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Chia Sisters CEO (and Forbes 30 under 30 entrepreneur) Florence Van Dyke shares her Forbes Summit diary

This rising star shared her travel diary with us after visiting Hong Kong for the Forbes Under 30 Summit.

Florence Van Dyke, CEO of New Zealand beverage company Chia Sisters (and a finalist in the Miss FQ Influence Awards this year!) is a star on the rise. Aside from the ongoing success of her Chia Sisters brand, which she has built with her older sister Chloe, she was named on the Forbes 30 under 30 list for 2019 for her game-changing initiatives in sustainability and nutrition. The sisters, who launched their chia-seed drink brand in 2012 as an alternative to other sugar-laden sports drinks, have become well-known for their commitment to building an ethical and sustainable business. This includes using solar energy to power their brewery, bottling their juices in recycled glass and last year, becoming Nelson’s first accredited living wage employers.

Florence, 29, spent three days in Hong Kong at the Forbes 30 Summit soaking in the contrasts of politics, culture, greenery and nightlife in this bustling metropolis.

She shares her three-day diary with Miss FQ below:


DAY ONE:
Location: Hong Kong

10pm: We touch down in Hong Kong. Flying in, I’m struck by the contrast of city and green space. Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated cities in the world but is surrounded by forests – over 70% of the Hong Kong territory is dedicated green space. The divide between high-rise and greenery couldn’t be more different to the sprawling farmland and quarter-acre sections in the top of the South Island where I started my journey.

6am: I wake up on the fifth story of a ‘penthouse’ apartment in central Hong Kong island. I’m staying with long-time friends Wei-Wei and Marcus. One of my travelling rules is to stay with locals whenever possible. Their tips on everything from the best places to eat and how to navigate the public transport make me feel like I have a true taste of what the destination has to offer. This occasion doesn’t disappoint. I set off bright and early with my travel companion and fellow Nelson entrepreneur, Renee Bignall of Palm Boutique.

8am: First stop is fruit stalls and bubble tea. It’s fresh mangoes, pineapple, and passionfruit galore. Coming from the depths of New Zealand winter, we can’t get enough.


10am: Next stop is Kennedy Town via tram. The quaint trip passes Victoria Street and King’s College, a strong reminder of Hong Kong’s history and the current instability of this region’s future. Hong Kong was loaned to Britain in 1841 and handed over to China in 1997 under a ‘one country, two laws’ system. The system provided that for fifty years following the handover Hong Kong citizens could continue to practice capitalism and political freedoms forbidden on the mainland. Recently this promise has been eroded by a new law that would allow suspects to be extradited to China. Although we miss the protests that involved a quarter of the population by days, the instability can be felt in subtle ways: we pass posters and street art for a ‘Free Hong Kong’ and post-it notes of ideas, named Lennon Walls, cover government buildings.

From it’s layered history, a diverse culture has grown. We learn that the first trams were built in England and then shipped out to Hong Kong piece by piece. Nicknamed ‘ding ding’, they were one of the earliest modes of public transport  and remain just as popular today.

2pm: At Kennedy Town I meet a local supplier of our healthy beverages: Chia, Sparkling Coconut Water and Fresh Pressed Juice. Slowood lives up to its claim to be “somewhere Slow. Slow down, in the concrete jungle that we are in. Where a fast-paced life might seem intuitive.”

The concept couldn’t be better: in a city that houses more people on a block than my entire hometown, it is truly calming to walk into the white, serene space that is Slowood. I discuss our range and the growing Hong Kong sales with founder Kai plus tell him about our newest project, a hemp protein smoothie that he can’t wait to stock.  It’s a first taste of the growing sustainability undercurrent that becomes more visible throughout the trip.

4pm: Next stop is the Forbes 30 under 30 cocktail evening across Hong Kong Island. I can’t wait to meet some of Asia Pacific’s brightest young minds. We stop by the penthouse to grab some essentials. I always take care to showcase the best of New Zealand brands while overseas so I’m dressed in Maggie Marilyn and LoClaire, with my favourite Karen Murrell lipstick and Tailor Skincare moisturiser in my Yu Mei handbag. I couldn’t be more proud of the female entrepreneurs coming out of New Zealand at the moment and their commitment towards sustainability.


The Forbes Summit celebrates young women and men shaking up their respective industries: not necessarily the biggest companies or the richest entrepreneurs but the people making a mark on the world by choosing to do things differently. I catch up with fellow Kiwi and content creator Ben Foreman beforehand. Chats about the 30 degree temperature transition we’ve just been through ensue. We learn that a close friend was his flatmate at university. Classic Kiwi conversation!

I meet too many inspiring people over too many glasses of wine to share them all. The diversity was overwhelming and a true highlight of the conference for me. Indian, Mandarin, Japanese and tech-speak are the most common languages. I meet industry leaders in every subject from blockchain to genetics. The only common thread is that we’re all under 30.

9pm onwards: The Summit moves to town for a planned after-party. Renee, Wei Wei and Marcus join us and we crawl into bed some hours later.  I can truly say I’ve made the most of my first day in HK.


DAY TWO:

9am: The theme of the Summit is ‘A Lasting Impact’. We hear from diverse speakers, including the founder of Air Asia on getting the airline off the ground and an engineer and inventor of a robotic tool to detect and detonate landmines that cause thousands of deaths to civilians across the world in the aftermath of wars.

12pm: I notice throughout the day conversations gravitating towards sustainability. There is a shift coming in the traditional business model; there’s less emphasis on money-making and more emphasis on how we can make a positive difference. Business at the expense of the environment and inequality is not a path these young people are going to take. Rather than seeing sustainability as a barrier, many on the Forbes List have seen it as an opportunity. They are using innovation and technology to change the world for the better.

6pm: One example lands itself on our dinner plate: the Impossible Burgers – uncannily meat-like burgers made from plants, created to have less of an impact on the environment. Impossible Burgers can be found in all the newest eateries in Hong Kong and are another example of this city’s diverse culture. It is at the forefront of modern sustainability food trends while planted in its rich history.

9pm onwards: We finish the evening at Shady Acres wine bar. I lost my voice at some point in the evening and it doesn’t return for the rest of the trip. A sacrifice well-worth making for the conversations I have had with diverse and interesting global game-changers, some of whom will be connections for life.


DAY THREE:

9am: We get our first sleep-in since arriving and head to Baked for a flat white. The barista is world class – even by New Zealand standards. The menu is inviting but we make tracks to climb ‘The Peak’. At 522 metres, it is the highest mountain in Hong Kong.


For someone that runs most mornings, I find this walk surprisingly hard. It’s a relentless four-kilometre up-hill stretch. By the end, I am drenched in sweat, with burning calves and my lungs are struggling with the humidity. I am impressed by the number of Hong Kongers, including mums with prams and elderly runners. The Peak is a great example of the inner-city green space that has been strictly reserved in Hong Kong. Cloud and humidity mean the view from the top isn’t spectacular, but it does give us geographical placement. The vibrance and energy of the metropolis beats below us.

5pm: On the plane, I reflect on the trip and I am struck by the changing ways of doing business. Sustainability measures like waste-free shopping at Slowood and the Impossible Burger are on the rise. The Forbes Conference highlighted the shifting business culture coming out of some of the smartest young minds in the Asia Pacific. I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to soak up the best of Hong Kong and lucky to be heading back home. Being geographically close to Asia and with entrepreneurship in our DNA, New Zealand is the perfect testing ground for innovations of the future.


Photos: Renee Bignall

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