The making of Forbes 30 Under 30: pollution-reducing paint
Now that Singapore is carrying out its lockdown-esque Circuit Breaker, people all over the nation are engaging in home redecoration activities, from decluttering to giving their walls a fresh new coat of paint. When it comes to paint, many of us hardly think beyond the different colours that it could bring to our living spaces. The gush founders set out to find out how they could transform paint from something purely for aesthetics, into something functional and helpful. The Refuel Team had a chat with Lester, co-founder of gush, to find out about his entrepreneurship journey.
The gush story
There is a huge number of people with respiratory issues like sinusitis and asthma. The gush founders were not spared, and are sufferers of childhood asthma and sinus from a young age. They sought out to understand how they could best mitigate such conditions for people, and realised that the walls around us are actually releasing a lot of chemicals, known as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).
The three founders aimed to revolutionise the building materials industry by first turning the largest surface area around people, paint, into something functional and aesthetically pleasing. With that, they developed paint that does not have toxic materials, VOCs, and also breaks down VOCs in the environment. The trio started out by painting their own homes, and began noticing how their respiratory conditions were improving as they woke up every morning. Their neighbours started catching on, and demand grew till the founders decided to start a company and sell to the broader public. Besides consumers, the team also sells to hospitals, hotels, and food establishments.
The team is also moving towards becoming an advanced material company, developing newer materials to create better living environments. gush is evolving to develop newer application formats in different industries, from agriculture to automobiles to the solar industry. Regional expansion is also on the cards, and the team plans to move into international markets in the near future.
Running 3 businesses whilst still in school
Before gush, Lester had another two ventures, and he whilst studying Business at NUS, he was running three startups concurrently. The first was an insurtech startup, and the second was an F&B solution before the time of FoodPanda and GrabFood. Lester realised that Singaporeans were actually very reluctant to download apps, and a lot of cash had to be burned for them to adopt the solutions. Lester realised that the stickiness was not there, and so he eventually moved on from those businesses. On the flipside, gush was something that was tangible and the company managed to achieve high levels of traction.
Lester was motivated to see his hard work value-add to society, and thus he decided the way to go was through starting his own business. However, he acknowledges that entrepreneurship is not all glitz and glamour.
[Entrepreneurship] will definitely be the most stressful and hardest journey that anybody can undertake. Naysayers are going to be coming at you from all different directions; but be self-aware, focus on your strengths and work hard at everything you do.
In fact, Lester's proudest moment was when his mother told him she finally understood why he was working on his own startup, as she used to be a naysayer herself.
This steep learning curve will really yield tremendous results for the company vision and of course for our own personal growth. So don’t lose hope and keep moving forward.
To those interested in starting their own companies: think big! Lester believes that a lot of people have self-limiting beliefs, and it is essential to set bigger and more ambitious goals for yourself instead. Being independent is also another important quality; and he advocates understanding the scope of your work, being self-reliant, before then thinking about dedicating the job to someone else.
Finding the silver lining during the COVID-19 pandemic
During the period of social distancing, the gush team has been focused on protecting the health of their foreign workers and adjusting to the new remote work reality. Pivoting their business slightly to become more COVID-resilient is also something the team has been working on. The silver lining from Singapore's Circuit Breaker measures is that people are spending more time on home improvement and DIY projects, which sees materials businesses like gush receiving a slight uptake in sales.
The gush team understands that health is of utmost importance. To ensure that everyone is better able to manage their own health through curating their environment, gush is providing customers with 20% off paints for the entire Circuit Breaker period. Find the promo code here!
Learning more about entrepreneurship, innovation or just curious about how startups make money? Find out more about gush's business model here!
Refuel was founded to inspire aspiring entrepreneurs through the stories of startup founders. We aim to build a global community of entrepreneurs and innovators, and hustle on together.
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