[Casavva Chats] A monthly series capturing our eclectic conversations with interesting people about work, play, style and more.
Tai Hau Aw (pictured right) - A Traveler and a Social Entrepreneur.
This month our conversations took an international spin to Malaysia, where we discussed work and life with founder of Pott Glasses, Tai Hau Aw. Although half a world apart, some of Hau’s stories in the accessories business resonated with ourselves. Here we present you Hau’s thoughts on social entrepreneurship and a touch about his spare time travels.
What is the motivation behind the social entrepreneurship initiative?
I guess everyone likes giving back to society. However, I had hesitations on engaging in good deeds through potentially manipulative and not very wholesome organizations. Thus, the best way that I can think of is to do it myself, through my own business. I was doubted by people around me, but I did not care, after all, as long as I do my part in donating glasses to the underprivileged communities, they can benefit from that.
What advice do you have for those who would want to start their own company?
Not advice. That is such a huge word with tons of responsibility. To me, it’s really important you know your strength and your resources. How much you can lose, how much time you have, and so on. Not everyone has the same starting point. If you have a better starting point, make use of it. If you don’t, find a way and be ready. Ultimately, perseverance counts. It’s not just a marathon, it’s an iron man challenge.
What’s the next big thing that Pott Glasses is working on?
We are still working hard on making online glasses shopping convenient to everyone. What exactly will we be working on? Everything that is required, from a good website to a sparkling glasses collection to a seamless buying experience.
What do you think of Warby Parker? How do you apply it to Pott?
I love Warby Parker. The execution is perfect. We all know no matter how incredible an idea is, it all boils down to the execution part. Neil Blumenthal has done a perfect job. They have excelled in branding, being a tech/optical company that caters to young professionals, and positioning themselves as such. This is something that I wish I can do to Pott.
What’s a company that you admire and why?
I love Amazon, and I actually found this out recently, after reading the book by Brad Stone, The Everything Store. Jeff Bezos is an incredibly smart and discipline person. There’s this funny saying that I grew up with: “I am not afraid of a smarter person, but a more hardworking person, I do”. Being smart can be normal, but being hardworking and discipline at the same time, that separates the great and the good. And Jeff is that kind of guy.
Switching gears to travel...what are your favorite places to go to in general?
Islands. Crystal clear water, great diving spots, with a pint of savanna. Fortunately these places do not cost a lot back in Malaysia. I love Europe too, but that’s a little far to visit frequently. Oh well, at least it drives me to work for it. And live bands, with good German beers and wines.
What’s one thing that you will absolutely bring with you while traveling?
An open mind. There is so much that I do not know, so much to learn. Especially when it comes to cultural differences and social norms. There are things that seem to be bad in one place but get embraced in another. Being open minded is fundamental to learning new things.
Where are you traveling to next?
I wish to complete the Silk Road - from Xi’an to Istanbul. I have a feeling that it’d be a time machine where I can walk through the history. I love to feel and talk to the locals, it’s going to be a humble experience.