Chris Fung, former CEO of Crussh Fit Food & Juice Bars
Chris Fung, former CEO of Crussh, now works as a non-executive adviser and investor helping the next generation of entrepreneurs. Here, he explains what motivates him and why he is on a mission to make the world a better place.
I grew up in Hong Kong before moving to Canberra, Australia, and then on to Sydney for high school and university. I went to an expatriate school in Hong Kong, which was a great experience. A lot of my friends were from all over the world, so we would reunite in Hong Kong every Christmas and catch up with one another. I then worked in Sydney for a while before moving to Stockholm and then London; I've been here ever since.
When I was 17 years old, my dad passed away very suddenly from an aneurysm. He was a doctor, super fit and played a lot of tennis. It was quite a shock to have that happen at a young age, it makes you grow up very quickly. It was a challenge, and I’m lucky I had good friends and my family who helped me get through this difficult time.
My greatest personal achievement would definitely be the relationship I have with my wife Em and my two kids. My wife and I have been together for over 20 years now, which is pretty scary in this day and age. It's something that has to be worked on and not taken for granted. A lot of it is down to Em as she is such a fantastic person.
From a professional perspective, one of the things that I am most proud of is Crussh. I had just left my consultancy job as I wanted to set up my own chain. I was planning on going back to Hong Kong and Shanghai but I ended meeting James Learmond. He set up Crussh in 1998 because he had struggled to find healthy food in the city. We joined forces (I became the CEO in 2003) to help build Crussh and make it what it is today.
It’s been a fascinating experience and a privilege to have been part of the company for 13 years. I helped run and grow the business, also steering it through the recession during 2007-2008. It was a challenging experience keeping the business alive and building it back up again.
I really enjoy eating healthy food. When I was running Crussh, I would go home and do all the cooking and experiment with different recipes. I don't have a favourite cuisine, but in the in the early days of Crussh, we didn't have products with coriander because I hated it. Over the years, we eventually began to use it in our food, and I had to train my palate to like it.
Risks and challenges
Leaving consulting to enter the world of entrepreneurship was one of the biggest risks I’ve ever taken. It was both exciting and scary, but if you approach in the right way, there are always going to be people to help you.
Running Crussh and building the brand was a stepping stone to what I'm doing now. I've always been interested in the tech side of things, but when you're running a business, you just don't have time to focus on anything else. The experience has enabled me to become a better investor and board adviser to help other companies grow.
I think there are a lot of challenges in the hospitality investment sector at the moment, such as high business rates and rent. There are also far more people competing in the food space now, and Brexit has already had an impact on staffing and recruitment, and how businesses import produce from Europe.
One big challenge is the structural change around technology. Food and hospitality is probably the last retail sector to be disaggregated by the internet. In the past couple of years, we've seen delivery businesses like Deliveroo, UberEats, and Just Eat, change how we interact with food, and we’ll likely to see more of this in the next few years.
We're right at the start of food technology and it's very exciting to be involved in it. I'm also personally interested in education technology. When you have two young children, you think about what the world is going to look like in the future, so I have tried to get involved with things that will enable me to make a real difference in the world.
I am excited about the future as I want to help the businesses that I'm involved in to generate over a billion pounds of value for the next seven to ten years. My role is similar to a venture capitalist, but with different economics; most of the businesses are going to succeed because of my involvement as opposed to a typical venture capitalist approach, in which the majority fail, aside for one or two.
I would like to spend more time helping businesses to become B Corporations, partly because I believe companies shouldn’t be operating solely to make a profit. They should be focusing on benefiting everyone, not just the shareholders. The B Corp movement is how good business ought to be done, looking at everything from triple bottom lines, what's right for the business, the environment, the world and also for all the different stakeholders.
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