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Episode
84

Masami Sato

Founder & CEO of B1G1

Ep
84

A Better Way to Make an Impact

Nov 9, 2021
With
Masami Sato
43:25

A Better Way to Make an Impact

We’re probably all familiar with the term “Buy 1, Get 1,” but what about “Buy 1, Give 1”? B1G1 founder Masami Sato shares what inspired her to create this global giving initiative and social enterprise by partnering with businesses all over the world and helping them create an impact through their projects. Thirteen years later and as of this interview, B1G1 has already partnered with 3,000 businesses and created 220 million impacts (and counting)!


While traveling the world and being exposed to different situations, Masami already felt the inkling to want to be part of the solution to many of the problems she encountered. But, it was not until she had her first child that she realized she really wanted to do something to help. And so, she opened up a food business. Years later, it dawned on her that instead of being afraid to start something big, she could start doing small things daily. Then, B1G1 was created. 


Initially selling one meal for every meal packet they sold, she decided she wanted to help other businesses make an impact as well and turned B1G1 into a social enterprise. Through the NGOs they work with, they are able to identify the issues people face as well as the solutions or high impact projects that can be done to address these issues.


Though money is a common way of measuring impact, in B1G1, they measure impact through impact, habit, and connection as well as the length of time people have access to resources and, of course, they make sure their impact is aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals. Speaking of money, they actually bootstrapped the company in its early days, but thankfully, they now get to enjoy doing what they are doing and focus on helping people and businesses.


There are two sides to B1G1, the company side, which entails them being listed as a B Corp, and the charity side, through which they find partners, list their projects, and hand out contributions. And in order to be sustainable, they utilize a business membership model or subscription-based model that their members pay a monthly fee for.


Now, what kind of businesses work with B1G1? Well, they partner with big and small businesses alike, and Masami also shares how they vet the businesses that would like to partner with them and, once they’ve set up a partnership, how they help each other out.


Though the pandemic brought about new challenges, luckily, the fourth quarter of 2020 was actually record-breaking for them. And so, with trials and tribulations come victories as well. This is why Masami reminds us to appreciate the journey and not to focus too much on the destination. In 10 years, Masami is optimistically ambitious and hopes that B1G1 partners with 1 million businesses.


Masami’s key lessons and quotes from this episode were:

  • “What if instead of trying to do something big in the future one day, what if we did something small but did it every day?” (7:17)
  • “In B1G1, we focus on three things that we think can be integrated in [the] business-giving space, which is impact, habit, and connection.” (15:14)
  • “As a social enterprise, the model itself is that our mission is really about transforming how businesses do what they do. And as a result, we want to inspire all those businesses to feel that what they are doing is actually really meaningful and important in the world, so they add value to their customers and clients through what they are doing already.” (19:40)
  • “When we tap into that feeling of why they are doing what they are doing and then introduce B1G1 as a way for them to create their legacy and also to make their business much more meaningful, and purposeful, and rewarding for them as well as for their team if they have other team members in their business, then usually, they pretty much get B1G1.” (23:51)
  • “In B1G1, it's really about making people really feel human and then tap into their natural sense of caring, because every person actually cares about something, whether it's their family, or a community, or some people who are disadvantaged. And so, with that, it's not difficult to inspire people to join.” (25:34)
  • “For anybody who is starting out with new concepts or a new business model, I think the most important thing is to appreciate every step of the way and not to be concerned about the size of progress that you make.” (35:06)
  • “If we are doing something at even a smaller scale on a day-to-day basis, and as a result, we are taking that meaning, and enjoyment, and purpose from those little activities and accomplishments that we experience everyday, that is actually potentially even more meaningful than setting a big goal and then believing that until you hit that big goal, you should not be happy about it or satisfied with it.” (36:04)


In this episode, we also talked about:

  • Masami’s entrepreneurial journey and how B1G1 came to be (1:40)
  • Understanding B1G1and the impact it has around the globe (11:29)
  • The unique way B1G1 measures its impact (14:53)
  • B1G1 as a sustainable social enterprise (18:18)
  • Why B1G1’s partners come to them (22:37)
  • How they select their partners and charities (27:13)
  • The challenges Masami and her team face (31:32)
  • Advice from Masami to young early stage founders (35:05)
  • Bootstrapping the company (38:21)
  • How Masami sees the world in 10 years (40:55)

Transcript of the episode

Maiko Schaffrath  00:07

You are listening to Impact Hustlers, and I am your host, Maiko Schaffrath. I have made it my mission to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs to solve some of the world's biggest social and environmental problems. And for this reason, I am speaking to some of the best entrepreneurs out there who are solving problems such as food waste, climate change, poverty, and homelessness. My goal is that Impact Hustlers will inspire you, either by starting an impact business yourself, by joining the team of one, or by taking a small step, whatever that may be, towards being part of the solution to the world's biggest problems. 


