Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Ryan Black, Co-Founder at Buddy Bites HK

Ryan Black is the co-founder at Buddy Bites HK, Hong Kong’s first direct to consumer, subscription-based dog food brand.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I have spent most of my working life in the real estate field, working across a few service providers as well as a small real estate fund.

As of about 2 years ago however, working life took quite a tangent as I set up a direct to consumer subscription based dog food start up called Buddy Bites. I now act as Co-Founder and manage the finance and operation side of the Buddy Bites business.

2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

Buddy Bites is an incredibly young start up, so this varies dramatically, but usually I get up at 6.20am. I’d love to say this is because it’s in my nature, but it’s more my partner who is the early bird, which does me a world of good.

I will then spend the early morning clearing any emails and putting out any fires. I like to try and stay in touch with the customer service side of things which sounds a bit laborious but I feel it is such a key component of a DTC brand at an early stage. This will take me through to about 8.30am when I head to our co-working space.

Depending on the day, our small team will then catch up on paid content, organic content, events, or strategy.

After this my time is spent between meetings with our agency, sourcing products and developing a wider strategy. My days are very quintessentially early stage start-up. Lots of juggling going on! I might try and squeeze some exercise in there also, given it’s January.

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

We are completely flexible, but I like having an office. I don’t think there is any one size fits all policy for work, which is generally why I feel flexibility is the right approach, so long as you have a team you trust.

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

Again, one size doesn’t fit all. The first year of Buddy Bites I had another full time job, I was working literally non-stop, didn’t do much exercise, and living in Hong Kong at the time during Covid, I didn’t go on holiday, yet I loved every second.

I think an off switch is necessary, and 100% believe we don’t live to work, but if you have that passion for something, have at it. That being said, now that I am full time I try to schedule in some time to switch off, usually exercising or catching up with friends who will take the piss out of me if I mention dog food.

5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

As mentioned there was a spell where exercise went missing. I was super focussed on getting Buddy Bites off the ground which gave me loads of energy, however now I am conscious to ensure I have some exercise scheduled throughout the week.  

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

I am sure most people say this but How I Built This is a preferred podcast as a DTC fan. Michael Dubin’s of Dollar Shave Club is a good one.

I usually go for business based books. I just read Reed Hasting’s No Rules Rules, however the best book I have read recently is Endurance by Alfred Lansing, about the Antarctic expedition. Not my usual choice but I can’t recommend it enough.

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

Kindle is an easy win. I regret not reading enough when I was younger, and Kindle’s make it very easy to do so.  

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?  

Neil Blumenthal- The CEO of Warby Parker. He started a DTC company with his mates that is now a $5bn company. I think when your friends become your colleagues you have hit the jackpot, but switching off together is never easy. I started Buddy Bites alongside a close friend, so there would be plenty of application from their insights I am sure!

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers

I think be aware of your motivations and talk about them. There is no perfect formula, and it is easy to get dragged along abiding by somebody else’s routine. Find out what makes you motivated, find out what makes you happy, and consciously use that information.    

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.