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Save A Million People (One At A Time)

Meet this duo of entrepreneurs
who go a step further and are giving back to the community through their
start-up

In
keeping up with our entrepreneurship feature, this week we look at local
entrepreneurs who look to help make a difference in the community at large and
go beyond the conventional entrepreneurship route.

Usually
start-ups or entrepreneurs alike, are synonymous with either a lifestyle mobile
application or have an e-commerce based start-up. But have you heard of the
term, social entrepreneurs? They are as the term suggests, an entrepreneur that
created a start-up to help the community and in a way, give back to their
community.

 

Koh Seng Choon, Founder of Project
Dignity

“I
am just giving back,” said Koh when asked why he decided to start Project
Dignity in August of 2010. The idea of starting his own social enterprise first
came about when Koh came back to Singapore, after spending many years living
abroad in Europe.

“Why
are there no disabled people in shopping centres and where are the homeless and
beggars?” which brought Koh to realise that “there is another section of
Singapore that most Singaporeans do not see.”

Prior
to starting Project Dignity, Koh was the Executive Director of Restaurant Association of
Singapore and held many other corporate high flying positions in companies that
include Coopers & Lybrand International.

Project Dignity’s core mission is “to build and return dignity to the disadvantaged and
disabled through vocation with passion,” and their “primary focus involves
education and outreach,” said Koh.

The project has come a long way and now has four different
arms that cater to different needs. The first being Dignity Kitchen, it is
Singapore’s first social enterprise food court run by the disadvantaged and
disabled. Koh elaborates on its purpose saying that, “It is the unique solution
to inner city issues of the long-term unemployed, ageing population and work
for people with disabilities.”

The
second arm is Dignity Kitchenette, which provides culinary training in hopes
that these skill can help secure the trainees a job and thereby create a
living. Its third is named Dignity Mama Stall, here is where disabled children
and their mothers manage second hand book stores, in a bid to equip them with
basic entrepreneurship skills.

The
last arm of Project Dignity is known as Dignity Cottages, which has two
separate initiatives. One would be the Flea Market where disabled entrepreneurs
come together to sell items, the second is where an opportunity to earn a
decent living is carved out – in the form of cleaning bird’s nest.

Aside
from just training the disadvantages and disabled, Project Dignity goes one
step further by also hosting their own Social Outreach Activities. These
include, Lunch Treats for the Elderly, Hawker for the Day, Working with the
Disabled games, Cook or Bake and Serve, which seek to bring
the challenges faced by those with special needs and elderly to the public’s
attention. 

 

Serene Tan, Co-Founder of Sorgen

Aside
from having a rock-hard business plan or an ingenious new innovation, you also
need to have a strong belief in your product and that’s exactly what Tan has
for Sorgen.

Sorgen
is a social start-up established in 2011, which seeks to address and enhance
mobility for the ageing population. In this case, to redesign the walking
frame.

Inspiration
for GlydeSafe first struck when Tan saw an elderly woman experience difficultly
lifting her walking frame with every step she took.

This
inspiration was then translated to Tan’s final year project in Temasek
Polytechnic (TP). She felt that she could design a better walking frame, which
does not require the user to lift it up with every step taken while still being
safe.

This
project did not just end after Tan graduated TP. She continued working on GlydeSafe’s
design right through her time at the National University of Singapore (NUS)
where she attained her Business Administration degree.

Efforts
have definitely paid off after years in the making. Sorgen has two pioneering products
named GlydeSafe Sleek and GlydeSafe Travel (which comes with an additional
retractable seat).

In
order to cater for the masses, both redesigned walking frames are easily
affordable with prices starting at just SG$99 for the GlydeSafe Sleek – Which
is almost half the price of commonly seen walking frames with rotators.

Tan has made it her mission to ensure that
GlydeSafe comes to life and is available for those who need it most. “To me, it
was either to invest my time and effort in a social good or nothing. If I had
to do something, why not enhancing the lives of the elderly,” said Tan.

 

 

By Geralyne Kaye Ong / August 20, 2015 11:30AM GMT+8

 

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