Inspirational Woman: Sarah Lim | Business Development Director, Halo Coffee

Sarah LimSarah was born in Malaysia and is ethnically Chinese. She then moved to the UK to study and originally settled in Shropshire.

After this, Sarah moved to Scotland to study MA (Hons) International Relations (2:1) at the University of St Andrews in 2012 where she remained for four years. During this degree, Sarah undertook a number of internships in both investment banking and research, in London. Then, Sarah moved permanently to London where she studied MSc Global Migration at UCL where she completed a thesis titled “A Longing for Home: The case of Filipina Domestic Workers in Malaysia”. This was when Sarah found Halo. Instead of taking the tried and tested route of a grad scheme she joined SME Halo, in its infancy, and originally, in a junior role. After the soft brand launch in 2017, Sarah proved she was capable of much more and was promoted to Business Development Director. Sarah is now responsible for managing the day-to-day running of the business and is proud of championing Halo to become a serious e-commerce business with a focus on a solid digital presence.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

Hi, I’m Sarah Lim, Business Development Director of Halo. Originally from Malaysia, I moved to the UK where I attended university in Scotland. I then moved to London, where I am now, and am pioneering the use of compostable coffee pods as a green alternative to plastic and aluminium coffee pods. Right now, I’m trying to grow Halo as quickly as possible and reduce the global impact of coffee pods on the environment.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Well, I suppose yes. Although nothing goes to plan… I originally planned to enter the world of finance and even completed three internships at finance companies, with the end goal of working at an NGO: either the UN or another international organisation. My thinking behind this was that I might somehow be able to help improve our world. Little did I know, Halo would get me to that goal a whole lot quicker.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

I can’t say that my career so far hasn’t been filled with challenges. I’m a young, asian woman and that comes with a certain set of assumptions from other people. When I go out and meet new people, particularly some of the third party businesses I’ve worked with, they don’t always realise that I’m a Director and assume I’m in a junior role. This is definitely a challenge when executing authoritative decisions.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

I would probably say my biggest achievement is managing to get Halo coffee pods sold in over 70 countries. I achieved this with a minimal advertising budget and instead heavily optimising our referral schemes.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Adaptability! Even before the Covid19 pandemic, I felt that the real world wasn’t what I expected it to be when I started out. Now that we’ve experienced a changed world, I believe more than ever in the importance of adaptability in order to succeed.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I love the idea of being a mentor. I’ve never formally mentored, nor had one myself. However, informally I like to think that I have helped younger women in the workplace who have come to me with questions and sought advice. I think it’s important to have visibility of women in high positions to show it’s possible for anyone. I like to help the teams I work with and guide how they navigate the world, so I definitely believe in the importance of mentorship.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

It would have to be the perception of women as somehow needing to be raised to the level of men. I’m a strong believer in gender equity and know that women and men are indeed different, so we should be able to work differently with the knowledge that we will get the same results, through different methods. Women need to be supported to reach gender equality, but don’t try to fit a round peg in a square hole.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

Don’t be afraid of stumbling and falling down. It’s ok to make mistakes and is a natural, and essential, part of life. Just remember to always pick yourself back up and try again.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

The thought of the future brings a lot of question marks at the moment as we ease out of lockdown. But regardless, my next and greatest challenge is to take on the food and drink industry giants and promote transparency and sustainability throughout the industry.

WeAreTheCity has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Cherie Blair, Paula Radcliffe MBE, Caprice Bourret, Anna Williamson and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here

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