Originally from Sweden, Elsa Medin relocated to Shanghai four years ago to study Chinese. She decided to stay in China and did her bachelor degree in international business. With her motto being “If I cannot find the path, I will create it!” she launched Spare Leash right after graduation. Elsa has a dog named Betsy, a schnauzer adopted in Shanghai in October 2016. She also fosters dogs.
Erin Leigh studied public relations, advertising and applied communication at Western Michigan University. She came to China after graduating from college. She has been living in Shanghai for over five years, working in PR and marketing, before co-founding Spare Leash. Erin has Oliver (labrador mix), Betty (mini schnauzer), and Max (terrier mix). They used to be foster animals, but she ended up adopting them. Erin usually fosters one more dog every month. She also rescues kittens; she bottle-feeds them and looks after them while searching for adopters.
Spare Leash is dedicated to making life easier for pets and pet owners by providing loving and trustworthy pet sitters in Shanghai. Their services are safe, reliable and cage free. The company was founded in Shanghai, in 2016. In the same year, Spare Leash was awarded by Time Out Love Shanghai for Lifestyle Service of the Year.
How Spare Leash started?
Elsa: It began in 2016 when I wanted to adopt a dog from the street in Shanghai. I was still a student, and I was going traveling for a whole month. None of my friends could take care of him. Finally, I didn’t adopt this dog. However, I started to think how we can all help each other looking after pets when we travel. I had an idea, and I spent a few months thinking about Spare Leash and how I can make that happen. I had mutual friends with Erin. She was facilitating pets’ adoptions in Shanghai.
Erin: One day, Elsa texted me out of the blue, saying: “I need to talk to you. Meet me for lunch”. We met at one of my favorite restaurants, Kommune. Elsa told me about her idea. It was also a part of her university project.
Elsa: I had a class called Entrepreneurship, and that’s how I started to look at it from a business perspective. My initial idea was a pet hotel, but I wasn’t 100% happy with that and kept on brainstorming. I went to Australia for a month, and because I didn’t adopt the dog, I was thinking about it during the whole trip. I was doing my research, writing down my ideas and a business plan. When I came back, I met Erin.
Erin: Elsa nearly had a business plan and the avenue laid out, as well as the name and the logo. Right away I said: YES. The very next day we were in my living room, my three dogs were running around, and we were starting the business. It was around early April. I had just quit my job in PR.
Elsa: I was in the last semester of my Bachelor’s degree majoring in business. I had in my final exams. My final thesis was about the WeChat business, so I was going to many business events and learning from hands-on entrepreneurs.
Erin: We first built a website, which took a month. Then we had a launch party – a charity event co-organized with Best Friends China.
Elsa: We got our first client during this event. The first interviews with sitters happened in Erin’s apartment.
How to volunteer and engage with a local community during your busy life abroad? #AddingValue series
Tiziana Figliolia is the Sr. Vice President, Global Business Operations and Finance at PTC. She is also the President and Board Member of International Professional Women Association (IPWS) in Shanghai, and a speaker on the topic of gender diversity, equality and women empowerment (Women TEDx Shanghai Salon, Shanghai International Forum on Women’s Development).
Tiziana is a global leader with 20 years of experience working with technology companies publicly traded and startups, with a wide range of strategy, planning, finance, customer support, sales & operations, R&D, and business partnering related responsibilities. As a native Italian and after graduating in Economics, Tiziana realized that moving to the USA was the right choice to springboard her career. Being a naturally curious and open minded person, Tiziana relocated a few times with her family and progressed her career around the world. Currently, she lives with her husband and son in Shanghai, a city, which she finds the most international and cosmopolitan from all the international cities.
International Professional Women’s Society is a non-profit organization that provides professional women with different platforms to connect and foster personal and professional growth. IPWS has a community reach of more than 2000 women.
Tiziana talks with Coachify about her motivations to volunteer, engage with a local community and empower professional women, as well as how it helped her to live a fulfilled life. One of the lessons we can learn from her is: choose a volunteering project or community that resonates with your life vision and passion.
Tiziana, how did you become interested in IPWS?
