Serena Kao believes that every life has a purpose. GoPurpose logo symbolizes the Five Elements Philosophy in I-Ching. The Five Elements Philosophy is a fivefold conceptual scheme that the Chinese use to explain a wide array of phenomena. The elements are Wood (木 mù), Fire (火 huǒ), Earth (土 tǔ), Metal (金 jīn), and Water (水 shuǐ). These elements support lives on Earth and present a form of energy balance that creates harmony. The importance of these five elements has also been raised by major religions in the world such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and renowned philosopher Plato.
She adopts the same thought in making the world a more balanced and harmonious place by emphasizing these 5 elements for all to live by, allowing communities in different regions to share their cultures, languages, traditions and beliefs. Serena Kao feels that San Teh Philanthropic Foundation is a pure charity platform while GoPurpose is where she could create long-term sustainability which are scalable. While she believes that “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach him to fish and he eats for a lifetime”, she also feels that “giving fish” is important at the initial stage. Hence, supporting donation could be made while training is on the way. Only through this two-pronged approach, philanthropic works can become sustainable.
GoPurpose has successfully supported education, helping the Atlanta's black youth and marginalized adult community raised money to buy computers for students in hope of upgrading their skills whilst creating true sustainable business model. In the following months, GoPurpose has also launched library and agriculture projects in Cambodia. GoPurpose is also preparing for nutrition and water sanitation programs in China. Serena Kao is working with internationally renowned researchers on free nutritious meal plans for people living in poverty and how to teach those in remote areas about the importance of a balanced diet while building a sustainable economic future for the community to grow. To know more about GoPurpose, please visit: www.GoPurpose.com or contact support@GoPurpose.com
Serena Kao is the daughter of Mr. Kao Shin Ping, the former Chairman of San Teh Group. She is an experienced banker and the current chairwoman of San Teh Foundation, a family funded foundation. San Teh Group was founded by Mr. Kao Shin Ping. The group has businesses across China, Singapore and Taiwan in industries such as cement, conductive rubber, electronics, food, hotel and real estate. In 1991, San Teh Group was listed in Singapore's stock exchange market.
Serena Kao was born in Taipei, Taiwan as a third generation of the family business. She later migrated with her family to Singapore and studied there prior to pursuing undergraduate and postgraduate education in the United States and Canada. Miss Kao holds a Master of Business Administration and Public Administration degree (MBA/MPA) from University of Southern California. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Claremont Colleges Pitzer and Claremont McKenna with a Bachelors of Arts degree in both Economics and Accounting. Miss Kao believes in the importance of lifelong learning, and also currently holds a diploma for Master of Mining from Toronto, on top of a Diploma in Nutritional Science from Stanford University Medical Centre.
Serena Kao was an experienced investment banker with extensive experience in Asia Pacific and North America in the areas of wealth management, corporate advisory, M&A and structured financing. From 2002-2005, she worked for Bank of America, where she received the “Top 10 Clubs” Award. Between 2005 and 2007, Miss Kao was the Vice President, International Global Private Client Wealth Group/Asian Complex, for Merrill Lynch USA in Seattle. From 2009 to 2011, she became the Managing Partner and Director of Prime Invest Development Limited located in Hong Kong, which focuses on advising and consulting emergent companies to be listed in both North America and Canada markets. In 2011, Miss Kao decided to dedicate most of her time to her family philanthropic work.
Serena Kao watched her grandmother do philanthropic work from a young age. The teachings from her parents have greatly influenced her. Her parents were strict educators and required her to understand Confucian classics such as “24 Stories of Filial Devotion”, “36 Stories of Filial Devotion” and Classic of Filial Piety. They taught her the importance of humility and paying respect to elders. Her father brought her to their ancestral hometown in China to better understand philanthropy. When she was 5 years old, her grandmother took her to a Christmas Party at her hotel where she had the chance to meet the orphans whom her grandmother was helping. The exposure made her realise that not all children were born with a fortunate family background like hers. That was how she learned the importance of helping others and giving back to society.
During the first trip back to her hometown in Anxi, China, Miss Kao saw a place stricken with poverty. However, the warmth of those people touched her. When she was 11 and studying in Singapore, she helped one of her best friends sell a few hundreds of Christmas cards made by the volunteers from charity organisations that supported physically-disabled people and those in need of kidney dialysis. The day after Christmas, weeks since she donated the funds raised, she received a card with a few signatures and the message: “Thank you for saving our lives! Without the money given, we will not be able to survive!”. That card helped her understand what true happiness was. It meant a lot for her to be able to save lives at the young age of 11. From then on, every afternoon after class, she would spend time raising funds for the World Vision and Kidney Foundation. When she was only 15 or 16, she gathered a few friends to sponsor a 2-year-old child in the Philippines and a few-month-old Indian baby. She used the money earned from giving tuitions and wrote letters to them with her friends every morning before school started. She is also a strong advocate for education and women related issues.
During the two years working in Singapore, despite her hectic schedule as the person responsible for the Asian market at her bank, she still took time off every week to volunteer for the Ministers at “Meet-the-People” sessions. Even though her father, Mr. Kao Shin Ping, offered her various roles within the group, nothing gave her as much passion as philanthropic work. As such, Mr. Kao decided to let her manage his San Teh Foundation.
