for suppliers who can produce this 1 litre, open-mouth, amber glass container. Very particular. ReCo is still in the testing phase. For now, I need to source the containers from someone who already has the mold to keep the cost down.
I emailed at least 10 glass manufacturers in Australia, Singapore and the United States. No one had this container. A Singaporean company got back to me, but went on silence for weeks until China resumed its production. I guess, their production might be based in China as well.
So here is another confusion. Now what? I thought the universe wanted me to source the containers locally, so that I am more aligned with my purpose? I wrote down another reflection email to myself. I realised that the lesson to learn here is to be open for options, but also be more patient and be prepared.
Without going through the fear and uncertainty earlier, I wouldn’t be so calm and accepting about the condition in Sydney now.
Before the government announced the cancellation of the events, I wasn’t motivated to plan and design the launch event, knowing that even if the disease wasn’t going to spread in Sydney, there was always a chance for infection. We just never know.
But as a person, I would never ever cancel anything for anyone. Not to mention to cancel anything as a business. I will go ahead unless there is a lockdown.
I wrote another reflection email to myself. Listed everythings I was grateful for. Planned the event with a positive mindset like nothing had happened, but also with a contingency plan for anything that may go wrong. A lockdown could come tomorrow, in a week, or at the very last minute before the event.
Event design is one of the most exciting things I enjoy doing for clients. A good event design is about connecting with people and providing the best experience for the visitors. With my client Diana who runs one of the most successful PR and event companies in Sydney - Diana has also become a great friend of mine over the years, we came up with a design that is much simpler than I originally imagined.
It reduced the production cost but also the risk of investing too much money for something that might not happen in a while. I also delayed the printing and renting of event furniture until the very last minute. Informed everyone who was helping me at the launch about the possibility of a delay.
By the time they announced to postpone the event, I knew the whole situation was going to impact our community on a much, much larger scale. I decided to postpone the launch online.
I wasn’t disappointed. It was all part of the plan. And the plan clearly addresses it that this is not being cancelled. It’s only being postponed, because we have a much bigger priority to focus on now. And this priority is the wellbeing of the people in the world. It’s the foundation that supports everything we do. Once that foundation is fixed again, I know I will be able to launch ReCo. It’s just a matter of time.
For me personally, I am going to take this time to nurture myself. For a while, I don’t need to stick to my strict schedule to get things done. Writing brings me so much joy. I can write down the ReCo journey and share it with others. I can improve the way I speak as a storyteller through a podcast. I am expressive through writing and making things, but I was never confident in the way I spoke, until I was trained by my voice coach Amy, last year. So this podcast will inspire me to keep practicing and improve my weaknesses.
Perfecting the ReCo user journey is another big part. There are many things that I could explore to make it better. Oh and I want to clean our apartment, tidy up our small backyard, play more with Colour, do more meditation and yoga. Gosh I have so many things to do!
Am I worried about the spread of the virus, the lockdown and the economic impact? There are more and more cases everyday. Businesses are closing down. Hundreds and thousands of people are losing their jobs. For a lot of people, there is a lot of uncertainty now and ahead. But I also believe that we are much more resilient than we think we are. Most of us are staying at home now to help prevent the spread. The supermarkets are creating thousands of jobs out there. Small businesses are reinventing themselves and trying everything they can to keep going.
HERE IS THE WISDOM FOR YOU: Don't let any unforeseen event beat you. Take it as an opportunity to learn about ourselves and the world.
We can choose to look for other solutions, or we can choose to sit still. But first of all, we will need to ask ourselves, why am I doing this? Am I doing it because of fear or because of my desire to solve the problem? How do I feel? What is my body telling me what I should do? Let our intuition guide our decision making, because it knows what’s the best for our mind, and body.
I ended up receiving the first hundred containers by air. It wasn’t a preferred option. But there was a lot of uncertainty with the ports in China being closed at the time. After 3 months of waiting, I felt I had to see the samples, considering this was the first time I worked with the supplier in China.
In fact, receiving these containers before the other 900 made their way to Sydney, turned out to be one of the most critical things I've ever done for ReCo.
One more thing that is worth mentioning. At an early stage, starting it small allows us to build resilience, not only in our businesses but also ourselves. We will be more flexible to adapt to changes internally and externally. An event like the COVID-19 might have happened only once in the past hundred years. But as humanity is transiting towards a much more conscious era, it could mean that more drastic changes are coming and we all need to be prepared to adapt.
For now, thanks for tuning in to my first episode! I hope you enjoyed it and found something useful.
In the next episode, I will share some thoughts about the COVID-19's environmental impact. While the air is better and the river is cleaner, we are also creating tones and tones of waste everyday.
A COVID-19 friendly reminder - stay at home, wash your hands, drink a lot of liquid, go out only when you have to, keep a 1.5 metre distance from people. Most importantly, be grateful and stay positive. We will get through this together.
Thank you and bye for now!