After working for some time in China, and completing my MBA, I felt there was a void in my life, which needed to be filled. I’ve accomplished a lot professionally, I have a great family, but I needed more to fulfill my purpose. More than the traditional work/life balance, I believe in living an integrated life where professional, personal (family) and social (giving back to the community) are interconnected and a measure of who we are, what we do and how we accomplish our life goals. These are three very fundamental parts of who I am. At the time I felt that the social aspect was incomplete. I asked myself: How do I give back? How do I make an impact on the community? I started to look around, and when my friend Margot invited me to an IPWS event, I joined. I enjoyed the crowd and the ambiance of the event and worked my way to join the Board of Directors and become the President of the organization, now for the past four years. IPWS was and still is an excellent fit in terms what I was trying to achieve.
Yolanda vom Hagen is originally from Düsseldorf, Germany. Her photographic main focus is on interior, industrial and documentary photography. She studied photography and design at the University of Applied Science Dortmund and the Beijing Film Academy. She was commissioned as the official press photographer of the German Pavilion at the Expo 2010 in Shanghai. Yolanda is fluent in German, Chinese, and English, which enables her to work independently in most parts of the world.
Yolanda sees herself as a preservationist of humanity’s current lifestyle and being. Her vision is to capture this generation’s contemporary environment for future generations.
Yolanda, when did you discover your passion for photography?
When I was a little kid my mother gave me a camera to take some pictures while I traveled with my brother on our own. After we would come home, my parents would develop the pictures and I would have the memories from the trip. The preservation of my experiences gave me the ability to share with my parents what I experienced, seen, and done. I did not have an outlet for my deep need for sharing, but taking pictures gave me the ability to preserve something not only from my life but also from others’ lives. It became a way to communicate. For my eighteenth birthday, my father surprisingly gave me a proper camera. I started to play around with it. When I was nineteen I needed to decide what I want to study after high school. I looked at architecture, psychology, and photography and then tested all of them during my summer vacation.
How did you test them?
In Germany, we have something called Volkshochschule which is a summer school/ workshop program. I participated in one photography workshop. Another workshop was about architecture. I also interviewed an architect and I asked him about his job.
He said: “There are so many people studying architecture nowadays that you will end up behind IKEA’s desk selling furniture.” This, plus my fear of math contributed to my decision to choose photography rather than architecture. I thought this would give me the ability to meet, communicate and work closely together with people, which is what a psychologist also does… However, photography gives access to a variety of different topics and fields I can work in. My father had ten or fifteen jobs in his life. I thought photography might give me the option to travel, see different cultures, work with different people and update myself to fulfill my need of learning and steady creative and personal development.’
Your father had so many jobs throughout his life. You picked up one job, which has so many jobs in it.
Exactly. There are so many fields I can work in. It took me some time to figure out my skills set in photography. The studying aspect made me really confused about which field of photography I want to work. I’ve failed a lot. Every single semester I had to redo my work two or three times. Only interior photography was OK. And there … we are coming back to architecture.
A multi-passionate entrepreneur, Sunny Gandara is a life design coach and a certified health coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Sunny, a native of Norway, is a professionally trained cook and holds a certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from eCornell as well as a professional Culinary Certificate from the Institute of Culinary Education in NYC. She is a Certified Personal Trainer and Fitness Nutrition Specialist through NASM, a Certified Wine Educator and Specialist of Spirits through the Society of Wine Educators, and a holder of the DWS Diploma through the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET).
A huge part of her work is vegan lifestyle coaching and blogging. She talks with Coachify about her fascinating journey of going vegan and helping others to do so.
Sunny, how did you become a vegan lifestyle coach and blogger?
To me, becoming a vegan lifestyle coach and blogger was the result of having worked across three other industries first; I started out in the music industry where I worked as an international marketing and publicity director and traveled the world with celebrities, to becoming a professionally trained chef and later on a wine educator and specialist. I had my own catering company, Fork and Glass for five years, and while I loved both food and wine, I still felt that some aspects of my interests, skill set and experience were not utilized to the fullest.
