While businesses are fighting to stay afloat during the pandemic, there are also businesses that are fighting for worthy causes in the midst of the pandemic. In light of the national absolute poverty rate rising to 8.4% from 5.6% in 2019 and approximately 600,000 M40 households slipping into the B40 category, social enterprises are seeing this as an opportunity to up their game because the needs are incredibly apparent.
Social entrepreneurs see this as a calling to innovate their enterprises to be a force for good and we think more people should know about it. We have covered other amazing social enterprises here and here, do check them out – but for now, let’s take a look at 10 innovative social enterprises that are directly helping the urban and rural B40s.
Phytopia was founded in 2019 on a mission to empower small farmers, planters, and underserved communities through urban farming. Phytopia understands that healthy food means much more than its nutritional value, but also the relationship with the environment and its social impact on people.
After identifying small farmers primarily from the B40 demographic, Phytopia provides the necessary training and technology to empower them to produce vegetables independently. The modular hydroponic system they specialise in can conserve up to 90% of water while producing leafy greens like lettuce and butterhead.
The harvests from the farmers are bought back at a fair price and transformed into healthy meals in their cafe Salad Bar. Phytopia then employs university students from B40 families as part-timers while providing them training in the F&B business. Pay a visit to Phytopia’s Salad Bar to witness their full supply chain at work.
ChocoLah was launched during the Ramadan of 2021 with the target to sell 1,000 ‘Rainbow Crunch’ chocolate jars to help raise funds to build a community centre for homeless youth and children in Malaysia.
Its founder Raudhah Nazran, who is also the founder and CEO of Accelerate Global, is on a mission to tackle youth unemployment worldwide. The end goal of the community centre is to keep underserved youths off the street and safe from bullying, sexual violence, and abuse.
ChocoLah actually came out of my own deep frustration at having witnessed marginalised kids and youths getting bullied on the streets, and ‘controlled’ by external parties, even so far as by organisations. – Nazran, founder of ChocoLah.
The community centre that is going to be built is not only a learning space but also a safe house for homeless children and youths to gather, have meals and find good company. Help make the community centre a reality by supporting them here.
#3: Halaman Nurani
Halaman Nurani (HRSB) is a social enterprise that employs B40 communities to provide catering services and restaurants throughout the Klang Valley region. Their restaurant Kedai Makan Abang Tukang Masak (KMATM) is based in Damansara Damai, the centre of many B40 households.
HRSB provides culinary arts training, workspace, and equipment for members of the B40 community, especially those who are struggling to put food on their table, to earn a living wage. The restaurant acts as a training ground for employees to gain practical experiences as they learn and cater food to their growing list of clients. Apart from catering services, HRSB produces bakery goods and tidbits to add to their income source.
To date, they have sold more than 100 products from B40 families and over 800 families have registered for food and job assistance. Show them support as they expand their business premise to cater to more beneficiaries.
#4: Sluvi Natural
A few years ago, Sulie Abell’s struggle with chronic eczema led her to quit her day job. Her search for natural skincare alternatives led her back to the backyard of her village, Melugu in Simanggang, Sarawak. There she was told by a bee farmer that half of Melugu farmers earn less than RM200 per month.
The inequality sparked an idea for Sulie to do something about it. Hence, Sluvi Natural was born. The company aims to create naturally-sourced skincare products for sensitive skin while empowering farmers to increase income as ingredient suppliers. Sluvi currently spots a creative product line: Stingless Bee Honey Face & Body Soap, Aloe Green Tea Face Mask, Rice Face Mask, and Lemon Coffee Body Scrub.
From there, we not only help the farmers to increase their income but also help their families to have access to better healthcare and education. – Sulie, founder of Sluvi.
The collaboration sees a 300% increase in the farmers’ income. Aside from sourcing, Sluvi also provides training to neighbouring villages on pesticide-free planting, so that they too can be part of the supply chain. Add Sluvi to your skincare routine by visiting them here.
Tumboh was sparked by the passion of two best friends, Amir Omar Anuar and Lam Min Yong, to help the underprivileged in Malaysia. Tumboh started off by selling hand sanitisers, face masks and hand-made toiletry bags. After re-strategizing, they pivoted to locally produced healthy food products like Generous Granolas, Organic Tea, and Beeless Honey.
During the pandemic, Tumboh’s collaborated with Komuniti Tukang Jahit to produce three-ply face masks and handmade bags. From the sale of these products, they manage to contribute more than RM5,000 to a community of underprivileged women. They also donated 348 bottles of hand sanitiser and 1,750 packets of face masks. From now till December 2021, Tumboh will also contribute earnings from their sales of Generous Granola packs to Need to Feed the Need Malaysia.
Tumboh is aiming to grow its enterprise in the future to include more food selection and body care products. One of their ambitions is to open a cafe or restaurant where they can provide job opportunities to the underprivileged community. Be part of the growth of Tumboh by helping them tumbuh.
That’s one of our big goals with Tumboh, if we can start the business and move on to areas where we can hire these people into our business, that’s really what we want to do. – Amir, co-founder, Tumboh.
#6: Batik Boutique
Amy Blair was travelling with her husband in Terengganu when she came across batik cloth. She was struck by the vibrant colours and layering of motifs on the batik and it led her to a charity initiative to employ women from low-cost flats (PPR), including single mother Ana, to be part of her sewing crew at Batik Boutique.
Through her friendship with Ana, Amy witnessed first-hand the struggles of women living in poverty and the opportunity to tap into some of the innate skills they possessed in order to earn a living. As the demand for batik aprons and coasters grew, Blair saw a gap in the local artisan market to be filled by connecting underserved women with job opportunities in the tourist product industry.