I'm really excited to have you on Impact Hustlers today, Masami, with B1G1, and I'm really excited to learn about your entrepreneurial journey. Thanks for joining.


Masami Sato  01:08

Thank you for having me.


Maiko Schaffrath  01:10

Thank you. You launched B1G1, actually, in 2007. At the time, I think you had already run a food business for a few years, and in that food business, you actually established buy one give one model as well, right?


Masami Sato  01:27

Right.


Maiko Schaffrath  01:27

So, you started thinking about it. So, tell us about your own journey. How did you, first of all, get into entrepreneurship? And then, how did you discover the buy one give one model and start to establish it?


Masami Sato  01:40

So, actually, it begins with [a] much earlier time period than the first the food business I actually started 20 years ago. When I was actually very young, quite young, and then I was a backpacker from Japan traveling around the world, and that was the first time I ever got exposed to what was happening outside of my own country and community, so that was really eye-opening for me. 


And then, also, because I was introverted growing up and quite a shy person, even in my own country and community, I wasn't outspoken and expressive. But when I started to go outside and then connect with people outside, and I couldn't even speak English properly, what I discovered was that, actually, the world was [a] really, really amazing place. Because wherever I went, I connected with some amazing people who were really supportive, giving. 


Wherever I went, when I was in trouble, there were always people who came to help me, so that was a really amazing time. And I, for the first time, really enjoyed just connecting with people and not worrying about how to say the right thing, because I couldn't even say the right thing anyway, because I couldn't speak the languages that people were speaking, so I didn't worry about it. And then, as a result, it was a really amazing time. 


So, anyway, at that time, I also started to see something very interesting, because I couldn't quite understand why, in some countries, there were lots of people who had almost everything, but they weren't necessarily really happy and fulfilled. But then, when I was traveling in other countries like some developing countries, there were people who had very little, but they seemed to be quite happy and enjoying their life. 


At the same time, I also saw something that didn't make sense to me, which was that even children were living on the street, and they couldn't even go to school, or people with a physical disability weren't having support from the local community or government and staying on the street. So, those were the realities that I just could not understand, because if it was happening in my own community, then surely, somebody would do something about that. 


So, there were a lot of questions that I had, but I didn't know how to change things or how to solve problems and what to do, so I let go and then just kept going. A few years later, when I accidentally became a mum for the first time, I looked at my own daughter, baby daughter in my arms, and then I thought this overwhelming sense of love and connection, and I thought I would do anything to protect her and make sure that she would have a great life.


But then, at the same time, it was then that I actually started to see the faces of those children I saw when I was traveling, and kids couldn't go to school and working or begging on the street, and they didn't have a future. So, I thought for my daughter, she happened to be a lucky girl who was born in a family, but there were lots of other kids who didn't have the same thing that she had. 


So, I thought that I wanted to do something, even though I couldn't still solve all the problems in the world. So, that was the beginning of my journey as an entrepreneur, and that's when I started my first business, and it happened to be [a] food business, because as a person, I was passionate about food. When I was traveling, and living, and working in different countries, food was how I added value to people. I was a cook and a chef in many different places. 


So, when I decided to start a business, I thought I would do a food business. Anyway, that was the beginning. But what happened was, after I started the business with the ambition that I would want to give all the profits away to help build a soup kitchen so that this company can help feed and educate the street children in the world. And so, that was the reason I started a business. 


But about six years later, after working really, really hard with then two kids, two young children, I realized that, on the day-to-day basis, I was always busy. Even though the business was growing, I was always busy. I didn't have time. We didn't make so much profit. I was always telling myself I wasn't ready to do anything yet, and one day, when we become even more successful, we will do something. 


