07 April 2021

Expert Panel Gives Business Tips to Young Entrepreneurs Passionate About Creating Social Impact

27 youths presented their social business ideas at the Singapore International Foundation’s Young Social Entrepreneurs Global 2020 Pitching for Change final, where six teams emerged as winners.

15 social enterprise teams from around the globe will be advancing through to the next phase of the SIF’s Young Social Entrepreneurs (YSE) programme. SIF Chairman Ambassador Ong Keng Yong (top) said that the YSE digital platform offers new opportunities to nurture the energy, innovative spirit, and passion of young changemakers driven by a strong sense of social purpose.

YSE 2020 Winners

Six social enterprise teams emerged as winners at the 2020 edition of the Singapore International Foundation’s Young Social Entrepreneurs Global programme. From left: (first row) Neurafarm (Indonesia) and Canfem (India); (second row) Ms Jean Tan, SIF Executive Director; Safewheel (Bangladesh), Gabi (Hong Kong), SIF Chairman Ambassador Ong Keng Yong; (third row) International Changemaker Olympiad (India) and Fempreneur Secrets (Singapore).

“It is important for the public, private and people sectors to come together to address social gaps within the community. We cannot separate them if we want to achieve maximum impact. As part of an international community, we also must understand that there are needs outside of our home country.

“We have to ask ourselves how to ensure that we build deep, lasting friendships with people outside our country and how to work across borders to solve what may seem like a local problem but has global implications,” said Mr Christopher Joachim Pragasam, Assistant Chief Executive Officer at National Youth Council Singapore.

Speaking at a panel discussion titled “Sustaining Impact in a Time of COVID-19”, he emphasised the importance of cross-sectional and cross-border networks to achieve sustainable impact when solving pressing societal challenges.

This panel discussion was part of the Singapore International Foundation’s (SIF) Young Social Entrepreneurs (YSE) Global 2020 Pitching for Change virtual event, at which 27 youths from eight countries presented their social business ideas.

The panel included Mr Eugene Ho, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, East Asia and Pacific at SAP, an international technology and software solutions corporation; Mr Nicholas Lim, Chief Executive Officer of social enterprise TreeDots Enterprise and YSE 2018 Alumnus; and Mr Nigel Teo, Founder of GoodHood SG, a ground up initiative that connects neighbours through a mobile application. The discussion was moderated by Ms Wen Wanying, Business Development Associate at Sustainable Living Lab.

The panellists shared their experience and insights into how social businesses can innovate and create opportunities in the ever-changing socioeconomic environment to remain profitable while championing their social missions. They concurred that the key to managing a sustainable social enterprise, especially during volatile times, is balancing profit and purpose.

Mr Lim said: “As a social enterprise, your purpose should always be at your core. However, your business must be generating enough revenue to support that. If you have to make a choice between your profit and purpose, you may need to rethink your business idea.”

Panellists also noted that a strong network of partners and mentors is an asset for social entrepreneurs. Mr Teo recalled receiving valuable advice from mentors while running this social enterprise. He said: “It’s crucial to find good mentors and speak to people in the space. Many others who have gone before us may have faced similar challenges and can offer suggestions and point out blind spots that we may miss.”

Mr Ho, meanwhile, advised the young social entrepreneurs to always have an ear to the ground to fully understand the needs of the communities they are serving. He said: “Engage directly with the people from those communities, and exchange notes with other industry players. Listening is key to crafting meaningful initiatives that are purposeful and effective.”

The panel discussion came at the end of the YSE’s eight-month programme of online workshops, mentorship, and virtual learning sessions, at which the participants were exposed to the social entrepreneurial scenes in India, Indonesia, and Singapore. It was the first time that the programme was run completely online.

Six out of the 14 teams were awarded up to S$20,000 each to launch or scale up their social enterprises.

The winning teams are (in alphabetical order):

  1. Canfem (India)
  2. Fempreneur Secrets (Singapore)
  3. Gabi (Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China)
  4. International Changemaker Olympiad (India)
  5. Neurafarm (Indonesia)
  6. Safewheel (Bangladesh)

Mr Anas Hossain Makki, Co-Founder of Safewheel said: “We are grateful for support from the entire YSE team, our mentors, and our friends and families. It has been a fulfilling journey and we are excited to be connected to like-minded friends from around the world. The funding from YSE will provide significant support as we continue to provide affordable ambulance and doorstep medical services to rural communities in Bangladesh.”

Mr Rahul Adhikari, Founder and Director of International Changemaker Olympiad said: “Our YSE journey has been very fulfilling, and we are so grateful to have won. The support from YSE will help us to expand our business to provide a learning platform for schoolchildren in India to develop into empathetic, conscious citizens of the world. We also look forward to exploring potential collaborations with our YSE peers from other countries.”

This year, three teams – BioPhil (Philippines), Safewheel (Bangladesh) and Heirloom (Singapore) – won the SIF-Deutsche Bank Friends’ Favourite online contest and were awarded gift vouchers of up to S$1,000. These teams garnered the most votes from the online community for the Friends’ Favourite contest, supported by Deutsche Bank.

All participants are now part of an international network of more than 1,200 changemakers spanning 29 nationalities from the past 11 years of the programme. Based on a study titled “Building a Better World through Good Business” which evaluated the programme’s impact on its alumni and their social enterprises from 2010 to 2019, 75 per cent of social enterprises grew from seed stage to start-up stage and beyond after joining the YSE programme, while 86 per cent of funded teams are still in operation.

YSE Global 2021 applications

YSE Global is an annual programme that aims to inspire, equip, and enable youths around the world to launch or scale up their social enterprises in Singapore and beyond. Applications for the YSE Global 2021 are now open. Join the upcoming YSE Digital Roadshow on 8 April 2021 to speak to our representatives and find out more.