These companies founded by City Harvest members not only provide great service to their clients but opportunities for those needing extra income or good guidance.
While the world understands business to be about competition and survival, there are companies that strive to make a difference to its stakeholders beyond their bottom lines. City News Weekly look at some social impact businesses that are innovative in their business models, which provide work for those who need a hand up.
PHONE REPAIR AT YOUR DOORSTEP
Launched by two CHC members Albert Tirtohadi and Jack Leow, with a third partner, Alex Devendran Ramalingam in early March 2015, Fynd is an online platform that connects customers who need their mobile phones, tablets or laptops repaired with reliable door-to-door repair services at very competitive rates.
While Fynd’s aim is to provide busy city dwellers speedy, cost-effective, trustworthy and reliable service, the founders are fuelled by their desire to improve the livelihoods of the key drivers of their platform: the technicians.
When requests for repair services come in via their website and app, these requests are distributed to Fynd’s pool of technicians as assignments. A technican can choose which job to take up—whether it’s the one closest to his office or home, and every job earns him extra income. Fynd sets out to reduce the income gap by creating economic empowerment for technical professionals, a segment of labor that usually falls into the blue-collared workforce. Their community of close to 20 technicians comprises students, retirees and working adults, who are trained by the Fynd team to provide high-standard and fast repair service.
Fynd’s model has resulted in a community of enthusiastic technicians that provide quality services with high integrity, which closes the loop in an ecosystem where customers receive satisfying results at their convenience. This model has worked so well that Fynd has expanded to Hong Kong and is looking at other countries in the region.
“I used to run a phone repair shop, but after joining Fynd, I received more repair jobs than what my shop can bring,” says Sky Tay, a father of four. “I soon closed my shop to work with Fynd full-time. Not only has Fynd helped to increase my income, I now make enough to have savings for my
Through Fynd, another technician, single mother Vicky Ho now has an additional stream of income. Ho repaired the damaged phone of Member of Parliament and Chief Executive of Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) Louis Ng with such efficiency, he mentioned her on his Facebook page, saying: “Full SALUTE to Vicky who is a single mum and who learnt how to repair phones by watching YouTube videos. Enjoyed talking to her and her cheerfulness is infectious! I’m glad that the government is re-looking the policies with regard to single parents and seeing how we can improve on this front.”
Tirtohadi is happy to report that most of Fynd’s technicians have doubled their income since they joined the company. “This is what we are passionate about, changing how the world works,” he says. “You don’t have to be a degree holder to earn a good income and support your family.”
OFFERING FASTFAST DELIVERY
Elim Chew is a social entrepreneur who starts new businesses faster than the average human changes mobile phones. Even before the last shop in her legendary 77th Street retail chain closed for good in July, Chew had already launched FastFast, a simple and, yes, fast personalized delivery service platform—just download the app—that aims to connect customers with on-demand drivers. Most of the deliveries happen after 5pm when Singaporeans are getting off work and are free to receive a package. FastFast is available on both web and mobile, and provides small-to-medium sized businesses (which typically lack the resources and logistics support) a reliable courier service for their documents or packages.
Chew set up FastFast to provide a source of income to drivers. These freelance FastFast delivery persons could be a retiree, someone who is in between jobs, anyone who could really use an extra stream of income. Chew’s aim is for the platform to provide a sustainable stream of job opportunities by teaming up with local associations and community groups to identify both the companies that need this service, and the individuals that need the work.
As both a socially responsible and for-profit company, FastFast is about making the lives of its customers easier, while creating employment at the same time. About 1,300 trained drivers to date and many more drivers have registered with FastFast.
One driver in his 60s, who wants to be known simply as Mr Loh, says, “I am impressed by the sincerity that Elim shows towards wanting to help retirees and people who are in between jobs. This trait can also be seen in the FastFast team who provide me with the support even outside office hours. This is the reason why despite me freelancing at various companies, I have decided to focus my time on FastFast.”
“Joining the FastFast team has really been a great experience for me,” says another driver, Naseer. “Not only is it an additional income generator for me, but also I get to meet new people. Seeing them smile after each delivery really makes my day.”
For father of a five-year-old, Adrian Lim, with FastFast he can work as much or as little as he needs. “I get to choose if I want to do the delivery. Having that freedom gives me time to go for job interviews and to spend time with my son,” he says.
Chew started FastFast as a business that to create opportunities “for people who are out of job, or people who have jobs but don’t have enough income of the family. My vision is to provide manpower for many small and medium sized enterprises—the FastFast team can run all their errands for them.”
Customers, like the Marriott Hotel, are loving the reliable and fast service that FastFast offers too. Floral Garage, a florist, says that it would recommend FastFast to other businesses “because customer service is easily reachable unlike (their) competitors. The service is also customisable—FastFast is open to case-by-case situations while other courier services are not opened to any special situations even if we are wiling to pay additional cost. The FastFast drivers are motivated, they always come with a smile, and wear their lanyard with pride. They are also always responsible enough to call and announce that they are reaching so that our florists know to be ready.”
PROVIDING GOOD FOOD AND OPPORTUNITIES
For Chef Thomas Lam, third time’s the charm: he is setting up his Streets Of London restaurant once again. The restaurant, which offers quality Western fare, existed in two previous locations before closing down in November 2015. This September, Lam is ready to introduce Streets Of London to the public again at his new outlet located in the culinary heart of Singapore that is Katong.
The vision for opening a restaurant came to Lam when he was enrolled in City Harvest’s School of Theology (SOT) in 2008—he felt strengthened to follow the vision upon reading the verse Psalm 127:1 which says “Unless the Lord, they labor in vain who build it.”
He drew inspiration for the restaurant’s name from a 1974 Ralph McTell hit song titled “Streets Of London”, about bringing hope to the homeless and poor in the UK. It is his vision to likewise bring hope by providing employment for young people, including at-risk youth, ex-offenders and also special needs youth. Jobs can be hard to come by for such young people.
During Streets Of London’s early years at its Jalan Bukit Merah in 2012, Lam hired seven staff, all of them youth that he worked to instill Godly values and principles in. Two of them went on to achieve academic excellence under his mentorship and guidance.
Lam plans to once again help to give youth a vision for their future, while earning their own upkeep. The new Streets Of London is geared towards inspiring youths to develop their dreams of becoming social entrepreneurs by learn the foundation of building a successful and sound business, leveraging on his past experiences and mistakes.