So, when our company, my company in Australia at that time, was already distributing packaged, frozen, healthy food meals to more than 150 stores at that time, I was still making excuses to say, "We weren't ready. We still need to put the money back into business to build a new freezer room or whatever," then this simple idea came to me and I thought, "What if instead of trying to do something big in the future one day, what if we did something small but did it every day?" And so, that idea turned into B1G1, which was also the expression, which stood for Buy 1 Give 1 idea that every time we do business, we do something great through our business. 


So, we decided to give just one meal for every packet of meal we sold. And after some time, I also realized that, actually, it wasn't probably just my company that wanted to do something and make a difference. So, what if this idea of B1G1 can actually help many other businesses to find a way for them to make an impact? Then, how would that look like? 


And so, eventually, I decided to sell my business in Australia and move to Singapore and started B1G1 as a social enterprise and also a global giving initiative that helps businesses do that. So, that's been the journey and since then, it's been 13 years already.


Maiko Schaffrath  08:33

Wow, wow, what a journey. I think you started in 2007, and if I remember correctly, actually, in 2006, there was this company that's now very well-known for-


Masami Sato  08:45

Oh, Toms.


Maiko Schaffrath  08:45

Buy one get one. TOMS Shoes.


Masami Sato  08:47

Yes.


Maiko Schaffrath  08:47

Being started in 2006. I'm not sure if they started with buy one get one in the very beginning, but did you come across them as well or-


Masami Sato  08:56

No, not at all. 


Maiko Schaffrath  08:56

Were they completely independent of you?


Masami Sato  08:58

Yeah, so actually, the idea of B1G1, to us, it came to us in 2006 as well. And then, we started to implement that in our business in 2006, and we had no idea there was such a company called Toms. But for us, it was just natural in a way of, how can a business, any business, make a difference? And for us, we cared about food and the wellbeing of children, so that's what we did in our food business, but the idea was that, perhaps, there are many different kinds of businesses in the world. 


It could be consulting and coaches who are passionate about educating people. There could be a coffee shop who are wanting to give access to life-saving water, or meals, or access to healthcare or so. We imagined what it would be like if businesses could come together and then do it together rather than doing it alone.


Maiko Schaffrath  10:04

Absolutely, yeah. I think by now, you have over 500 different causes that businesses can support, and I think so far more than 220 million giving impacts, which we'll talk about what that actually entails.


Masami Sato  10:21

You did a lot of homework, Maiko.


Maiko Schaffrath  10:25

I've been following you for a little bit, so yeah, a little bit. I guess mentioning Toms Shoes as well, they did, obviously, this buy one give one model for a few years. And actually, after a few years, they published a report on how effective they were and how beneficial their buy one give one has been. In their own report, they were actually showing, actually, it wasn't as great because they were actually literally giving away shoes that were not necessarily produced locally, so you were going to Africa, Latin America giving away shoes. 


With B1G1, I understand your model is quite different, where you're not giving away necessarily shoes or anything like that, but you have these specific actions that are impactful. I'd love for you to talk about how your model works, and if a business signs up to B1G1, how do you make sure that that has a positive impact somewhere in the world?


Masami Sato  11:29

I think the most important thing about effective giving is not to necessarily come with the way we want to give. So, if it was really about the companies that dictate how the giving should happen because of their business activities, such as because they are selling a TV, or they're selling ice cream, so their giving should be ice cream, or their giving should be a TV, then it may not be necessarily the best way to actually make the impact in the world. 


In the B1G1 model, we never really encourage businesses to say, "Okay, what are you selling? And then, you should give the type of things that you are selling." What we do instead is to actually think about and also approach from the impact that can be created in the world and how some of the problems can be actually solved. 


So, it could be what we call the causes, so the NGOs working on the ground and understanding there is a certain issue, whether it is poverty, or certain health issues in the communities, or it could be environmental issues. 


They are the ones that have an experience of understanding the local issue, and then they will find the ways to approach that issue such as, well, actually planting a tree is the important thing, or it could be raising awareness for certain human trafficking issues in the community, so that the people become aware of it. 


So, there are lots of creative solutions that we transform to things in communities around the world. We are simply identifying their high impact project, and then we list them on our platform, and then let businesses choose how they want to make an impact out of that rather than letting businesses say, "I want to give exactly this," and then we have to find that way of giving. 


Because if we are to be able to come from that solution and then letting the businesses choose, then quite often, what happens is because we are working with so many different kinds of businesses and those businesses started with a different ambition, or purpose, or mission statement, so they naturally care about the different issues and resonate with different things. 


