Masami Soto, Founder of Buy One Give One

I think Masami and I first met at an Entrepreneur retreat in Bali.  Her energy is infectious and it has been amazing watching how she has built up B1G1 into an amazing platform for giving.
What’s your story?
I guess my story is a story of an ordinary business owner (and a mum) who started a business because she wanted to do something meaningful; to give back.
After founding a food company in Australia and running it for 5 years (I was a foodie), I realised that it was not easy for small business owners to be doing anything more than taking care of own business needs everyday.
Then one day, we started to imagine a different world;
Imagine if every time you had a meal, a child in need received a meal or imagine if every time you bought a book, a tree got planted or imagine if every time you went to see a doctor, someone in need received care…
This is the world of Buy1GIVE1 (B1G1) where every one of us can make a difference each and every day as a business owner or as a person.
Since then, we have been running this special initiative that uniquely enables businesses to make great impact by simply doing what they normally do.
What excites you most about your industry?
Well, I’m not sure if there is an ‘industry’ that we belong to… We can say our industry is ‘giving’ but what we do is distinctively different from normal charity activities or other types of business services.
Our organisation exists to help businesses embed giving and purpose in their business activities. If there is an industry that we belong to, I think it is an amazing industry!
At B1G1, we believe that businesses have the power to change lives and our world. If there are issues politicians, scientists or religious leaders can not solve, then business leaders can. Business activities touch our lives every day and in every way.
So, being in the position to work with so many business people who care about our world helping maximise the positive impact their businesses have is such an exciting thing!
What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m Asian.
Well, I’m a Japanese who travelled around the world a lot. I spend the first 20 years of my life in Japan and then the next 20 years living and working in many different countries including, Canada, USA, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. I also travelled extensively to many Asian (and non-Asian) countries.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore – because of the great infrastructure and the long-sighted leadership in this country. There are so many other reasons why Singapore is a great place for emerging businesses to be in: great location, accessibility, many incentives available for SME businesses, transparent business environment, English speaking workforce etc. Singapore is also starting to focus on capturing the power of Innovation and Intellectual Properties.
Overall, it’s a city full of great future potentials.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Enjoy what you do.”
I think it is easier to say, “Do what you enjoy” and be selective with what we do (or blame our situation when we are not enjoying what we do.)
While it is also important that we choose to dedicate our life to things we love and enjoy, we should remember that we can choose to enjoy anything we do as well.
In business, we have the opportunities to be exposed to all sorts of things. And when we can approach every opportunity with the mindset to fully engage, learn and do our best, our business journey becomes ever more meaningful.
If we are to live this life only once and if what happens today never comes back to us again, then we might as well have the greatest time doing what we do!
Who inspires you?
Anyone who goes out of own way to help others and give much more than expected. And we can frequently spot these amazing people in very ordinary places.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
My blind friend participants in Triathlon races.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Be less controlling?
I think I often get obsessed with tiny details and take over the work of others. I’m still learning to let go more and more.
So in the next lifetime, I should let go quickly and let others drive things much more.
But when the time comes, I might still be obsessed!
How do you unwind?
I love running mindlessly and mindfully. I sometimes run competitively too but I actually like just running because it is like meditation for me – I also get the best ideas while running (then it is not meditation???)
Other than that, I enjoy being with my family and children and doing ordinary things together like cleaning, playing sports/games, working on creative projects etc.
Work is also a way to unwind – I usually enjoy what I do every day, so I never really feel I need time to ‘relax’ by getting away from work.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Home. Because it feels nice!
Everyone in business should read this book:
If I were to pick one (that’s hard!).
The power of habit

Shameless plug for your business:
If you run or own a business and you want your business to be making even greater impact, then visit and find out how.
Imagine if every time your business sold one of your products or services, someone else received a life-changing gift. You will be amazed how small things we do everyday in business can be making huge impact, transforming lives.
Giving back and caring can be part of our business journey – not a result of our future success. B1G1 helps you embed giving in your daily activities in a very simple and easy way.
How can people connect with you?
Write to me.

This Interview was part of the Callum Connects column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:

Callum Laing has started, built, bought and sold half a dozen businesses in a range of industries across two continents. He is the owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 11 countries and he is also the CEO of Entrevo Asia, a company that runs 40 week Growth Accelerator programs.
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