Miss Kao constantly spends time on the ground in order to observe the problems that many face so that she can develop solutions to solve them. In February 2014, she launched GoPurpose in Cambodia with Nomi Network, an established nonprofit that builds training facilities for young women and youths who have been trafficked and abused. In one of the social enterprise kitchens, she hosted a large group of volunteers and victims who had recently been rescued. When Miss Kao invited everyone to order whatever they wished to eat, the ladies started giggling. She later found out that the gesture to let them select their food was deeply touching to them. Having been sold by their families for survival, they had never had a say in their lives thus far, much less free will. Hence, the opportunity to make a choice for themselves was something that left a significant impact on them. Miss Kao was moved, and even more determined to carry out the GoPurpose mission to support honest and sustainable producers. She truly hopes that business distributors and consumers would support the mission by making wise choices in products they purchase, in order to facilitate positive impact.
In August 2019, Miss Kao was featured in the China Philanthropist magazine, a prominent publication in China that covers charitable and social issues, as one of only five Next Generation Young Philanthropists. Thus, her significant contributions to society through philanthropy are evident, and have brought positive improvement to millions of underprivileged individuals.
San Teh Foundation
San Teh Foundation is a privately endowed family foundation, which utilises only family funds for charity. The Kao family believes in “San Teh” spirit, which are “Filial Piety & Loyalty, Benevolence and Prudence”. The foundation was set up to coordinate philanthropic works by Mr. Kao Shin Ping in different regions such as China, Singapore and Taiwan. He believed that charity should co-exist with the enterprise. In other words, charity work has to be carried out concurrently with the business. He also believed that charity starts from home. If one is not charitable within the family, doing charity works outside is superficial. Serena Kao carries the same belief as her father.
San Teh Foundation focuses on four areas:
i. Helping students from financially difficult backgrounds in China, Singapore, Taiwan to complete their university studies and monitoring their progress through the alumni club
ii. Helping financially underprivileged elderly to seek medical treatments and donating medical equipment to Tong Ji Hospital in Singapore as well as Fujian and Yunnan provinces in China.
iii. Building basic infrastructures, donating cements and funds to build roads in regions such as Fujian, Xiamen, especially Longyan, Dali. Over the years, the foundation has also moved on to provide affordable yet quality housing to people who cannot afford the current, highly inflated real estate prices.
iv. Helping victims of natural disasters to rebuild their homes
Since taking over San Teh Foundation, Serena Kao has strived to continue spreading the “San Teh” spirit. She has developed solid relationships with philanthropic foundations across Asia, America and Europe. She has been invited by many organisations and universities to participate in their conferences and activities. She has also been invited by universities, UBS, Credit Suisse, and NEXUS to speak at their philanthropic conferences in Singapore, New York, Shanghai and Beijing. Since 2012, she has been invited by U.S former President Jimmy Carter to his yearly private retreat, where she is an avid supporter of his health and women initiatives. She also met up with many world leaders, renowned philanthropists, former presidents and prime ministers to discuss and understand more about philanthropic solutions. In July 2014, China Philanthropy Magazine conducted an interview and invited her to speak at two panels along renounced philanthropists from different parts of the world. She was also one of the main featured characters in their August 2014 issue. Forbes Insights published an individual interview with Serena Kao for their 2014 Philanthropic paper on her views on how charity and social impact activities must coexist. They are equally important as one solves immediate problems while the other takes time to correct social issues. In 2014, she received the “World Changer” Award from Nomi Network on International Women’s Day.
In 2016, she was officially invited to be the Co-Chairperson and Co-Host of the UNSDSN (United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network) Singapore Chapter and was a board member of the Leadership Council for the Northern Europe UNSDSN Chapter.
Serena Kao believes that Knowledge is key and Wisdom comes from practice and experience. In 2013, she wanted to use her business knowledge and strategies to build a platform that spreads “positivity”. Hence, GoPurpose was created as a social network incubator and crowd-funding platform to raise money for social enterprise start-ups, small businesses or community projects, whose purpose is to make a positive impact in this world. It is designed to create positive outcomes by encouraging people to live well while doing good. After its proven success in mobilising NGOs and social enterprises across 14 cities and 11 countries, Miss Kao decided to convert it in 2016 into a full sustainable marketplace aligning with the 17 United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with special focus on Health and Well-being.
GoPurpose and Its Mission
GoPurpose is a B2B enterprise that aims to give back to society through encouraging businesses to adopt sustainable practices. Its founder believes in using the sustainable business model as a force to do good in society, and to inspire global change through its efforts to create a sustainable world and future.
While the figurative meaning of GoPurpose denotes that “Go” implies action and “Purpose” implies performing a meaningful task, in truth, GoPurpose is committed to a much higher, aspirational purpose. GoPurpose aims to create an inclusive circular economy by inspiring purpose-driven lives through skills education and training, creating sustainable employment opportunities, focusing on positive health, wellness and society-wide benefits while infusing sustainable production, consumption and action into people’s daily lives. The company’s intention is to champion all its partners who are part of its supply chain to be transparent about their sourcing of organic and naturally made materials, recycling efforts, R&D and certification.
After building and planning GoPurpose for a while, Miss Kao chose to have its soft launch on Valentine’s Day with the first project on the training of former sex-trafficked women. She went to Cambodia and hosted the victims, did her due diligence and showed her support by spending part of the trip to visit shelters, help out in fundraising and raise awareness for Nomi Network through GoPurpose.
San Teh Foundation