Naturally, so many different kinds of projects that we list on our platform all get supported interestingly. Initially, we were not sure, like if we bring this kind of unique project, then maybe nobody finds it, and nobody will support this project. But what tends to happen is that, actually, it evens out quite a lot. 


So, the key is to connect with so many different adults, businesses from so many industries doing different things to different projects that are happening in the world.


Maiko Schaffrath  14:38

Amazing. I love the approach that you're taking, and talk us through the impact you have had so far. I saw on the website "220 million giving impacts." What does that mean? What's behind that? And how do you kind of measure your own impact?


Masami Sato  14:53

Yeah, so the common way of measuring something in the charity space is usually amount of money. You may get asked to donate $100 for this, or $1,000 for that, or sponsor a certain charity ball, so that kind of conventional way of giving. But in B1G1, we focus on three things that we think can be integrated in [the] business-giving space, which is impact, habit, and connection. 


Impact is the fact that every giving, whether it's like one cent or $25, it creates a tangible impact. The second thing is habit, because if we do just one big thing once-off, it cannot transform our world and change everything. But if we change our habit and we make giving part of what we do all the time, then we can create a much bigger impact. 


And then, the third thing is connection, and the connection is that the giving should not be just about the money, or just about the corporate social responsibility, but it's about something that unites us through the giving spirit, so that genuine intention for the businesses to make a difference in how they would actually communicate that feeling and then also inspire everybody.


So, those are the three things we always talk about. But the thing is, when we count the number of impacts, then the number of impacts could be either a unit of items, such as x number of trees being planted, or it could be number of books being given, so it could be a unit base. 


Another way we determine and break down the impacts could be the number of days people get access to certain resources and support, such as access to education, or access to healthcare, or access to certain support and training, mental health support. It could be that when you give, let's say $10, then that could plant 10 trees, or it could help people for one week for them to get access to certain important resources. 


So, when we amalgamate all those impacts and then count it, the total number right now is over 220 million giving impacts. But we don't want these numbers to become just a big number, because we believe that these are the numbers of smiles being created, and we also link the impact to the different Sustainable Development Goals. 


Businesses understand that, actually, our company is very small, but by working together, we have created x number of impacts, which could mean x number of days of support going to people, or x number of items being contributed, and certain developmental goals. So, that's how we count the impact.


Maiko Schaffrath  18:02

Wow. Thanks very much for sharing that. I saw you're actually a registered B Corporation. Tell us more about your business model. How do you make this a sustainable thing and keep going? How does it work?


Masami Sato  18:18

Yeah, so what we're doing is a social enterprise, but the under the B1G1 initiative, we have two entities. One side is the business which makes sure that we continue to deliver great value to the members, the businesses that we work with. 


And then, another part is B1G1 giving, which is the charity which administers all the contributions and also works on identifying and listing all the projects and setting the criteria and the governments around it. So, these two organizations work together in that B1G1 initiative. 


The B1G1 company side is the B Corp, because as a business, we want to make sure that all the business practices we implement is actually in line with the sustainable business model. So, B Corp is one of the good indicators for businesses and the benchmark. 


It gives the benchmark for businesses to implement all the little things that we could do to not just do giving, but also to be more caring for the environment and more responsible through all sorts of business relations or even employee relations, so we decided to go for B Corp certification as well. 


As a social enterprise, the model itself is that our mission is really about transforming how businesses do what they do. And as a result, we want to inspire all those businesses to feel that what they are doing is actually really meaningful and important in the world, so they add value to their customers and clients through what they are doing already. But not just adding value to their direct customers, we want them to realize that what they are doing is only made possible, because of the people around the world. 


Today, we benefit so much from the global community, but we don't see them. So, what if we embed this sense of gratitude and generosity in everything we do? And that's how B1G1 operates, and interestingly, the question is, so how does it work as a business? 


And so, because we wanted to make sure that the giving part of what businesses do is very, very effective, so B1G1 actually hands over, in the foreword, 100% of all the giving these businesses due to the causes that we work with. We are not taking a percentage of donations or anything. 


So, if we are not doing that, then the question is, so how can B1G1 sustain itself? Because usually, all of the fundraising organizations will take a cut. In B1G1, we decided, from day one, that we would actually create total transparency, so that 100% of giving will go to the causes. But the question was, how do we make it sustainable? 


