Their commitment towards serving the community drives some individuals to take on business pursuits and they do so for inner gratification, not hefty profits.
BUSINESS is a mere platform for their passion and vision; boundaries to them are but obstacles to be conquered. For every social entrepreneur there is a lot more than meets the eye.
Social Enterprise Alliance (SEA) founder Ellynita Hazlina Lamin said she began connecting empowered entrepreneurs about three years ago.
“I had already begun doing humanitarian work for at-risk communities in Acheh in my mid twenties and soon after there were many people asking me about it (my work).
“After giving it some thought, I gathered three friends Noor Amal Morad, Jason Ng and Kal Joffres, to discuss how we could create a system that enabled other social enterprises to support one another. “That’s how we founded the alliance which became more than just a network ... it is a collaborative platform that helps new enterprises bring about social change for disadvantaged communities.” she said.
Ellynita Hazlina said that she was working on disseminating information and expanding her network by including enterprises from other countries.
The network has now expanded to Nepal and countries in the Southeast Asian region.
“A social entrepreneur’s main concern is to address specific social problems. They need to be responsible and creative in resolving problems pertaining to specific communities.
“There are three characteristics that distinguish a social enterprise. They directly address a social need, their commercial activity is a strong revenue driver and the primary purpose is to ensure that there are positive outcomes ... in short, for the common good,” she said.
Ellynita Hazlina sees the alliance itself as an ecosystem-builder, connecting various social enterprises to each other and supporting their campaigns for stronger impact.
Local SEA member and non-governmental organisations (NGO) — EcoKnights, organises donation campaigns and recycling initiatives with indigenous communities.
Describing herself as a “social worker”, EcoKnights founder Yasmin Rasyid, said that the term “social entrepreneur” was still new to her.
“When I founded EcoKnights in 2005, I was not familiar with the term at all, so I didn’t really consider myself as one. Over the years, I realised that I had built a social enterprise.
“I had to learn how to run a business and manage people. I am lucky as my husband is experienced in business development,” she said.
Yasmin had wanted to be a veterinarian or mathematician when she was young, but she eventually became a marine biologist and a contemporary religion graduate.
“Those who are keen to start their own social business, must be sure of the cause that they stand for.
“Personally, my social concerns are inequality, lack of access to proper education, women empowerment, community development and environmental justice.
“It helps that I am always open to new ventures or ideas and getting involved with other areas of career development too, “ she added.
She is also the chairperson of the Malaysian Environmental NGOs (Mengo) and the Duke University Alumni Association (Malaysia). Yasmin has also encouraged community involvement through volunteerism.
“Be an intern for at least three months to expand your horizons and explore your skills, also volunteer for activities, events or charity drives.
“Most of the time we need volunteers to help out during our public engagement activities,” she said.
Loh Jon Ming, 25, and Nickson Tan, 26, are young social entrepreneurs involved in building shelter for the orang asli.
Their company EPIC homes is part of the alliance, and is committed to building houses, each in just three days.
Loh who is co-founder and finance manager together with Tan, the company’s chief engineer had initially thought of the venture as a way to hone their respective skills while earning a living.
However, after building the first few houses in Batang Kali, Selangor, and upon seeing the immense joy and gratitude of the homeowners, the duo realised that they enjoyed serving the community.
“That’s when we realised that our business was in fact, a social enterprise.”
Our plan now is to train more builders to pitch in and help build safe homes for 12,000 Orang Asli families in the next five years,” said Loh.
CONTACT AND GET INVOLVED:
Social Enterprise Alliance
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Tandem Fund provides hands-on expertise in mentorship, strategy, external expertise, and business links to support start-up social entreprises.