Katrina Sriranpong is a philanthropist and full-time mom. Her passion to make the world a better place for her children is exemplified through her strong and consistent support of charities and non-profit organizations. Through donations of both time and money, Katrina supports organizations within Canada and around the world involving anti-human trafficking, especially of children, assisting refugees, caring for orphans and advocating for animal rights and protection. Katrina believes everyone has the ability to be a philanthropist, whether it be through the donation of time, skills, knowledge or money.
Katrina lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, and is of Thai descent. Katrina attended the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada. She obtained a law degree from the University of Leicester in England, United Kingdom. Katrina also pursued further studies in International Business Law specializing in international arbitration, international criminal law, international intellectual property law and UN administrative law at the University of Oxford, England.
Katrina has a deep interest and eagerness in continuing to assist vulnerable populations. She regularly organizes fundraisers for the non-profit organizations she feels passionately about by utilizing her connections with lawyers, health care professionals and local small business owners. Prior to starting a family, Katrina spent a significant portion of her professional career assisting refugees settle in Canada and raising awareness about their immigration challenges. She is also an advocate for the rights of children in war-torn countries and supports programs aimed at rehabilitation, education and developmental aid for children.
She is a mother of two toddlers and enjoys spending time with her family by traveling to Thailand, hiking around beautiful North Vancouver and reading about health and nutrition.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
While in university, I was accepted to do an internship with the International Centre for Criminal Law Reform and Criminal Justice Policy, a United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Programme Network Institute. It was a privilege working there to promote the rule of law, human rights, and good governance in criminal law and the administration of criminal justice domestically and globally. I focused on the implementation of the UN norms and standards in the Chinese criminal justice system. I also researched the conflict in Rwanda between the Hutu and Tutsis, which resulted in the brutal genocide of 800,000 innocent people. Children were especially targeted during the genocide. I felt the international community had failed the people of Rwanda.
This was when my passion for global humanitarian work solidified. I wanted to do everything possible to assist immigrants, vulnerable groups and refugees around the world, especially marginalized children. I am a big believer that change can only move at the speed of empathy. We all have the power to be a philanthropist, whether it be by donating your time, valuable skills, or money. It was daunting at first and I thought to myself that one person can’t possibly change the world, but you have to remember that you’re not just one person, you’re part of a wider community of people who want to enact change and make the world a better place. You just have to find your “people” (or organization).
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I decided to take an indefinite leave from my career after my children were born. However, I didn’t want to retire from making extremely meaningful contributions in life.
As a full-time mom of two toddlers and taking care of my elderly parents, there is no typical day as everyday seems to be a challenge in balancing family obligations and my passion for humanitarian work. Usually, I get woken up by the sound of my toddlers either laughing or crying. I make sure there is time every morning to give them good morning kisses and cuddles before I rush off to make them a healthy breakfast. I get about 5 to 6 hours of sleep per night. With two young boys, I can only work when they are sleeping, which has forced me into becoming a night owl. I’m so lucky to have my mother live with us so my children have the privilege of spending valuable time with their grandmother and create memories with her. Because of her, I can sometimes get one or two hours without my toddlers around during the day, and this is the time in which I have to be productive and efficient in cultivating my network of mentors and supporters. I ensure I maintain contacts with organizations I’m supporting and/or interested in working with and make plans to collaborate towards a goal.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Research. Research. Research. And, a lot of collaboration with people you admire. Having a valuable network of mentors and advisors is key to bringing any great idea to life. I am surrounded by a supportive group of female lawyers who I feel close to and rely on for objective and honest advice.
What’s one trend that excites you?
One trend that really excites me is the trend towards corporate accountability and ethical products driven by consumer demand. Money is the only language corporations understand and when there’s a significant amount of people in the population that demand ethical products, corporations are forced to listen and change their business practice to incorporate give-back initiatives. People realize now that every purchase is a chance to make a difference and I think every brand has to examine their impact on the world in order to flourish.
For instance, one of my favorite Canadian companies is KOTN. The company makes super comfortable high quality clothing from organic Egyptian cotton. They’ve invested in the creation of jobs, infrastructure and education to alleviate poverty. They work directly with over 2000 farmers in Egypt offering guaranteed pricing and agricultural consultants to ensure their businesses are profitable. KOTN also donates a portion of their proceeds to fund and build schools.
