May 2011

Tasty returns

Steve Liang, CEO of Fields, opens his diary

It's been two years since we first launched Fields – a journey full of rewards, challenges and mistakes. Sometimes, you get too caught up with the business side of things and I've been yearning for a change.

So, the first few months of 2011 have been a  period of reflection for me. I have started practicing yoga again on a daily basis. I've also been studying the philosophies of Michael Roach, an American teacher of Tibetan Buddhism, and recently went to see him speak in Hong Kong. His teachings have inspired me to refocus on Fields' core values.

Running a business is not just about generating revenues and making money: Give to others and help the community first, and then a lot of giving will come back your way.

So far, our company has endeavored to be an active member of the local community. We hire handicapped and deaf individuals to give them opportunities to work. We partner with a number of charities and schools – including the Baobei Foundation (a charity that provides life-saving surgeries to Chinese orphans) and several international schools. Fields also gives back a healthy percentage (about 2-5%) of our revenue to the community.

Still, more can be done. Fields is looking at starting its own charity fund to fight against animal cruelty, and we're planning a number of initiatives for our employees, including education and English training.

One of the biggest rewards for Fields has been the quality of people we have on our team. We've grown from just two staff members in 2009, to a group of about 40 people who are all very talented and developed great chemistry. As a result, we're becoming increasingly successful. And I think this is because I've been lucky with finding great people at all the right times.

Making mistakes is a given while working in China. But we learn from them every day. We have a lot of internal conflicts because we're growing so fast, and it seems we never have enough people. One of our biggest challenges is how to deal with suppliers who aren't always consistent – we have to stay on top of them to ensure we get the stock we need and explain that if they say it's organic, their products have to actually be organic.

We're always working on new projects and pondering how to expand our food selection. Our customers are people who are interested in their health and well-being.

One of our latest plans is to introduce vegetarian and vegan meals. It will require expanding our facilities and will be complemented with an extension on Fields' website, which will provide users with a vegetarian recipe database. We're hoping to launch this segment some time this year.

I think this market is very important in China – the country's cancer rates are growing pretty fast. Vegetarian and vegan meals, especially organic ones, are cleaner. It's one of the best ways to get healthy and help people feel more peaceful. Also, I think there is a considerable appetite for this kind of food. When you visit some local Chinese vegan restaurants, for example, they're always packed. I'm not saying we're expecting explosive growth. This is not just about profit, it's our way of being socially responsible, too.