Giving & the Origin of Condo Srisuwan

A for-sale sign is posted in a widow of the condominium building

In February 2017, our group of friends began to look into the rental market. We had been informally surveying locations in various parts of Bangkok. But we were most interested in the area around Lad Phrao, as it is our home neighborhood and we are partial to its qualities. Initially, giving was not our intention. But we were looking to do something special with the money we had for investment.

That’s when we came across the Condo Srisuwan residential area, a complex of five buildings, five stories tall each, just set off the road with a parking lot in front. Giving a call to the number of an advertised condo, an older woman picked up the phone. She became one of the many Aunties that we have the pleasure of knowing here in Thailand – and her story is one worth sharing.

The Auntie (and Uncle) Story

Auntie is 60 years old now. She had been a government worker, and her husband was an engineer. Throughout their marriage they both worked, but never had children of their own. Of the early investments they made, the Auntie used 600 baht from her own salary to pay for the loan she took to purchase Condo Srisuwan. Over time, she and her husband increased their residential assets. They had continued to rent out the condo to people, but as the Auntie became older, she was not longer looking to care for the condo, which naturally involved managing the unreliable renters.

The door entering into the condo - number 9/386. A large blue bolt locks the outside of the door, and there are stickers decorating.

Giving to Auntie

We met her once to look at the condo and agreed to move forward with purchasing from her. Auntie told us that others had contacted her to purchase the condo, but they tried to lower the price. She didn’t want to lower it, so she did not sell to them.

“Keep it simple,” she had said.

We decided that we could help her. In our conversations, we discussed what it would be like if we were her. She was older already, and was hoping to reduce her burdens.

What would we want if we were in her shoes?

As women, we all nodded and agreed: we would buy it from her, at her stated price. This is how the basis of the decision to buy turned away from focus on the condominium itself. We were convinced of the story of Auntie, and it became a chance to help her.

A habit: give meets give

To start, we gave a deposit of 5,000 baht.

Shortly after we sent her the deposit money, she called us to tell us of her intentions for the money from the condo sale. She said that on the day the Condo was purchased, she would give 10,000 baht of the money to Siriraj Hospital (the location of Mahidol University’s Faculty of Medicine in Bangkok) . Quite impressed and happy with her intentions, we joined her in her donations, and gave her 2000 baht to give to Siriraj Hospital for us.

After a week, we had processed the paperwork and gave the remaining money to the Auntie for the condo. Not long, Auntie called us again to inform us that she she did not just give 10,000, but she gave the remaining balance of her earnings from the condo to Siriraj Hospital.

Auntie explained that she and her husband were retired with no children, and they already had other real estate investments. This gave them more than they needed. In fact, giving to the hospital was something they had done for many years now. Whatever was extra, they would give it. They had given so frequently that the Auntie’s name is in a placard posted on hospital donations wall.

The special thing about this older couple is that their giving is a habit. Auntie and her husband have not just been giving to Siriraj Hospital, but they give elsewhere as well. She told us of how they send money to children in need – they have separate relationships with six children, and support them with monthly allowances.

They give until it is second nature for them – it is easy for them.

Give first and you will get.

In addition, Auntie and her husband have never had difficulty financially. They enjoy traveling abroad when they can, and have been to Europe and United States. The husband was an engineer for the motorway that was constructed from Bangkok to Pattaya, and now they could live easily on his retirement alone. They also keep an orchard for fruit in eastern Thailand. They give what they can and are happy for the opportunity. Their habit seems to leave them with a comfortable life, their generosity returning to them consistently.

We can each practice to give – give what we can. We gave the Auntie and her husband ease of mind – to be able to sell the condo at their stated price. In turn, they used the money for public benefit. Instead of seeing the purchase of this condo as an exchange, we had thought from the beginning to give. From here, more opportunities to give arose.

An important lesson we learned from this story is that our intention is the foundation of everything. Whether we think to give or think to take, this comes from within our own mind. We can consider this before every transaction. In fact, it doesn’t have to be a transaction any more, but an opportunity to practice thinking of others and giving to others in a world where most of us give mostly to ourselves.Lotus flower turns into lotus seeds

 

Ashley – from Decemberland Milk & Toast

Never give up…

Ashley – Decemberland co-founder and owner


Food truck parked Lad Phrao District, Bangkok on Lad Phrao 71 - Nak Niwat Soi 5

Decemberland’s Retro Truck, 2017

The background…

Three and a half years ago, Ashley and two friends were discussing starting their own business. Ashley had a degree from Ramkhamheng University’s International Business program in Marketing and at the time of starting the Milk & Toast truck, she was working for a firm as an assistant marketing manager.