Batik Boutique is now an established social enterprise with a sewing centre, office space and two retail boutiques. Their product ranges from men and women apparel, bags and pouches, homewares, and even DIY batik painting kits for the curious ones. To date, Batik Boutique has worked with 200 local artisans, the majority from marginalised communities, by providing them fair wages and marketable skills. Visit their store to feast your eyes on vibrant batik textures.
#7: Suri Lifestyle
Selena Ahman (better known as Sally) was a recent divorcee with two children when she first started the denim sewing business, Suri Lifestyle. She found out that there were many other single mothers in the Sungai Udang community in need of a sustainable income source to maintain their livelihood.
Sally took to YouTube for guidance on sewing and fell in love with repurposed denim. More single mothers joined her initiative while she offered tutoring on sewing and design for free.
With support from Hong Leong Bank Jumpstart program, the at-home business grew to become an established enterprise now hiring 10 single mothers in their dedicated sewing centre. Collaborations with organizations like Tarik Jeans and Naga DBB Tribal allow Suri Lifestyle to renew their product line and upscale their advertising strategy.
We are a business that makes a profit but, at the same time, impacts a community that really needs our help… My goal is to not only help single mothers in Klang but those in other communities as well. – Sally, founder of Suri Lifestyle.
A recent collection drive gathered 500kg of denim which will be repurposed into pouches, bags, clutches, and pillowcases. Get yourself a fashionable denim pouch or pick up other denim products by visiting their online shop.
#8: BosCo Coffee
On a trip to Kundasang, Sabah, Don Salman and Viviantie Sarjuni met a group of women coffee farmers who produce good quality coffee beans. They learned that half of the farm had to be chopped down because the women farmers did not know how to market their products outside. Farmland is limited in rural Sabah and crops which are not profiting commercially have to be replaced. The community is highly skilled and passionate, yet unable to thrive due to challenges in regards to market access and understanding.
The idea of a social enterprise was born by combining Don’s long time dream of having his own cafe while ethnically sourcing local coffee beans from Kundasang, where women farmers would be paid consistently and fairly. The partnership evolved swiftly, resulting in 3 kiosks located, one in TTDI and two in Cyberjaya. The income to women farmers enables them to provide education to their children.
BosCo carries four types of beans: Arabica, Liberica, Excelsa, and Robusta, all locally produced in Ranau, Sabah. The enterprise is set on opening the cafe and will hire more staff from the B40 demographic while expanding their supplier list to farmers in Sarawak. Desiring a hot cup of coffee? Wait no more!
#9: Benak Raya
In 2017, Imelda Bragie Anak Jamie, an Ibanese based in Sri Aman, Sarawak, founded Benak Raya with the aim to retain her family’s tradition of rice farming in Simanggang while providing a sustainable living to uplift the Ibanese community from poverty.
The tradition of Simanggang rice farming is integral and representative of my culture as an Orang Iban. As the 10th generation taking over my family’s tradition of Simanggang rice farming, I see this heritage as a huge potential to improve the livelihoods of my community and uplift them out of the poverty cycle through this small business – Imelda, founder of Benak Raya.
Benak Raya now employs 16 villagers from B40 rank to help cultivate and package three types of Simanggang rice, namely white, black, and red rice. Benak Raya also pioneered in creating innovative rice-based products like rice soap, face scrubs and hand sanitisers made out of fruit extracts. Of which, their edible rice straw received recognition at Shell LiveWire Top 10 Innovators Award 2019 for reducing single-use plastic straw.
More recently, with the support from Hong Leong Bank Jumpstart program, Benak Raya seeks to expand their R&D to create more environmentally friendly products, while digitizing their products online. Check them out here!
During her free time as a housewife, Mdm Teng Yu Mein delivers cooking oil, medical essentials, and other household necessities to the indigenous community in the rural remote areas. She discovered that there are still many households facing difficulty accessing clean water supply, where the indigenous people have to settle with untreated river water and rainwater.
Yu Mein’s determination to help the underserved led her to participate in a grass-root innovator competition. Her idea for a portable water filtration system won the competition and received seed funding for prototyping. Efinity EZ Water Filter Cap is a simple contraption that facilitates the transfer of stagnant water into selected water filters using a pump to produce clean water.
With consistent improvement, Yu Mein made sure the Efinity EZ Filter System is functional yet affordable to cater to the needs of target beneficiaries. The product is used by communities in Tombotuan Village Sabah, Simpai Village Pahang and Who Village Perak. Efinity also partnered with the government to send the filter system as humanitarian aid to Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka. Check out their page to learn more!
Explore Our Sources:
- Palansamy, Y. (2021). Covid-19: 580,000 M40 households fall into B40 category, absolute poverty rises to 8.4pc, says PM. Malay Mail. Link.
- Jayatilaka, T. (2021). Change Through Chocolate: How Social Enterprise ChocoLah Is Helping Underprivileged Youth. Generation T. Link.
- Kim. (2021). Sluvi: A Malaysia Social Enterprise that Helps Reduce Farmers’ Poverty in Borneo. Exabytes Blog. Link.
- Nunis, G. (2021). Tumboh grows from a special bond, to help underprivileged communities. Twenty Two 13. Link.
- Arif Zikri. (2021). Two best friends work through the Covid-19 pandemic to run a social enterprise that helps underprivileged Malaysians. Yahoo! News. Link.
- Yeap, S. (2019). Suri Lifestyle creates job opportunities for single mothers by upcycling denim. Options. Link.
- Hong Leong Bank. (2021). Hong Leong Bank Onboards Sarawakian Social Enterprise ‘Benak Raya Enterprise’. Hong Leong Bank. Link.