In conjunction with International Women's Day, StarLifestyle highlights three female entrepreneurs who are also driven by a purposeful plan and ambition to do good.
Sasibai Kimis started Earth Heir to promote local artisans, and Amy Blair set up Batik Boutique to market batik. Law Hong Mei created natural skincare brand The Olive Tree for those with dermatology issues.
Through their social enterprises and business, these three women are also striving to uplift other women by providing income earning opportunities and skills training.
Amy Blair moved to Kuala Lumpur from Texas to work in tourism and training 13 years ago, and fell in love with the Malaysian people and culture.
She was keen to share her fascination for her new home with her family and friends, and it led her to set up social enterprise Batik Boutique.
Ten years ago, Blair had befriended a single mother, Ana, who was struggling to support her two children.
“My idea was to reimagine Malaysia’s batik industry as a contemporary fashion house and lifestyle brand, and create a social enterprise by training and empowering marginalised women, like Ana.
“I wanted to be a part of something to help women have greater opportunities here. Ana and I brainstormed ways for her to earn an income. With Ana’s sewing skills, we bought batik fabric which she transformed into unique gifts that I gave to family and friends. Soon, word spread and with it came demand, ” recalls Blair, 39, who lives here with her husband and three children.
She established a sewing centre near the flats where the women lived, and it was a right move as these women needed money but there were barriers of transportation and childcare.
“Batik Boutique is a social enterprise because our revenue sustains the social impact we make: providing work, income and childcare to our seamstresses and also an income for local batik artisans.”
Blair mainly employs women from low-income communities as seamstresses. They receive free training and start earning an income after a week. Those who wish to work for the company are ensured regular income and continued training to prepare them for their own businesses.
“All our seamstresses have opened bank accounts and learnt financial literacy. One has even published her own quilting book, using Batik Boutique fabrics in her tutorials.”
To date, they have worked with over 200 artisans. Including the families of artisans, Blair says Batik Boutique has impacted the lives of more than 1,400 local beneficiaries.
“As each woman begins to earn sustainable income, they worry less about daily survival and focus more on their family and future. To witness women develop skills and work so hard in order to have a better life, that makes me so proud, ” Blair says.
With an interest in learning sewing skills to earn an income, Hafizhah Abdul Razak, 34, attended a free training course conducted by Batik Boutique.
“During my training I learnt how to sew and the different techniques to make a good quality product. It’s a great learning centre as it is very systematic and I enjoy working here, ” says Hafizhah who is a seamstress and cutter, and helps out with administrative work at Batik Boutique.
“Everyone sets monthly goals of how much they want to earn. I’m happy that I’m able to earn an income through my sewing skills and I’m able to support my family, ” says Hafizhah, who adds that she is grateful her employer helps out with her transportation costs.
Hafizhah’s earnings pays for her food, utilities, rental and medical fees. She also contributes to her mother’s house rental and gives an allowance to her mother-in-law.
“I hope Batik Boutique will grow bigger because this will give women more jobs, ” says Hafizhah.
Gallery: Batik Boutique
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