Another example of a company I love that is committed to social philanthropy is TOMS footwear. For every sale, they donate a pair of shoes to a child in a developing country, which means they have donated almost 100 million pairs of shoes. They also fund eye care and vision restoration for people in impoverished communities as well as provide safe water for developing countries.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Eating healthy. I follow a whole-food plant-based lifestyle (or what Dr. Greger likes to call science-based eating). That means eating foods that are minimally processed and includes as many vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes as possible. Basically, the philosophy is simple. It’s a return to whole foods that are rich in flavors with an abundance of health benefits.
I try to incorporate healthy eating into my family’s schedule every day. This is the fuel that drives my productivity. I sometimes get so busy that I forget to eat breakfast and lunch but I ensure that I always drink my home-made smoothie made with purple cabbage, spinach, broccoli sprouts, hemp hearts, chia seeds, kale and banana with coconut water every single day. My toddlers love it too.
This actually reminds me of a great organization, World Central Kitchen, which works to provide food for victims of disasters. They’re currently on the ground providing food to Ukrainian refugees and working hard to get food to the people still trapped inside Ukraine.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Choose a career that gives you work-life balance. You won’t realize the importance of this until you have children.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
My life is not perfect.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Speak your mind without caring what other people think and don’t be easily influenced by others. Just because everyone is doing it, doesn’t make it right. My close friend grew up in a family that ate wild animals (and sometimes endangered animals) but was scared to speak up against her culture and family members even though she knew what they were doing was wrong. I can understand the difficulty in voicing your opinion when it’s an unpopular opinion amongst the people you are surrounded with, but when you stay silent, you’re also contributing to the problem and not effecting change.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Don’t be afraid to support global issues. I don’t believe in only supporting local charities. I help local charities, but also place importance on organizations around the world. I remember one person once asked me why I bother helping organizations in other countries when there are so many local charities that need help. My rationale is simple. In Canada, we’re fortunate enough to have access to basic necessities such as safe water, education, food, and medical care. But, many international charities strive to help the poorest countries in the world and my dollar tends to go farther in these countries. For instance, the cost to feed a starving child or build a school costs significantly less in a developing country, which means more lives are benefiting.
Whether you decide to donate globally or locally is a personal choice and, I think, there is no right or wrong answer. As long as you are supporting a charity, you’re on track to making the world a better place.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Outdoor nature programs for my toddlers to improve their ecological literacy. I think nature is the best teacher. My kids love exploring the forest. Being outdoors helps them appreciate our natural world and our responsibility to its preservation as well as the animals that inhabit it.
We’re so fortunate to live beside the forest with a beautiful stream that has migrating fish in it at certain times of the year. My hope would be for my children to love animals, and want to protect them and their habitat, as much as I do.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Boomerang for Gmail. I know so many entrepreneurs with young children that use this because they are often working late at night or very early in the morning. It’s my favorite productivity tool and allows me to schedule an email to send at a later time (so the recipient receives it during business hours). If I don’t want my important email to get buried in all the incoming emails, I send an email strategically so it’s at the top of their inbox right when they sign into work. It also reminds you when to follow up if you haven’t received a response to your email. And, you can schedule an email to come back to you at a later date when it’s more appropriate to deal with it.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“Ancient Wisdom, Modern World – ethics for a new millennium” by the Dalai Lama. This was one of the books that changed my perspective on the world and why I became a philanthropist. It’s a life changing book that will give you a new found purpose in life. The book aims to provide a moral path in a highly secularized world by emphasizing compassion. It discusses spirituality and focuses on universal responsibility. Basically, it argues that spirituality goes beyond any structured religious doctrine and that we are all connected.
What is your favorite quote?
“You can retire from a job, but don’t ever retire from making extremely meaningful contributions in life.”
- Make the world a better place for your children.
- Everyone can be a philanthropist or activist, whether it be by donating your time, money, knowledge or valuable skills.
- Make a difference with every dollar you spend by supporting companies that support give-back initiatives, whether it be locally or globally.
- Stand up for what’s right and speak your mind, even if it’s an unpopular opinion.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.