Bruce Lorange is the CEO and Founder of O2TODAY, a venture-backed start up, which produces the world’s most breathable urban air masks and aims to tackle air pollution related health concerns. Formerly working as Area General Manager at DFS Saipan Limited and subsequently as GM DFS Honolulu, Bruce was a participant on GIFT’s 2013 Global Young Leaders Programme (YLP) held in Hong Kong and the Philippines.
The YLP project in partnership with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) aimed to improve the livelihoods of smallholding rice farmers in Philippines. As a team leader, Bruce immersed himself into understanding rice production in Philippines and developing a viable business model to commercialise IRRI’s mobile platform: ‘Nutrient Manager for Rice.’ Bruce’s transition from working in luxury retail to designing solutions for air pollution, stems from his passion and commitment to tackling global challenges, which was evident through his participation on the YLP.
He emphasises this by stating, “I’ve always believed in the importance of work with a deep sense of meaning but the two weeks I spent in Hong Kong and the Philippines with GIFT brought into focus how important it is to have a strong why behind what you do. To be able to work with a highly engaged international team on a solution to a problem that impacts millions of people was a wake-up call and an invitation to consider how I could develop myself further and contribute to positive outcomes around large scale issues.”
As General Manager at DFS, Bruce oversaw all operations at the airport and hotel retail locations and helped develop the next generation of leaders to meet the demands of their global business. He credits DFS for helping him develop essential leadership qualities, while at the same time, realise that his true passion lay outside travel retail, focused on tackling problems with greater social impact. O2TODAY is thus the result of Bruce’s eagerness to apply himself to an entrepreneurial pursuit, and his tenacity to understand the wider context of socio-economic problems in the 21st century.
O2TODAY is established as a US-based company with a made-in New Zealand supply chain. Since its establishment in 2015, O2TODAY promotes the use of eco-friendly and stylish breathable masks providing protection to the users, while aiming to tackle air pollution at a larger level in the long run.
Bruce, in an interview with Forbes, underlines the motivation for establishing O2TODAY, stating that people have limited choices when protecting themselves from harmful gases, while at the same time, carry a stigma that wearing masks is an indication of extreme illness.
Through this venture, Bruce is working to change that public perception, and ensure better health standards for millions of people. “O2TODAY is here to shift the perception of protective masks from that of a commodity to a desired lifestyle product providing safety, comfort, and even a sense of fashion,” he states.
One of the main learnings at GIFT’s leadership programme, which Bruce incorporated into O2TODAY has been the importance of combining government, corporate and civic support to achieve long-term success for a socially-inclined venture.
“I have been able to put that learning into practice with my current company by working with members of the Utah state government to promote education around air quality and potential health outcomes, as well as becoming a member of 1% For The Planet allowing us a platform to support NPOs (not-for-profit organisations) actively working in our space to promote action for better air quality and public health,” he mentions. One such organisation that O2TODAY supports is the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment.
Finally, Bruce underlines the importance of critical thinking to recognise root causes before developing an action strategy, and building a positive work culture which celebrates small wins, as his key takeaways from the GIFT leadership programme. GIFT is proud to have had the opportunity to work with Bruce, and continues to inspire among participants the importance of empathy and purpose, while seeking solutions for global challenges.