In a world dominated by troubling headlines and the very real possibility that Donald Trump will be holding the nuclear codes to America’s stash of destructive weapons, it’s heartening to read about businesses that aren’t purely profit-driven but want to do social good as well.
Chivas Regal launched The Venture at the end of last year, a reality-style competition (think of it like Trump’s The Apprentice). The idea was to disburse a pool of $1 million to the social start-ups that impressed the four judges. A total of 27 enterprises were chosen to compete. After a few months, this number was reduced to five. The finalists travelled to New York City and only had five minutes to pitch to the panel.
Conceptos Plásticos earned the most amount of funding with $300,000, while WeFarm, the UK entrant, came second receiving $200,000. Each of the remaining three startups also received a share of the money. Wakami and Eye Control, which enables ALS sufferers to communicate with their eyes, received $100,000 each. Coolar, whose innovative cooling system enables doctors to preserve lifesaving vaccines and medicine in off-grid regions, won $50,000.
While the competition was not open to Singapore social enterprises, The Venture did make its presence felt here. Five start-ups – Bettr Barista, Edible Garden City, Empact, Gone Adventurin and Social Creatives – were invited to be part of The Venture and receive networking and other collaborative opportunities. We had a quick chat with them.
“There is often a general misconception that social businesses are below-par in terms of quality and standards of delivery. But I beg to differ. Since Bettr Barista earned our B Corp certification in April 2015, two other Singaporean social businesses have joined the B Corp ranks. Our social purpose is founded on this belief in the power of business to exert influence and effect change. Everything we do links back to creating a positive impact.” Pamela Chng, founder Bettr Barista
“Besides encouraging more people to grow their own food, we also want to provide an avenue for them to reconnect with the food system and to purchase locally grown food. Our mission is to re-define the role that urban farms play not only in Singapore but globally. Urban farms are not just about using underutilised spaces in the city to grow food. They are spaces where the community can come together, help urbanites reconnect with food and nature, as well as provide employment for people with disabilities. Urban farms can be the future community centres and help cities function in a more sustainable manner.” Bjorn Low, co-founder Edible Garden City
“Art is not just for art sake. I wish that the Singapore public would be able to see the works we do and feel inspired to want to be part of the movement we are creating amongst our local environment. What Social Creatives does is to bridge the social gaps within society and create that needed awareness through our sessions; through creating interactivity between participating volunteers; through the beneficiaries and through the environment.” Faris Basharahil, founder Social Creatives
“One of our particular areas of focus is skills based volunteering, whereby corporate employees donate their skills, whether that be marketing, HR, accounting, IT etc. We’ve certainly noticed that skills-based volunteering is on the rise globally, and in Singapore. This comes at a time when more and more corporations are also becoming more aware and more progressive in their corporate social responsibility work.” Peter Yang, founder Empact
“By helping brands stand for a higher purpose, communicating in a way which is authentic & digital, we help companies save costs on fake advertising and really connect with their audience – increasing sales, employee retention & brand preference. We chose this route because we see already that sustainability is a key business strategy.” Ashwin Subramaniam, Chief Purpose Officer Gone Adventurin