Then in between, I decided to compete in amateur body building shows for fun as a way to get my body back after several years of eating too much and moving too little, I was inspired to get my personal trainer certificate. A lot of women would contact me wanting me to coach them, but also on nutrition. I didn’t feel qualified to handle the nutrition part, so I was inspired to seek out nutrition schools and landed upon the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. I got certified as a health coach through them, and just before I joined I had decided to go vegan. I am first and foremost vegan for the animals, but I was thrilled to learn about all the health benefits of this lifestyle too. I found that a lot of people had healed themselves from serious health conditions through eating a whole food, plant based eating and was what inspired a lot of people seeking out this lifestyle. As a professionally trained chef, I started veganizing a lot of my traditionally animal based recipes, and gained a pretty big following, and from there on had the idea of helping others discover this wonderful way of living. A vegan lifestyle is not just limited to your diet and eating plant foods, it’s also living a cruelty free, compassionate and conscious life.
Adding Values Series: How to add volunteering to your busy life abroad?
Every day, I work in a very normal business environment. While it has its perks, there are many days where, although I am busy, it doesn’t quite feel like I am saving the world. Or even making a small contribution. Although I have nice co-workers and enjoy the actual work, I also want to feel like I am doing something meaningful. Making a difference in someone’s life who really needs it the most without just quitting my job and moving to Africa. While some are called to that, I know that that is not always the answer.
Therefore, I decided to do something. I am really passionate about anti-human trafficking and I have been involved in several organizations wherever I have lived in relation to this cause. Just recently, I have been asked to go on a trip to India with one of the organizations to empower women who were trapped in slavery (now who, fortunately, are rescued) via photography. To help bring them back to life in a creative outlet and feel normal again.
While I was honored to be asked, I thought, where am I going to get that money? And should I go with work? Is it the right timing? What if I am too tired to get on that long flight right after Christmas break? Will I be ready?
Financially speaking, they recommended for me to fundraise the money. They gave me some good advice and while it’s something new for me, I am excited to see where this goes.
- I created a gofundme page. You can see it here (www.gofundme.com/heatherschnacke) and shared why I want to go to India through this organization, and how I can help. I use videos, photos, and text to tell my story to hopefully inspire those to give – I really want people to see the importance of my role and cause.
- I thought of other ways to raise money – starting with things I am good at and passionate about. I asked a local gym if I could host a zumbathon for free at their place and all of the costs from the people who sign up would go towards this trip. They said yes! Most places are so happy to help a good cause. You can join us: https://www.facebook.com/events/666379836860502/
- I asked for sponsorship. I told my boss about the cause and she was so impressed that she suggested that I share with the company and that they would probably help! I did not expect that reaction. I have also asked another company that in exchange for articles that they would sponsor me – I presented it as a win-win case (which it is) and I meet with them this week as they are very keen to the idea.
There many other things you can do for causes like auctions, small parties, or online contests, but these are just to name a few. Fundraising and sponsoring can be quite scary and intimidating topics, but in my experience thus far, I have been pleasantly surprised. People want to help because they feel that same way you do in regards to contributing. And they can contribute through you. Once I started doing this process and asking for support, I became energized by the whole process and now feeling ready to go as ever!
I would be honored if you read more of my story here – please donate if you can and share this page. It would mean a lot to me and the women in India. (www.gofundme.com/heatherschnacke)
And let me know what you decide to raise money for – share it on this blog and we can support one another. That’s what it’s all about, right?
Written by Heather Schnacke
Adding Value, Coaching, Consulting, Human Resources, Leadership, Location independent, Modern Career, Relocation
What do coaching, opening a new café, and creating a time saving app have in common?
Too difficult to answer?
How about this one: what do all the above have in common PLUS establishing an internet shop, volunteering in Africa and running photography workshops – all at the same time?
As a career coach, I might be slightly more attuned to these ideas I hear literally every day – from my friends, acquaintances, and clients. What is this all about, you might ask. Is it about who has the best idea? Who is the most creative? Maybe who can execute something and bring it to life? Or perhaps about picking and focusing on just one idea? I can see something on a much deeper level: people desperately long to add value to the world and be truly useful to others. When others around me say ‘I want to open a vegan bed and breakfast’ or ‘I want to create a job search app’ or ’I want to be a life coach,’ I hear “I want to add value.” They want to change the world – or at least help improve parts of others’ lives. At the same time, we would like to use our unique talents, be creative, have fun, and earn for living (except, of course volunteering). Earning while doing something valuable and enjoyable seems to be the trickiest part. I think many of us still believe that they can not earn well while doing something they love. Others think they first have to sort out their own careers and financial security and only THEN they can start adding value and changing the world.
Is adding value and helping others a luxury you can only afford after you yourself become established and successful?