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.
Maasa, can you please tell us about yourself?
I love being able to connect with talent digitally and in-person and especially leveraging social media to tell a story behind some of the jobs that I recruit for.
I’ve been recruiting for the last 5.5 years, working across various industries ranging from healthcare, IT, marketing, creative, retail in both agency and corporate settings. I’ve been fortunate to recruit for many top brands & companies including Microsoft, Starbucks, Amazon, and Expedia.
Social media allows recruiters to connect with prospects in a more meaningful, authentic, and engaging ways than the traditional “submit and pray” system. For me, this is the most exciting part of my job as a social recruiter. I especially love showing off “behind the scenes” content and information to talent – whether that be fun group photos of the team or writing and sharing a blog on the “human” aspect of each job, team or organization.
Your LinkedIn summary is very impressive. It has all the “right ingredients” of a powerful summary, which are: storytelling, description of what you and your company do, call to action, keywords, and imagery. How did you come up with it?
Thank you! You know, in any profession, whether you’re a sales person, marketer or an engineer – there are tons of other people who do the same job you do. If you look across my network, I’m sure you can find many recruiters who have worked for the same organization or have held similar roles and I have. Given that situation, you have to figure out a way to stand out from the herd in an authentic and memorable way.
When I wrote this particular summary of mine, I thought about few things: 1) Who am I and what is my “brand”? 2) What are things I’m particularly good at? 3) What type of stuff gets me really excited?
The first part is really important – knowing your personal brand. Beyond being a recruiter at “company A” or being a specific industry recruiter, I have my own “flavor” or brand that I represent regardless of the company I work for or team I’m on. You have to have clarity & consistency in that brand & messaging.
The second piece is also important because that’s what makes you unique and different – your superpower if you will. You definitely need to understand the value you bring to the table and be able to celebrate that differentiator.
Third is being able to articulate the area of passion. This is where I ideally like to build more of my career on, and I think it’s beneficial for others to know as well. I’d like to think this is the reason why you reached out to me for an interview. I think overall you open up more doors by being transparent and letting others know what drives you.
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?
Last time you knew, I chose to come back to Prague and join a teaching startup company (I had to turn down an international company position due to them not being able to sponsor my visa once I was offered the job) in hopes of finding more of an international role in the future. Fast forward six months… The job turned out not to be what was discussed during the interview and also I realized it is not something I love doing. After some disagreement about working after hours, I finally had to put in my notice. With the help and support of Coachify, I gained a clearer sense as to what I was looking for in that moment and I wouldn’t settle for something else unless absolutely needed!
I looked at the regular local job websites here in Prague on a daily basis and nothing truly caught my eye – then I was directed to an organization called Internations which is a great site to meet other expats and network. I decided to look at its job forum and there were a few jobs I was quite interested in, including the one I have now. Within this job description, there was one thing I didn’t have at all, “french speaker,” but I thought why not apply anyway? I had nothing to lose. So I did – I heard nothing for a few weeks but then I was contacted by my current boss. She had asked the organization if french was truly needed for this role and in the end, they agreed that it was only nice to have. She immediately pulled my CV and called me – I got the job that day. Lesson: you just never know.
I say all of this to encourage you to:
- Keep going even if things seem fuzzy or you have lost sight of the vision – stay hopeful!
- Apply for a job even if you don’t have EVERYTHING on their wish list – it truly may not matter in the end and it could change your whole direction
Talk to people like Coachify who can help direct and encourage you – sometimes friends and family have your best intentions but they are afraid that you will get hurt so they might offer more discouragement than you need . Trust yourself and your intuition.
So here on I am…it is the first day on the new job today. I ended up working both jobs in June so that was a busy month but now I am in full gear with this new position. I am not writing this to tell you that the perfect job landed in my lap – but it is the perfect next step. I do struggle because I want to do so many things! My mind literally changes all of the time in terms of career direction (read Beata’s article about ‘the grass is always greener’ HERE – very me). But I am learning that having that type of mindset is okay and I can actually use that to my advantage – especially this day in age where job changes are actually accepted and expected.
