“It is a very important achievement for any business to have direct access to customers and to consistently make them feel that they are part of the growth.”
As the world becomes increasingly health-conscious, the future of plant-based consumables looks bright. Burgers from Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are already vegan staples, and as more companies invest in plant-based options and development, the space rapidly grows.
Tommaso Chiabra is an Italian-born entrepreneur who previously founded Royal Yacht International in 2011, a global yachting business that now has offices in nine countries worldwide and become a leader in its industry.
He’s also an investor in eco-friendly businesses with a focus on social impact, including Beyond Meat, Gaia’s Milk and Deep Green Mining. In 2019, Tommaso embarked on a new project: a plant-based food venture called Neat Food Co. Through Neat, he has created a meat-free burger called Neat Burger, and is moving forward with a chain of fast-food burger restaurants that will feature the creation.
Chiabra is also involved in collaborations with several leading technology companies and sits on the board of Canada-based jewelry company MENE Inc (public). He founded Royal Yacht International with business partner Manuele Thiella in 2011 intending to refresh the world of yachting and bring back a certain allure they felt was lost. Today, the firm has grown over the years with a dedicated team of professionals and a well-known and respected name in the industry.
Both RYI and Neat have been built in the social media era, where creators can have massive impact on the business. For Chiabra, Instagram is one of the channels he’s continuing to make the business endeavors successful. RYI, for instance, boasts of being among the first in the industry to join Instagram and, right now, the most followed. The platform allows Chiabra to connect to the community that was built alongside the company and use their feedback to continue to shape the business.
Gustaf Lundberg Toresson: What brought you the inspiration behind Royal Yacht International?
Tommaso Chiabra: There are so many ideas by which Royal Yacht International was created. Firstly, I saw an industry with utmost potential and the necessity to grow, an area ready for disruption. That was a primary drive and inspiration to invest my time and effort and challenge the system while revolutionizing its ecosystem.
I realized from a series of observations that the yachting industry was ancient school, traditional, and anti-technology, with seemingly high entry barriers. While I was still at the university with my partner, we started a concierge service for UHNI students because whenever a yacht inquiry was received, yacht brokerages were not easy to reach or reacted very slowly. This could have been because it was done without using modern technology such as emails or WhatsApp.
This was a central drive-in founding RYI as a B2B technology-focused research engine so customers and partners could execute their mega yacht tasks globally and as quickly as the technology allowed.
Lundberg Toresson: What do you focus on at RYI?
Chiabra: At RYI, we focus on being a “dynamic brokerage.” We act as a large corporation offering niche services to particular individuals and their requirements while utilizing our global offices to purchase mega yachts for commercial or private use and book charters for ultra-high net worth individuals and families around the world with over 1,700 mega yachts, ranging from 80 feet to 600 feet, available for our clients.
Lundberg Toresson: How do you use social media to connect with clients and community members?
Chiabra: My main communication channel is Instagram. This is where I share updates related to my business, as well as my day-to-day life and charitable ventures.
As well as keeping in contact with friends and investors, it allows me to receive a lot of helpful feedback from my followers regarding opinions, new trends, suggestions, and problems that need to be resolved around the globe.
Engaging with my followers is one of my favorite activities. I strive to respond to everyone and correspond via direct message with anyone with a particularly interesting opinion or argument. From my followers, I have found some great founders, business partners, and valuable ideas; however, I also interact and provide advice to those seeking guidance and benefitting from a few more years of experience.
Lundberg Toresson: How does having an Instagram audience help Neat Burger and Royal Yacht International with their business?
Chiabra: We became the first yachting company to use Instagram, and today our profile is the most followed.
When RYI was founded, noone out there put focus on building communities. The traditional business mentality still is the “sale car dealer” mentality where one person is in charge to entertain a portfolio of clients. Meanwhile, we understood that technology allows you to build communities, and therefore a wider client portfolio across demographics, languages and geographic areas.
The principle of any business is that there should always be a community. I believe that community comes before finance, which is why having an established one can help create loyal customers while keeping them informed of the business’s thinking.
The feeling of belonging to a “community” is born from a fundamental instinct; it is essential for any business to have such direct access to customers and to consistently make them feel as if they are part of the process.
Lundberg Toresson: How is the work you do with UNICEF important and how are you involved?
Chiabra: In my role with UNICEF, I chair the fundraising committee for UNICEF events in Italy and St Barths. Honestly, I’m just a volunteer like many others.
In order to assist UNICEF, I helped collaborate with businesses willing to donate and be affiliated with charitable causes.I then suggested organizing a dinner in Sardinia, Italy, that would bring all of my clients, contacts, and friends together for one night. This event is now known as the UNICEF Summer Gala.
The initial idea, actually, wasn’t such a glamorous one. We are so happy and humbled, however, to have created such an institutional event where we are able to raise over 10 million dollars per year through the success of these events.
Occasionally, I travel with UNICEF to visit their African programs once every year. I go to see for myself where the funds are being invested. And I must say all the progress they are making is truly phenomenal.
Lundberg Toresson: What is it that drives you to be passionate about what you do as an entrepreneur and investor?
Chiabra: I would say that I am a very driven individual. Someone always passionate about exploring, daring, and often curious for new challenges and setting never achieved milestones. I am passionate about creating, innovating, and being responsible for positive change. And of late, I have been similarly invested in sustainability. Change is very much needed, and as such, I am convinced that a lot of industries will be shaken with sustainable solutions.
What really is a passion? It’s the missions you set upon yourself to achieve, missions that wake you up in the morning 20 minutes before the alarm clock sounds, already thinking about what you’re going to accomplish that day and how much closer you’ll be to your goals.
Once these missions and goals you set for yourself are complete, the key is to put more goals to achieve in the future.
Lundberg Toresson: What is your vision for Neat and what projects are you focusing on, now?
Chiabra: As of right now, I am focused on Neat’s mission, which has been an exciting and beautiful journey. In an effort to impact the industry responsible for most of the world’s emissions, the animal agriculture industry.
As a food company, Neat has a global food footprint, thanks to Neat Burger, the largest chain with a fully vegan and sustainable menu, inspiring consumers to be #GameChangers and eat responsibly. As of now, we have established sites across the UK, UAE and US, along with our plant-based food products being sold worldwide through food services and consumer packaged goods.
The vision is to make sustainable food available and affordable for everybody everywhere. We will aggressively expand our store footprint and presence into super markets and large distributors with our product lines.
Every one of our stores has lines waiting outside the door daily, and our products sell out in all supermarkets every time we launch. Consumers are becoming more responsible in the way they eat, and our stores have seen strong demand for our products.
The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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