A chat with the Bamboo Straw Girl, Melissa Lam

treatsure
treatsure
Oct 12, 2020 · 4 min read

Since our latest new app update a couple of months back, we have onboarded several leading sustainability lifestyle partners on treatsure to encourage our community to move towards zero-waste lifestyle alternatives! This may include household items to extend their food shelf life, items repurposed from food or even simply useful essential products that will help in your zero-waste kitchen and living.

One of these early partners we’re really happy to collaborate with is Bamboo Straw Girl (BSG), founded by sustainability advocate Melissa Lam. We speak to her to find out more about BSG and what she’s been up to lately!

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  1. What was your background in school Melissa and what would you have pursued if not for BSG?

I studied Mass Communications and was working night shifts at a news organisation when I started BSG on the side. I feel that, while the field of study may not directly be related, you can always find ways to apply skills or knowledge picked up in school or along the way. In my case, I was able to take and edit the photos on my own, and write all the copy on the website. I could keep my costs low this way too.

2. What motivated you to start BSG and making straws? How did the name come about?

I started making bamboo straws as a novel way to start lighthearted conversations about bigger topics of waste and consumption habits. At the beginning, reusable straws were unheard of. This was 2013, and I wanted to have a small low-impact token for people to carry with them and start conversations of their own. I approached schools many of which did not reply to my emails to do a small talk about low-waste individual actions. Luckily, this has changed and we’ve done quite a lot of school talks and corporate outreach since then :)

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3. What kept you going despite early challenges?

What made me see the business value in the idea was the interest I received from overseas. My first order was from a smoothie business in the U.S. That single bulk order gave me the little nod of approval to make bamboo straws in larger scale. We sold to hotels, resorts, and individuals overseas. I found a niche in moms who were looking for a better alternative to plastic in their kitchens — apparently, it is common for moms to buy straws for kids to drink with! Meanwhile, the reaction in Singapore was lukewarm. I tried doing pop-ups at a few events to get more interest. I was always so touched when someone local bought straws or cutlery sets from us.

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People online started to recommend my product to each other saying “I got my straws from the bamboo straw girl” and so I made it our brand name. While we slowly expanded the range to include other items, following the way an individual would make small lifestyle changes along the way, I decided to keep the name since the idea behind bamboo straws (which is a mindful alternative to the norm) was still true to our business.

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I was quite pleasantly surprised to hear from some people that they actually started zero-waste / earth-minded online stores of their own after interacting with our small shop! It’s really touching! Same for anyone who says that a particular product of ours was the first item that provoked them into rethinking their consumption habits. Yay!

4. Do you think there has been a change in attitudes and interest towards sustainable living locally the past 2 years?

There is a lot more awareness now, and people are very open to hearing about alternatives or “better ways” of being. I feel that there is no one-size-fits-all way to “be” low-waste or sustainable, so it is an ongoing and fluid experience for everyone.

5. How has COVID-19 impacted or benefited your business and how have you adapted to it?

I’m not able to physically meet the artisans and craftspeople that I work with this year, but we have managed to do well with phone and video calls and constant updates. We actually managed to launch our latest product — the dish washing block — this year in the midst of global lockdowns and safety measures. I’ll always remember that as a souvenir of this year.

6. What are your hopes and dreams for BSG in the next couple of years?

I can’t wait to get back to doing more outreach! Not sure where the next few years will take us but we’ll see :)

7. What made you decide to work with treatsure and what is your wish for treatsure (we just celebrated our 3rd anniversary mark!)?

Happy anniversary! I’ve been following your app development since the very early stages and it’s been really interesting to see the improvements and growing variety of choices available on the app! I hope that you’ll be around for a long time more and hopefully become the first place people look at for groceries or food before looking elsewhere :)

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