The PsychKick Team has been very honoured to learn more about the social enterprise scene in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. We’ve seen great challenges, huge achievements and tremendous hope in our trip, kindly sponsored by the Young Social Entrepreneurs Programme (YSE) from Singapore International Foundation(SIF).
The annual programme brings youth social entrepreneurs from all over the world to nurture and guide new ideas into business ventures. PsychKick is in the top 16 teams for this year’s batch, yay! Throughout the trip, we visited more than 10 social enterprises doing good for the community, each bearing its own personal stories on why they do what they do.
“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.” – Margaret Mead.
Truly Caring For Your Cause
Many of these social entrepreneurs would have probably given up halfway if they did not care for their cause. Batik Boutique had a unique bond with their beneficiaries that transcends work relationships. As quoted in their site that “people matter most,” Amy started with the idea to provide fair and sustainable income to women in Malaysia. One of these, Noor, came with her children to meet us and share her own story with Batik Boutique. The social enterprise has allowed her to take care of the finances of her big family and even allowed Noor to get a car for her family. The social impact was clear, and Amy still continues to operate her enterprise for the people she works with.
“People matter most.”
– Quoted from TheBatikBoutique.com
“Amy helped me with everything. We started with a tight budget for a big family, and now I have a car. My boss supported me from the very beginning.”
– Kak Noor, Artisan for Batik Boutique
The warmth of its people at Charlie’s Cafe continues to inspire me months after the trip. We could tell that Charlie created the cafe to feed the less fortunate. His passion moved us all to contribute to his beneficiaries. Everyone chipped in with as little as RM5 to feed one person in need. When one cares for a cause, it shows in their work and in their character. I feel that these are definite factors that pushes a social entrepreneur against all odds.
Charlie telling us his inspiring story of why he started Charlie’s Cafe.
“I will fly from Singapore just to be able to visit this cafe again!”
– Shafiqah Ramani
(picture from Charlie’s Cafe Facebook Page)
A small RM5 will pay for a meal for the less privileged!
A Social Enterprise is Still a For-Profit Business
Social impact is one of the main definitive factors for social enterprises, but many aspiring social entrepreneurs forget that a social enterprise also need to create profit and be sustainable. Some social enterprises have a separate premium model for consumers, and others integrate their revenue model into their impact. Either way, a social enterprise cannot help the society without being financially sustainable.
Biji-Biji sells upcycled goods to reduce wastage in Malaysia, having a solid revenue model to keep themselves sustainable. The idea of creating goods from unwanted materials to something people would buy for, is an amazing idea. I really liked how they integrated some of the material’s functionalities into their goods. For example, bags from banners can be waterproof and bags from seat belts can be able to withstand heavy things. It’s an amazing idea that not only helps the world, but value adds to their consumers. It reminds us that our solution needs to be something our customers want to buy, not just because we’re a social enterprise but because our product sells.
“We didn’t know the term ‘social enterprise’ when we started and started off Biji-Biji as a business.”
– Azam, Founder of Biji-Biji
Our trip to Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC) exposed us to the start up scene in Malaysia. We met social enterprises under their program whom are tackling hard social issues. We personally met some great change makers wanting to create a better place for children with disabilities. It was amazing to see how dedicated they are for their social mission!
Too much awesome in one photo!
“It’s about finding the right problem for the right solution.”
– Ehon Chan, MaGIC’s Executive Director of the Social Enterprise Team
“Experience is the teacher of all things.” – Julius Caesar* *
Understanding From The Ground Up
The approach Joycelyn took when wanting to know more about homelessness in KL was one-of-a-kind that many would prefer not to take. She lived off the streets for days to know more about the needs of homeless individuals, thus creating Pit Stop Community Cafe to serve these needs. Her raring move to understand from the ground up gave her insights no one could have. Joycelyn then knew that individuals without homes don’t just need food – they also need clean clothes and a nice shower. There are so many soup kitchens in the world, but how many provide a simple shower and clean clothes? She uses her experiences to provide for the homeless. Because of her ground up approach, she’s able to understand the issues face on and create the best solutions through her own experience.
“I went to live off the streets. I only lasted three days.”
– Joycelyn Lee, Co-Founder of Pit Stop Community Cafe
I was very fortunate to have met Jerryson Abraham Doss who founded Viva Starfish Project with his wife to provide jobs to homeless individuals. Jerryson also went to the streets to individually engage with these individuals to not give up and try earning a living for themselves again. He told me that many of these individuals have lost the will to get back up, and felt that they could not earn a living for themselves.
Jerryson guided them from the very beginning where he gave boxes of bottled water for free for them to sell, also providing food and accommodation for his staff. Consecutively, Jerryson starts charging a small amount for the box of bottled water when they have enough to afford it. His staff soon followed him to the streets and shared their stories of getting out of homelessness. It was truly inspiring to see how dedicated he was to helping them back up and not simply providing, but nurturing.
“I went to meet them by the streets to help them get themselves back up. My staff followed me and shared their stories as well, as many lost the confidence to earn their own living. “
– Jerryson Abraham Ross, Co-Founder of Viva Starfish Project
(Picture From Starfish Project’s Facebook Page)
“Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.” – Common Proverb
Nurturing Your Beneficiary and Not Just Providing
A big takeaway for me was the idea that you should not just provide for your beneficiaries, but nurture them to continue fighting on their own. Joycelyn at Pit Stop provides jobs for the homeless to learn skills and contribute to the society. Same for Jerryson at Starfish Project where he guided them to being independent salesmen. Providing the skills for individivuals to be self-dependant is, to me, one crucial point social entrepreneurs must never forget. I feel that we would only be giving the wrong form of support if we’re merely to provide. For example, Jerryson shared about the homeless being completely dependent on donations. Although the donations are from people with kind hearts, it takes away their will to fend for themselves.
“Never give up. Great things take time.” – Unknown
Never Giving Up
I could never forget their stories of how these social enterprises went against the odds to create their social impact. PsychKick has met many negative opinions that we’re trying to tackle a problem that’s too difficult and ‘impossible to do.’ Yet, we’re reminded of our beneficiaries and how their lives could change through our products. Hearing their rough times to where they are now gives me inspiration that we just need to push through it all, because what we do matters. Not just to us, but to society.
*Personal Reflections *
So, what have we learnt through our trip? So much! So many things that are priceless to us. It was breathtaking to meet social enterprises that have created social impact, and seeing that they’ve never looked backwards. These entrepreneurs only look forward towards what they want to achieve and strive for it.
The experience was priceless because we saw the fruits of their labour. Because, Because we are able to relate to their stories. And most of all, everything could only happen through the act of 1 person wanting to make the world a better place.
‘That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” – Neil Armstrong
Every step they took benefitted the society. The week-long trip have made an impact in my life in which I probably will never forget in my lifetime. My only wish is to be an inspiration to someone as how these amazing changemakers have inspired me.
Not forgetting the friendship forged through one mission: making the world a better place.
Shafiqah Ramani (Sha)
Sha is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of PsychKick, a social enterprise that aims to improve mental health treatment by integrating digital tools to assist in recovery.
*Disclaimer: Quotes from speakers may have been rephrased to highlight its point(s). The main message has not been tampered and is accurate from the author’s experience. *