She had worked as a secretary in a Paragon Department Store previously, and had also worked as a project manager. Yet she found herself stressed and not enjoying her work. She and her friends were brainstorming ideas that would allow them to start their own business.

For Ashley, the idea evolved from the thing that she loves.

About four times a week, she and her partner would go out on the motorbike on a ride to the Khao San Road area, where they could find good fresh milk and toast. At that time, compared to currently in 2017, there were almost no milk shops with the quality she was looking for.

The group had thought to do a coffee shop, but Ashley doesn’t like to drink coffee. This fact, along with the opening in the market, pushed them to choose milk and toast over coffee.

Being brave…

Food truck hot milk and toast

Hot milk and toast

She said, she would have never thought to do something like this before – to start her own business. She never anticipated it, or planned on working for herself.

In fact, she admits that the work she does now is still stressful, but stressful in a different way. Starting something to do with food was quite a stretch because Ashley cannot even cook a hard-boiled egg.

It took two months of training with a barista friend in order for her to have the skills she would need for starting her own shop. Then there was time and materials invested in the creation of the recipe that she was satisfied with.

Daily taste tests of milk, adjusting the recipe, until they were able to settle on the recipes she enjoyed most. This is what she wanted for her customers, to enjoy a good cup of fresh milk as much as she does.

Starting out the shop focused on hot and cold fresh milk, and the basic toast recipes.

The customer comes first…

The concept of the shop was inspired out of her love of vintage classic items. She invested in an old Mazda truck from the late 1980’s and decorated it with lights, and they opened on the East side of Nak Niwat Road.

At first, they had discussed opening in a market. But Ashley knew that she wanted people to intend to come to her shop instead of just happening upon it. She says today, most of her customers come from passing by her truck on the road. They later end up returning.

In setting the prices, from the beginning Ashley wanted it to be a place that everyone could come. Yet, she wanted to offer quality products as well. Thus, she brings in products such as Skippy, Nutella, and Ovaltine spreads for her toasts, and focuses on quality for her milk and coffee.

Ashley’s Mom helping to toast the bread in the back of their food truck.

She wants to give all people an opportunity to come and enjoy high quality for a middle price. She says her customer base is wide, ranging from the street sweepers to people who drive Porsche – they come from everywhere.

Concept of enough…

For her, the profit is enough for her to pay her expenses.

She doesn’t need more than that. She has enough for herself, and is happy with that. The customers can get good quality at a middle range price. When asked where this idea came from, she explained it was from her environment — Her parents, her school and university, and the people around her shop.

She always keeps the bottles and items that the trash collectors can use to resell. Sometimes, they will bring her grapes or cherries. Or someone may pass her shop selling the flower garlands made of jasmine, and she gives them fresh milk. The seller will give her a strand of the fragrant flowers in return.

Currently, her parents are helping her since one of her partners began working again. They are both retired from sales. Her father sold alcohol, and her mother used to as well before becoming a nursery teacher in the last few years. Once fully retiring, she said that it is good for them to do something and stay active.

Expansion:

Recently, in March of 2017, they began renting a small shop front space on the west side of Nak Niwat in Lad Phrao. She was facing an obstacle working with the changing requirements and restrictions on the hours she was allowed to park her truck.

Working with the Thai government and other regulation agencies has been one of her biggest obstacles. But she has fought through these barriers, and made adjustments to keep the milk and coffee pouring hot.

At present, she has a shop front where she can prepare the drinks. They have kept the Mazda truck parked outside on the road to remind people the shop is open, draw new customers, and continue to make the toast from the back of the truck.

What next?

The menu at Decemberland has been expanding since the beginning, as now they offer Italian Sodas of various flavors and Frappes. Next, Ashley wants to add ham and cheese options to the toast.

Ashley does the thing that she loves. In addition to the fresh milk, she is learning more about dog breeding and is interested in Akido breeds. She loves taking care of the dogs, feeding them, caring for them, and sharing this with others.

The money is not her focus.

Her intention is to introduce a good breed of Akido to Thailand, as currently the Akido breeds are not healthy. Some have problems with their legs, others have features that do not fit with the standards of the Japanese dog breed requirements for the Akido. She continues to study and learn, build contacts in order for her to have a strong foundation.

Extras:

Retro-style food truck offers delicious milk and toast as a late night snack in Lad Phrao, Bangkok.