My name is Emmanuel Dean, and I graduated from UWCSEA East campus in 2014. In the summer of 2018, three UWCSEA alums founded Boomi, a sustainable solutions provider with the goal of transforming the consumption habits of people in South East Asia. We acknowledge that it is impossible to achieve a fully sustainable lifestyle overnight. It is a long process that requires persistence and determination and Boomi is here to help guide people through that process. We are a one-stop shop for sustainable products serving the South East Asian region. We provide products such as bamboo toothbrushes, shampoo bars, and beeswax wrap as well as starter-kits filled with sustainable products for the journey towards a more sustainable lifestyle. This is the story of how a UWC education became the core principles of our entrepreneurial dream.
It was August 2012, my parents and I had luggage in our hands as we waited for the elevator on the ground floor of UWCSEA East Campus’ Tampines House. This was my second year in UWC and my second year as a boarder. I was ecstatic that I was able to meet my friends again after a long four-month summer break. Little did I know that this was the day I would meet my future business partner.
Before the start of the fall semester, we had already selected all of our floormates. Eight students lived on a single side of our 13th floor. East Campus was relatively small at the time, so we hadn’t filled all eight rooms with our friends, leaving one remaining room for an incoming student. Miguel Angel Zambrano Boy from Peru eventually filled the spot.
Fast forward to May 2014, both Miguel and I were part of East Campus’ first graduating class. In the two years we have known each other, we created an unbreakable bond of friendship and brotherhood with our floormates. Specifically, Miguel was my teammate in varsity Volleyball and one of the most influential people in my life. However, after graduating, we went our separate ways. I directly went to Colgate University and majored in economics and Chinese while Miguel took a gap year to teach English to students in underprivileged areas before attending NYU Shanghai for political science.
In 2016, I had the opportunity to attend a study abroad program in Shanghai. It was during that time that I met Miguel again after two years. I had not visited Shanghai in nearly ten years, and I was shocked by the explosive development of China and especially the city. It was then I decided that after I graduated from college, I must go back to China.
The inspiration for Boomi came from neither myself nor Miguel. It came from my sister, our third and final co-founder. Graciella Dean graduated from UWCSEA East Campus in 2016 and was a boarder as well like Miguel and me. After graduating from UWCSEA, she continued her studies at the University of British Columbia majoring in English and minoring in Economics. After I graduated from Colgate University in 2018, I visited my sister in Vancouver. One night, as I was brushing my teeth with my high-quality Colgate toothbrush, I suddenly heard: “Why are you still using a plastic toothbrush?” It was my sister. That question, I argue, was one of the most challenging questions to answer. Why was I still using a plastic toothbrush? I knew the dangers of plastic, I am aware of the rampant destruction that plastic has on our environment, and I had lived in the US for four years, which means that I had ample access to sustainable products. But why did I not purchase them? For the rest of the night, my sister re-educated me about the dangers of plastic. The one fact that still sticks with me today is that 40% of the world’s plastic pollution originates from only four countries; China, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam. Not only are they all in Asia, but I am an Indonesian citizen. This was when I decided to found Boomi.
Boomi officially launched on 21 October 2018 in Shanghai featuring our first product, the Boomi Moso Bamboo Toothbrush. Today Miguel and I are both based in Shanghai while Graciella continues her studies at UBC. Currently, Boomi is not yet our full-time job as Miguel still has one more year while I am still working as a financial research analyst at Red Pulse, a financial research platform focusing on China's capital markets. However, after Miguel graduates in December 2019, we plan to make Boomi our full-time jobs in Shanghai.
Reflecting back on the past few months of Boomi's existence, we started to recognise a recurring theme. UWC was founded on the idea that "UWC is a global education movement that makes education a force to unite people, nations, and cultures for peace and a sustainable future. Central to the ethos of UWC is the belief that education can bring together young people from all backgrounds on the basis of their shared humanity, to engage with the possibility of social change through courageous action, personal example, and selfless leadership."
Without us even realising, UWC is becoming more and more a part of our lives and Boomi. After all, if it weren't for UWC, I would not have met Miguel and potentially would not have founded Boomi.
This is why we have always been grateful for the education we received from UWC and it is now our chance to give back to the UWC community. Aside from producing products, we also conduct workshops for students to educate them about living sustainably and how baby steps, when combined, can make a big difference. We recently completed a workshop in UWC Changshu, and we are planning a trip back to Singapore around April and May of 2019 to conduct workshops in both Dover and East. We not only want to inspire people to start living a more zero-waste life, but we hope that we can be an inspiration for the students in UWC. There is no overnight formula for success. Boomi still has a long way to go but if we can make a difference, any difference, so can they.
Click here to learn more about Boomi, a startup that provides starter-kits filled with eco-friendly products to help guide you through your sustainable journey.
What is your alumni story? Our UWCSEA alumni are an amazing global community who remain connected to our UWC mission throughout their lives. Maintaining connections is a cornerstone in strengthening the bonds of our united UWCSEA community. Check out our series of alumni profiles here. If you have a story about yourself or another you'd like to share, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.