Well, the model we created was the business membership model. So, in exchange for providing value and resources to the businesses as members of the B1G1 movement, then they will all contribute a small subscription fee on a monthly or annual basis, and that all goes to this thing called B1G1 Movement Fund, and that allows us to use that fund to develop the system, technology, resources, and so on, so that we can continue to grow what we are doing. So, that's our model.


Maiko Schaffrath  22:00

Got it. As I understand with what you just mentioned, you want to go beyond just taking a share of a company's revenue and donating it. You actually want to add value to companies. Can you talk through that? Are the other companies coming to you mainly because they just want to donate a little bit and have a good impact? Or are they trying to solve another problem? Or does it help them position their brands better or have business value for them? Why are they coming to you?


Masami Sato  22:36

Yeah. We actually work primarily with tiny to small businesses quite a lot rather than larger companies. We can, of course, work with larger companies, too. But the reason why we so love to work with small businesses is that because those businesses are founded by the owners of the businesses, and the owners of those businesses or director of those businesses are the ones that make the decisions to join us rather than, "Oh, let's talk about this in the big company meeting with stakeholders and then the CSR department." 


What happens is when we talk to the owners of those businesses, all it takes is for us to really appreciate them for what they're doing and then say, "It really takes a lot to be running the business. You must have an important mission or reasons why you started this business," and it's quite likely that those businesspeople started their companies not just to make money, but they wanted to do something meaningful in their life, because we have only one life to live. 


So, I think when we tap into that feeling of why they are doing what they are doing and then introduce B1G1 as a way for them to create their legacy and also to make their business much more meaningful, and purposeful, and rewarding for them as well as for their team if they have other team members in their business, then usually, they pretty much get B1G1. 


And then, the fact that even [a] small amount of money, they know what impact they can create, and they can count that impact, and they can embed that impact on their website with a widget. It's easy to do. It doesn't take so much effort and time to do, but they can do it habitually and long term. 


And then, to be part of the community of businesses who feel like that together, then without saying to them, "Okay, by doing this, it makes your company look good," or, "You can potentially make more money or create more customers," people actually say, "This is what I've been looking for, or we've been looking for." 


So, it's quite astonishing and very, very encouraging to see this amazing generosity and spirit of giving among these people, and we were surrounded by some really extraordinary businesspeople. I think if we are just thinking about a clever business tactic, then consultants will advise us and say, "Okay, let's just pack all the values, and then have a sales pitch, and make an offer, and then build up the values and then say, 'Okay, you can get this for this much, and it's a bargain,'" or something. 


But actually, in B1G1, it's really about making people really feel human and then tap into their natural sense of caring, because every person actually cares about something, whether it's their family, or a community, or some people who are disadvantaged. 


And so, with that, it's not difficult to inspire people to join. But once people join and businesses join us, then it's our responsibility to also make sure that integrating effective giving is as a simple, easy, and meaningful as possible, so that they will actually succeed and continue to do so.


Maiko Schaffrath  26:14

Wow. One thing I'm wondering about, obviously, let's talk about some of the challenges of building a platform like this and your entrepreneurial journey with that. One thing I'm curious about you supporting 500 different types of making an impact, from feeding children, to providing education, to mental health support, to a lot of different things. 


There's probably no way you can be an expert at all of these things, and you have partners to make that impact. But how do you go about selecting the most effective way of having an impact? How do you select a partner, charity partner, that can actually use the money in a very effective way and what's your process with that? Because you're not just trying to do one thing. You're trying to do a lot of different things and have to obviously understand-


Masami Sato  27:09

Yeah. 


Maiko Schaffrath  27:09

What does it mean to be effective?


Masami Sato  27:12

That's true. That thing is, sometimes, even with the greatest intentions of organizations, even how amazing the idea is, in all sorts of contexts and situations and circumstances, things may not work out the way things were intended as well. We all experienced this with the pandemic recently that with all the preparedness, all the technology, all of the things that some societies had, we all became very, very vulnerable, and we all made mistakes, and we all learned from it. 


So, assuming that, actually, that this is a learning journey, what we need to set as a common ground is criteria for organizations to join us, such as the track record, how many years they've done this, and what kind of financial reporting that they can provide, so that at least we actually do have the benchmark in terms of the governance, and transparency, and effectiveness over the years. 


But then, what happens is then we bring them on board, and we work with them to break down their project and list them, then we just need to continue to monitor how their projects are performing in two ways. 


