Who: Stephanie Dickson
What: Conscious Festival
Field: Sustainability
Where: Singapore and Hong Kong
Follow: @greenisthenewblackcom | @stephldickson

How to start Asia’s first Conscious Festival


Green Is the New Black is Asia's first ever conscious festival and platform. It's a place for people who want to #LiveMoreConsciously by improving the way they think, work and consume. It is a place where fun and social environmental responsibility go hand in hand.

Stephanie is the founder of Green Is the New Black. She is a marketer, event organiser and avid connector of conscious individuals and brands. Previously she spent four years working for an international events agency, planning luxury events and fashion weeks, only to go on to start her own venture.

Introduce yourself and tell us about your role and passion for sustainability.
My name is Stephanie Dickson and I am the founder of Green is the New Black.  I do a little bit of everything for the company as you do in a startup. I think we all have multiple hats and are always trying on new hats as we are growing.

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Green is the New Black is a lifestyle media platform with a mission to make a sustainable success mainstream.  Our bigger mission is to empower individuals and brands to take little green steps and just know that is something you can do on a daily basis and not get overwhelmed by it.

My passion stemmed from when I used to work in fashion; not only was it one of the most polluted industries in the world, it was also one of the most socially corrupt.

Due to these reasons and more, I quit my job at the age of 26 to start my own event that has now emerged into Green is the New Black.  

The Green Is the New Black festival started because I wanted to discover better brands and realised that actually a lot of people also want to do good but don’t know who to support and how transparent brands are.

We wanted to be that connecting platform whereby we would do all the research, reach out to these cool brands, and bring the community together which has grown through the festivals from about 600 to 4500 people in our last Hong Kong festival.

That growth over the last 4 years has then launched the media platform and a membership programme which all have the same vision of empowering people to realise that it's easy to be green.

How did you make the transition from a full-time job to entrepreneur?
When I first started the Wedge, I was doing social media marketing and consulting whilst also working as a marketing manager and head of events at my old job.  From then on, I started doing events for other companies.

Where are you from?
My parents are Scottish, but I was born in Sydney, grew up in Asia and have lived In Singapore for 12 years.

What would you say has been your biggest challenge?
I think my biggest challenge has been myself. Being an A-type personality ,having very high standards, and being very detail oriented  has made it a challenge for me.

You also run a festival in Hong Kong?
We started in Singapore and ran it here for 3 years and eventually wanted to expand globally.  We were .asia originally. Now we are .com and our original plan was to be regional, but now we want to be global.

Hong Kong was definitely the most stressful festival we have ever done purely because we were planning it from Singapore. None of us lived in Hong Kong at the time, and Paula (Co-Founder) moved out there about 6 weeks before the event.


Have you found there to be a big cultural difference between Singapore and Hong Kong?
I think both places are incredible and  have very different communities, positives and negatives.  In Hong Kong, some things cost an exorbitant amount versus in Singapore. We didn’t really think about things like that, so for example, audio visual is about 4 times more expensive than it is in Singapore.

Overall, I think Hong Kong is very community driven, and we were really overwhelmed by the support we received.

What was your first move in starting the business?
I came up with this idea that I wanted to create a conscious community, and the name Green is the New Black comes from a fashion background.

Our first festival was called Green is the New Black and the tagline for a conscious festival and then it grew to Green Is the New Black as a company and the platform and the conscious festival as the event.  I said I wanted to do the festival in 6 weeks and then I went on a hunt to find a venue and brands.

You’ve worked with brands such as Pizza Express HK, Park Royal and Luxe Botanics. How did you approach these brands and market yourself when first starting out?
Now we have built the credibility so it is much easier to speak to big brands.  You only need one big brand to work with you, and you have that to work with as a case study and boost your credibility from there.

In the beginning, it was really hard because I had worked for this massive fashion festival who did work with big brands,so there was a reputation there.  I didn’t realise in my young naïveté that people wouldn't believe in the next project because I wasn't the founder of the first company.

I was just working there so yes, I had some relationship I could pull off but actually, people had no idea what I was doing in conscious living and what that even meant 5 years ago.  But we were able to convince people with a similar mindset to believe in what we were doing and that's how we had the first 40 brands join the festival and convince some to even join the panellist.

Which business function have you struggled with the most throughout this journey to date.
Finance sucks for me. In the beginning, I started trying to do our finances but then my then boyfriend, now fiancé had a look and told me it was a mess.  He is an investment banker so he helped me with this, and now he is our CFO. He was instrumental in our fundraising process. I hate numbers so I was lucky he was passionate about it.

For other people, I think it is worth outsourcing and getting some help to build a financial model.

How did you fund the business?
I had some savings which I invested.  We all did other jobs on the side so that we could bring in enough to pay rent, and I obviously I took a tiny salary for a very long time.

You’ve just secured your first round of funding! Congrats! Where did you look for investors and what’s the one tip to give for people at this stage in their start-up?
It's a numbers game.  We just told everyone that we knew we were fundraising and had some really interesting conversations from there.  I think for a smaller company your personal network is a really great place to start because people will invest in you if they believe in you, not necessarily because of the business.

So our investor believes in us and the business obviously.  

“Investors invest in people not in companies necessarily. I think to look at your immediate network family, friends and people who you have met along the way and just sharing your vision is a great place to start.”

