HK HUB Spotlight: Laura Paul, Founder of Healthy Living Asia Magazine
In this series of interviews, we are celebrating entrepreneurs who have taken a big idea, put in the hours of hard work and through dedication, have brought their business or product to life.
Over the coming weeks and months, we are going to find out what goes on behind the scenes of some of the city’s most interesting businesses to discover how they tick, what motivates the entrepreneurs behind them and share with you advice and insights to inspire you to your own successes.
In this first interview, we speak with Laura Paul, Founder of Healthy Living Asia Magazine – Hong Kong’s brand new publication dedicated to wellness and health. The inaugural copy will be hitting the streets of Hong Kong very soon and can be found in fitness centres including Pure and Flex as well as apartment complexes and spas, plus will also be in deliveries from some of Hong Kong’s leading health food suppliers including Spice Box Organics and Green Vitamin.
HKH: Laura, tell us a bit about where you are from and what brought you to Hong Kong?
LP: Originally from the Midwest in the United States, I knew after university that I wanted to experience life overseas so I headed to the UK. Little did I know that I would spend seven years in London! I moved to Hong Kong almost four years ago when my husband accepted a new job here and immediately loved the spirit and uniqueness of the city. Now I cannot imagine living anywhere else in the world. I find the entrepreneurial spirit of Hong Kong is energizing and there are so many interesting, talented and driven people.
HKH: Do you have a media/publishing background?
LP: I studied marketing and business in university, which may be in my blood because my mother founded an advertising agency that she continues to run today.
In London, I worked in Corporate Development with the Royal Academy of Arts and I also spent time handling the marketing plans for a specialist frame and art gallery in South Kensington. In addition, over the last ten years I’ve taken commission work as a portrait artist whenever time permitted. Given this varied background and my long-term interest in health and wellness, designing and publishing the magazine seemed like a natural progression.
HKH: What inspired you to launch Healthy Living Asia Magazine?
LP: Healthy Living Asia Magazine was inspired by the depth and breadth of topics being discussed on the ‘Healthy Living in HK’ Facebook forum.
Living in a healthy way with all of modern life’s great distractions has been a ten-year journey for me and my family. I’ve been amazed at the positive engagement from the members of ‘Healthy Living in HK.’ I’m hoping the magazine is a new medium for sharing beneficial natural health and wellness information and every day practical tips to a wider audience.
Healthy Living Asia Magazine will be published three times in 2015 – January, May and October. Each issue covers natural health and wellness topics, fitness and food, plus lots of reviews of restaurants, books, movies and so much more. You won’t want to miss an issue!
I’m also starting direct outreach through speaking engagements in the community; my first talks will be ‘The Essential Guide to Gluten- Free Living’ at The Aberdeen Marina Club and The American Club in January. The mission of Healthy Living Asia encompasses other aims such as keeping processed foods out of schools. In addition to the magazine and community education, ‘Healthy Living in HK’ has monthly community events for members.
HKH: Why did you start and build ‘Healthy Living in HK’ – the online community?
LP: When I moved to Hong Kong, I really wanted to meet other people interested in general health and wellness, sourcing organic food, and fitness. There wasn’t a single local resource I could find, and I decided to take the initiative after someone on the Facebook group, ‘HK Moms,’ suggested a group should be created.
I started ‘Healthy Living in HK’ in Autumn 2011 and for a few months we had 100 members. We steadily grew and now after three years we have over 2,200 members! As word spread and our forum became quite active, I asked Jacqueline Renee Cohen of LantauMama.com to join as an administrator to help manage the day-to-day oversight of the forum.
We spearheaded the introduction of Marketing Monday and stimulated conversation by posting articles and discussion points. ‘Healthy Living in HK’ is hidden from online searches, which means you can only be invited to join through a personal contact. I believe this gives everyone in the forum a stronger sense of belonging and connectedness, whilst protecting identities and personal information to a greater degree.
The aim of the forum is to educate through sharing knowledge and opinions, and we have agreed as a community to maintain a high degree of respect between members. In addition to people generally interested in these topics, we’re fortunate to have practitioners and other members with a great deal of experience and practical knowledge. So we’re able to read responses from professionals but also personal experiences from members trying different lifestyles, fitness regimes, natural treatments, etc.
HKH: What made you decide to make the leap from the online resource to a magazine?