One is how much support that they're receiving from the B1G1 community, because we want to make sure that all the projects receive a reasonable amount of support, so that they can use that to do more of what they are doing. So, if we brought this project and nobody is interested in this project, then that's a little bit of problem. So, that's one side. 


And then, another part is also their ongoing development. Each year, we will actually connect with them and then talk about the how their project is making progress, and we will collect all of the financials and updates along the way to see whether that project is sustainable, and then at the same time, not necessarily way overfunded as well, because in the beginning, the problem was more about how to raise enough money for the causes. 


But nowadays, actually, there were projects that get quite a lot of support from the B1G1 community. So, we also want to make sure that when we were reaching the fundraising target for the year, we don't just go overboard, because we need to make sure that the projects don't get forced to actually utilize too much funding that they cannot do. 


So, we need to go gradually and monitor those things along the way. It's a work in progress and we always learn from the worthy causes, and also looking at the data, and then understanding that you're trained as well. 


So, it will never be 100% perfect, because even with business, you might have a great business plan, or you might have a great track record over x number of years, but there are times that things need to change. So, the project on the ground, sometimes, it works in certain way for several years, but then the organization realized that there is a new need. 


So, things like the pandemic actually created a lot of new requirements. We used to have a lot of books projects, and distributing the physical books or setting up libraries to let the children borrow books were quite important. But during the pandemic, those things couldn't happen. And as a result, the some of the organizations are starting to move to digital education, and digital books, and reading materials as well. So, things actually change.


Maiko Schaffrath  31:00

Got it. Let's talk about your entrepreneurial journey. You have been an entrepreneur for quite a while now and in different spaces, from running a food company to now running B1G1. Tell us more about what's been one of the biggest challenges for you in that journey and anything you had to overcome. What has been quite hard to figure out on the way?


Masami Sato  31:32

Well, I don't think they are any shortage of challenges that we face along our entrepreneurship journey. There is always [a] continuous supply of challenges as well. I think in the earlier days, when we first started B1G1, actually, they weren't so many businesses looking for what we had, and the way to reach people at that time was to travel around the world. 


So, we would go to different countries, and attend different events, and speak to different audiences, or have lots of meetings, and connect with people. That's how we use to so-called promote B1G1's idea to many businesses. But in the recent time, things started to change too. 


We started to gradually shift to more of an online model. Also, today, more and more referrals are happening. But coming to this point of being able to do this online and to be sustainable as an online service, almost like a subscription-based business, this took a long time. That's why it's took 13 years for us to reach 3,000 businesses. 


But the thing is, when we look around the world, there are millions of businesses, in fact, hundreds of millions of businesses out there, and the world is actually driven by small- to medium-sized businesses. So, thinking about the potential of how many businesses can we actually reach and introduce this way of giving, that is a huge challenge that we need to tackle. 


But luckily, the pandemic was one of the reasons that we have to more quickly shift our model. We couldn't rely on international event activities anymore. And even though it was really challenging, especially around April and May, we saw a huge drop in the membership as well as the giving, but interestingly, after that, things started to come back up. 


And then last quarter, fourth quarter in 2020 was actually the record quarter in the history of B1G1. So, it's interesting to see that even though we faced all these challenges, but usually, the challenges brought the some of the biggest gifts.


Maiko Schaffrath  34:14

Hmm, got it. Good. So, let me see. One thing I'd love to know from you with your entrepreneurial experience, for entrepreneurs that are early-stage that are thinking about setting up their company, maybe trying to get into a similar space as yours where they want to have an impact, what's your advice to entrepreneurs on the early days making things work, especially a two-sided platform like yours where you have to have an effective set of charities to work with and you have to have companies that are actually happy to give? Any lessons learned, advice you can share?


Masami Sato  35:05

Actually, for anybody who is starting out with new concepts or a new business model, I think the most important thing is to appreciate every step of the way and not to be concerned about the size of progress that you make. 


Because, first of all, it's good to have big goals and a big, ambitious direction too, but at the same time, if that becomes a discouraging factor that because you are not there yet, you haven't done this and this and this yet, if you felt discouraged and also demotivated by what you are doing, then that doesn't serve. And also, we now know that even though we think that we are here for quite a long time, but these days, we never know what happens even tomorrow. 