- Stephanie Dickson

One thing you wish you knew when starting out as an entrepreneur?
There is this amazing quote by Marie Forleo that "Everything is figureoutable" , and I think I stressed myself out so unnecessarily in the past.

When I focus on that mindset, that clarity and stay calm I can see the bigger picture and figure out very quickly what we can do and can rectify it to the best of my ability .If it doesn't work after that then fine because I know I did everything I could oppose to freaking and stressing out.

Where did you find your creative director Paula?
So I started Green is the New Black in 2015, and we hadn't met yet so I started just with the festivals. We met in 2017 where I came to one of her events that she was running.

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She came to my event and we re-met again. She called me up one day and wanted to do a conscious and sustainable fashion e-commerce.  So we met and came up with our online concept together. We were going to do an e-commerce site, but both agreed to have it under the Green is the New Black brand as we already had a lot of traction. It was a little bit of magic between us, so she joined as a co-founder and we've built together ever since.

She bought in a completely opposite complementary skill set to me, and we blended so beautifully together.

Do you find your skills complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses?
I have high standards and am very detail oriented, so I see the bigger picture for the festivals. Paula is crazy creative, and bring a cool factor to whatever we are doing. We are very creatively different. When we brainstorm together it is perfect.

Do you think people are either creative or business/finance-focused or do you think people can be both?
I think people can absolutely be both.  Paula and I are very business driven and creative but in completely opposite ways.  I am very business oriented in a sense of high standards, quality and seeing how everything fits together whereas she sees the big picture creatively, so she can visualise where she wants to see the company growing on a creative aspect.  She can then pick apart details where I don't see and vice versa.

For example, when we are creating a video concept, she will give an idea, do research and throw the concept on the table.  I will then be able to structure that a little more and create something for her to work on it again. And so on.

How has a past failure set you up for later success? What have you learnt from it?
I guess all of the challenges end up showing you how to be better, and the ones around partnership were really interesting because it told us how to be more professional and how to do our research properly on sponsors/partners.  Others are around communication; there has been one time where we had haters attacking one of our events because of one of the partners we were working with.

So that was a great lesson in itself on so many different levels, A - follow your intuition, B - do your research to make sure you know the potential pitfalls are going to be which we didn't do and C - when you have someone that is causing trouble just meet them and show them that there is a human behind the brand and actually come to a better solution that way.  

I still follow those principals today but you have to learn the hard ways sometimes so I don't regret anything that happened there, and I think it was all a great learning curve. We came out much stronger even though it felt like the worst thing in the world at the time.

Who in the world of business do you most admire and why?
Marie Forleo because I just love her advice.  She is like a guru, and her approach to business and her thinking of what she is able to build is just phenomenal. I have so much respect for her.

In Singapore there are lots of incredible women that I get to work with or friends that I have a lot of respect and admiration on what they are doing, and I think they inspire me to do more and to do better and just keep going.  I love the fact that I get to be around all these powerhouse women, and they inspire me.

What do you think is the one asset or skill you need to have to get further in life?

Resilience - I think just the ability to keep going, and as long as you keep on moving forward you can do anything. Just break it down and take small steps.

Whenever I am overwhelmed by something, I think about the first small step I can take to do this and just do that. I think about the next one and just keep going, so I think for me that has kept me going over the years. Whenever I get stuck in my head I just take an action.  Even though it seems really simple because it is, it's game-changing.

When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, what do you do?
I think there have only been 1 or 2 days that I laid in bed and didn't want to get up since I started the company.  It is not something that is in my personality, and I think my standards are too high to want to lay in bed. However, when I am having a bad day I just stop.  I will normally have a meal, go for a walk/swim or watch Netflix. I think I am just kind to myself and just take the pressure off and just do what I need to do and do what I need to feel.

That was a good escape for me for a while and then I would just refresh myself and come back the next day with a fresh mindset , then the creativity comes back to me.  At the end of the day, if you have a deadline you will meet it if you have to, and you will get stuff done at the right time.

What do you do to keep the best work-life balance to ensure you stay productive and creative at work and to help you live a happy, sane life outside of the office?
I am pretty diligent about my morning routine.

What does your morning routine look like?
Typically if I am doing everything, I will do coconut oil pulling which removes the toxins from my body then I do my teeth.  Then I work out at home with YouTube for about 20 to 30 minutes and then I will journal. Now I have started meditating, so I will meditate for between five to ten minutes and then shower.  I have this special adaptogenic tea , and sometimes I will have green smoothies. I permanently have my phone on do not disturb.

Calls will still come through, but I don't have notifications.  If I am waiting for something really important and have to put notifications on, the vibrations stress me out so much.  I don't look at my phone for the first 1 hour of my day unless it is something urgent. At night I try not to look at it an hour or two before I go to bed.

If you had to gift one book to someone what would it be and why?
You can heal your life by Louise Hay without a doubt – it's phenomenal.  She is the founder of Hay House, which is a global media publishing platform that does all the new age stuff, all the books that are going to change your life.

There is this whole section in the back of the book which explains how our minds create all the elements in our bodies, and the way it is written is really easy to understand.

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Quote on life?

“Always take little green steps because the planet is dying, and we are all playing a part”

31 May, 2019


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Karmen TanG