Elim Chew, CityCare and City College were recently in Brunei to introduce the concept of social enterprise.
By Theresa Tan
The Brunei Economic Board recently invited a group of leaders from various social enterprises in Singapore to educate business owners and students in Brunei about doing business for good.
Led by Elim Chew, president and founder of retail chain 77th Street, who helped found the Social Innovation Park, a non-profit organization that promotes social entrepreneurship and innovation, the Singapore delegation comprised Kenny Low, founder of City College and O School, sisters Tammy and Wendy Lim from CityCare, a non-profit organization that promotes volunteerism, and Sim Sin Sin, CEO of Laksania, a café that employs the mentally-challenged.
The one-day session, held at the Rizqun International Hotel in Gadong attracted about 100 entrepreneurs and students, who came to listen to the social entrepreneurs share their experiences in setting up and running successful businesses, and then re-investing the profits into projects that benefit the needy and the community. Also present was Brunei’s Deputy Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, Datin Paduka Hjh Adina binti Othman.
Chew explained that social entrepreneurs want to see positive change in the community and in the world through a better way of conducting business.
“Being a social entrepreneur, we must also think of profit,” she told the audience. “The more profit we make, the more projects we can get started. Because the minute we run out of cash, we run out of business and we run out of the ability to help people.”
Low shared that great businesses can be born out of pain and difficulty. “The more pain you have experienced in addressing the challenges to fill in the gaps of societal concerns, the more entrepreneurial you become as a person,” he said. City College, which offers an alternative path for those who fall behind in the mainstream education system, and O School, which offers a platform for disenchanted youth to hone and display their dance skills, have both at some point presented daunting challenges to Low. Overcoming these difficulties have made him a more resilient business owner. To date, City College has helped over 600 students enter tertiary institutions.
Low felt that “through sharing the stories of City College and O School, [I] was able to help the attendees better understand the concept of social entrepreneurship and also inspire them to believe that they could be positive change agents in their society. Moving forward, I hope to be able to help their youth sector to develop solutions and programs to patch the gaps in Brunei.”
The delegation was encouraged by what they experienced in Brunei. Said Wendy Lim, manager of CityCare, “Youths and businessmen in Brunei are getting interested in the concept of social enterprise. More encouraging is the fact that BEDB is very open to creating greater awareness and doing more for the community.”
Executive director of CityCare, Tammy Lim, added, “We hope that through our sharing, doors will open for us to set up CityCare there—we can help to develop programs, especially in schools, to promote volunteerism, impact lives and create more cities that care.”