LP: After three years of growing ‘Healthy Living in HK,’ I realised many of the same issues were being discussed over and over again within our small community. The magazine can go more in-depth into topics, reach a wider audience, and possibly grab the attention of people who are interested in natural health but didn’t know where to start.
Furthermore, Healthy Living Asia Magazine targets the entire community of Hong Kong by being bilingual. We have so much we can learn from each other and the magazine is an avenue to build that community along with the wellbeing of Hong Kong’s inhabitants. I want to thank my amazing translator, Gabriella Lai, for making this project possible. It’s a dream come true to have successfully launched this resource in two languages.
HKH: What have been some of the biggest challenges you have faced along the way?
LP: The biggest challenge was the last five days before going to print! I wanted everything to be perfectly coordinated between the English and Chinese side of the publication. It may seem like small details, but keeping a consistent layout and ensuring proper punctuation in two languages was difficult. My next challenge will be to increase awareness of this amazing community resource, although I’ve already increased the number of copies for our first run to cover demand.
HKH: How do you think the health and wellness landscape in Hong Kong has evolved in the last few years?
LP: Natural health and wellness is still in its infancy in Hong Kong, but you can sense more people are paying attention. ‘Healthy Living in HK’ and Healthy Living Asia Magazine is on the forefront of this expansion in awareness. There are so many more stores opening and practitioners coming to the city, even since I arrived in 2011. Also, there has been an explosion in online resources, and now we have a comprehensive local natural health and wellness magazine, Healthy Living Asia Magazine.
HKH: What’s your favourite part of the job?
LP: Designing the magazine was very fulfilling, but my favourite would be connecting with all the amazing people in Hong Kong – both practitioners and those wanting to improve their lives and health. It’s also exciting to know that the next issue starts before the last one is distributed; I’m constantly thinking of new topics and people to interview.
HKH: What are your go-to online resources for recipes, ideas and inspiration?
LP: My family is gluten-free, so most of my go-to resources fit this category. I don’t just use gluten-free cookbooks though. There are many lifestyles where gluten-free happens naturally such as Paleo, vegan, and Whole30, all of which have books, apps and websites. For the most part, I have a rotation of meals I know the family enjoys and I don’t change that too often. If I need inspiration, I usually search a few recipes, taking the parts I like from each one and tailoring it for my family’s taste. When I’m cooking, I’m also constantly thinking about maximizing nutrition. That means I’m often adding to or slightly changing recipes to increase certain nutritional aspects.
The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook by Elana Amsterdam is my number one resource. This book is well worn from years of use.
How Can it be Gluten Free Cookbook by America’s Test Kitchen is an amazing resource. They spent over two years developing every single recipe in this book. There is so much information how to create the best gluten-free alternatives for breads, pizza crust, cakes and so much more.
Oh She Glows has an amazing array of vegan recipes by Angela Liddon. Most of her recipes state in the title if they are vegan or gluten-free, which makes it easy to search. Every single recipe I’ve tried from her site has been a success.
Living Without is a dairy-free and gluten-free magazine published in the United States. Most of their recipes can be found online here. They have great quick-start guides for those just entering the gluten and dairy-free worlds along with a handy printout on items to use as substitutions. These guides were invaluable when I was first starting out.
NomNom Paleo – this app is both beautiful and informative. The Paleo lifestyle is naturally gluten-free, as there are no grains allowed. Most recipes are also dairy-free. You can find this online or download the app.
HKH: Which health topic do you expect to gain more attention in 2015?
LP: The microbiome is going to continue to be an exciting topic with more research being published on how every day foods, drinks and supplements can affect our digestive health.
I have a number of friends that swear by kefir and kombucha, fermented probiotic drinks, but I was reluctant to try them…drinking bacteria?!? However, I took a couple of classes to learn more and these drinks have made a huge difference in my energy levels. Our ‘microbiome’ is the gateway to a healthy immune system and the shrinking number of bacterial species in our gut is endangering our ability to fight off disease. I encourage everyone to read the vast amount of information on the subject already available.
If you need a place to start, experts including Jeff Leach from the Human Food Project and Dr. Chris Kresser are two people who have researched and studied the microbiome and how food affects digestive health, mood, weight and allergies.
For more of Laura’s insights into wellness and health in Hong Kong, visit the HK HUB’s healthy living section, which has ideas and inspiration on a range of topics. To join the ‘Healthy Living in HK’ Facebook community, contact [email protected].