On a personal note, I am still in a long distance relationship – and it’s thriving. We have been together for close to ten months and have seen one another on average twice per month. Not too bad – there are definitely hard moments but we have chosen this and we DAILY choose one another. That’s it. We make the moments count and when we are together, we just live life. And the best part? We get to build our friendship, which we both value the most for the long haul. One vision that is becoming clearer – building enough skill sets to work location independent so when the timing is right, the transition to London (or somewhere new together) will be a lot easier… Stay tuned.
Thanks for journeying with me as always! I always love that you are here with me.
Some people just love change. They live, breath and talk change. Let me call them “the grass is always greener on the other side” type of people. However it is important to mention that I have in mind people who don’t just simply talk or dream about “the other side” – they really go for it. One day they mention that they are ready to relocate and the next thing you see is an invite for a leaving party. Or maybe they reveal to you that they don’t get along with their boss and are considering to put their CV out there. The next time you meet them they have already joined a new company. Let’s say you have recently changed your job, but things are not going as you expected and you are really disappointed. You say: “It is not what I have imagined, but now, since I made this change, I need to stick around. I can’t just run away all the time” – “Why not?” will say your “the grass is always greener” friend, being genuinely surprised that you don’t see a solution. It’s so simple, just make a change. It didn’t work out? Make another change. That’s their motto. If you have these type of friends, it is never boring to be around them, as they are always up for something. And of course it seems all of the adventures in the world are happening to them. But what to do if you are this person?
I have put together some tips and lessons learnt from my own experiences and from observing people similar to me. Yes, I am a change loving person too. After countless job and place changes myself, I can say that I somehow learnt to manage it in the way that it doesn’t affect my career development and happiness. I have also learned that changing everything doesn’t have to be the best option.
A satisfying career and healthy relationships and if you’re married, a strong marriage, if you’re a parent, strong kids. Did this question ever cross your mind? It did to me and changed my whole life. I found my answer and that is: Yes, you can have it all in life and believe me when I say that, but it has to be the right kind of all the kind you are looking for. You can’t have every possible opportunity or attain some culturally enforced ideal. But you can have everything that you value and everything you long for as long as you invest your energy and time to learn the right technique. This was profound for me. I had never actually realized and defined what “all” I really wanted. I had made list upon list of goals I wanted to achieve in life (a highly reputable position with an International organization, 3 bedroom house, a Tesla and make even more money every year), but I’d never defined what I wanted my life to actually look like. You might be struggling with whether to stay home with your kids or go back to work. You might know what you want to do but not be sure how to make that change. You might not know what you’re really good at but know it’s not what you’re doing now. What risks should you take? What makes you happy? What gets in the way of your happiness? Don’t you think it’s about time to find out?
Find the purpose of your life.
Have you ever questioned your mind what is the purpose of your existence? Many of us work just for that rectangular shaped bill at the end of the month, which we call a paycheck. Employees who see that their work has a direct and significant impact on the world around them are more likely to tackle that work with passion; they aren’t just in it for the paycheck. Once I asked 55 years old janitor while using a rest room in a hospital, what her purpose was. She may have said that it is to empty wastebaskets and mop the floors. She may not feel very inspired or passionate about those tasks. But she answered it with so much dignity and pride that she feels her purpose is to create a safe and inviting environment that will help put patients and their families at ease, thus inculcating greater reliance in the organization. Being aware of that greater sense of purpose connects that employee’s personal value of caring for others with the job before her of mopping the floors. No longer is she just pushing a mop around, she’s helping to care for every patient that comes through the doors.
Clearly define our own personal values and stick to it.
Developing the level of engagement and commitment to a greater purpose is an individual choice and an individual journey. Nobody can force you to be engaged in your work; however, the right kind of guidance from a coach or mentor can help you discover your purpose by showing you how your work makes a difference in the greater scheme of things. Connecting to a greater purpose begins with having a clear definition of your own personal values. All you need is to be encouraged to reflect on what values you regard as your highest priorities and key drivers.
Sounds philosophical, isn’t it? But these values naturally impact every area of our life, including our work life. Once you have reflected on and articulated your own values, determine how they fit with the organization’s mission, vision, and values. Then examine how the organization’s mission, vision, and values are infused into your own job description. If your organization is committed to providing the best in healthcare to your patients, how does your job description support that goal? Helping yourself and your co-workers see the connections between personal values and organizational values will help foster a deeper engagement and sense of purpose.