So, if we are doing something at even a smaller scale on a day-to-day basis, and as a result, we are taking that meaning, and enjoyment, and purpose from those little activities and accomplishments that we experience everyday, that is actually potentially even more meaningful than setting a big goal and then believing that until you hit that big goal, you should not be happy about it or satisfied with it. 


So, always, everything has two sides, so big goals are important. If you have no purpose, you have no direction, then, of course, it's not meaningful. But then, if you are going in the direction actually constrains you and takes away your enjoyment of doing what you do on a day-to-day basis, then it's not as meaningful either. 


So, always questioning, and always contemplating, and always understanding the power of gratitude, that even the little things you are doing is actually valuable, or people who come to you today and then you get to connect with, they are the gifts that you experience. So, if you have that, then you have a big goal, and to be able to share that big goal as well as the little successes along the way, then that definitely makes any entrepreneurship journey really rewarding, too.


Maiko Schaffrath  37:38

That's really good advice. I think from my own experience as well, it's just self-awareness as well of what is important to you and will make you happy, because obviously, very often, there's this paradigm of, "Oh, you've got to grow as big as Facebook and Airbnb, and scale fast, blitzscaling, and raise a lot of money, and all these things. 


That could be the right approach for you as an entrepreneur, but it could also, it's likely not the right approach, because most businesses are actually not venture-funded, and they'll be just fine as well. So, there's so many different ways of doing this. Did you raise any funding initially? How did you make it work in the early days?


Masami Sato  38:21

We actually bootstrapped up. Yeah, but the thing is, as I said, it took quite a long time to become really financially sustainable, especially today as a subscription-based business, because tiny businesses can join us for $1 a day or something, so that takes a lot. Many businesses do make sure that we can cover all of the costs. 


But in the earlier days, we basically had our own funding, and also the funding from family, and all that as the initial startup capital. And then, we luckily had many people who came to us to volunteer their time, their expertise, so we could continue to make progress. 


And then, today, we finally got to a point where we can actually start really looking at the scaling, because we've actually passed that part where it was like a time of survival and sustainability. Today, it's like, okay, sustainability part is about done. They're working on it in some way too. But the thing is, we can actually start to look at the scaling. 


So, moving forward, there could be a potential that we might actually accept grants or certain forms of fund injection and investment into a certain project or two, but at the same time, since we have created already the foundation with our own funding, we're not really dependent on anybody, like any big company, or any big donor, or any big investor about what to do. 


So, that's the power of a small model that this initiative is funded by lots of small businesses, because they love what we are doing. And then, because of that, the direction that we choose to take will be determined by how we can add greater value to those businesses that we really so love to work with as well as the causes that we work with, rather than how to optimize and maximize the return on the investment for the venture capitals or investors. 


So, yeah, we're in a good position, but I'm sure every business will choose to create a different funding model, and there is no right and wrong either.


Maiko Schaffrath  40:47

I've got one more question. If you think about the next 10 years of B1G1, how does the world look like in 10 years' time if you succeed?


Masami Sato  40:55

So, 10 years is an interesting period, because, let's say, 2030 is a completion date of the Sustainable Development Goals, and so we really reflected on what we can and want to achieve in that period, because if we don't make the shift in the world or help make the shift in the world in the next decade, then we could potentially suffer certain consequences that is harder to reverse. 


So, we decided to set more ambitious goals. We set out to say, okay, now, we have 3,000 businesses. Within the next nine years or so, by the end of year 2030, we want to be working with 1 million businesses, and how do we do that? And so, that's why from this year onward, we are looking at more strategies around partnerships, because we cannot do this alone. 


Traveling around, hopping on a plane, and talking at events, that's how we did it for the last decade. But from this time moving forward, we realized that we could be working effectively with other business networks and others who are well connected with entrepreneurs, business owners, and other businesses. 


Then, we could be growing so much quicker as well. So, looking at the milestones and how we can reach them, then 1 million businesses is actually not too ambitious, because in our world, there are hundreds of millions of businesses.


Maiko Schaffrath  42:34

Wow. I wish you all the best on that journey. It's been really inspiring to talk to you, and thanks very much for making time and joining today.


Masami Sato  42:43

Thank you so much for having me, too.


Maiko Schaffrath  42:46

Thank you, Masami. 


Masami Sato  42:47

Thank you, Maiko. 


Maiko Schaffrath  42:50

That's it. Got it. Yeah. Thank you very much.


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