More support on the way for local social enterprises

A small local coffee academy and a giant beer brand may be seen to be unlikely partners but such a partnership is brewing ways to help disadvantaged women here in Singapore.

Nineteen-year-old Shirley Ng is training to be a professional barista at Bettr Barista Coffee Academy.

The teenage mother of two did not finish her secondary education.

Besides learning how to make a great cup of coffee, she will also have sessions with a clinical psychologist and self defence and yoga classes.

Bettr Barista’s founder Pamela Chng estimates that the company has to fork out about S$3,000 to S$4,000 for each participant who joins the 12-week long programme at no charge.

Funds come from profits which the social enterprise makes by running courses and selling coffee beans and equipment.

Ms Chng said: “We have developed into a first world nation, and we are really talking about issues like how to care for society, and the people around us and the environment and how to make Singapore a better place to live in. I think social enterprise has a role to play in that, working with government, working with private sector, working with the public to really use business as a tool to solve a social problem.”

Ms Chng observed that obstacles such lack of childcare and transport are keeping single mothers or low income women from taking advantage of upgrading opportunities.

That is where bigger companies like Guinness can come in.

The global beer brand will be hosting a hackathon – a mega-brainstorming session where about 200 volunteers contribute their professional expertise and ideas to help social enterprises overcome their challenges.

The Arthur Guinness Fund Hackathon will be held on December 7 to 9 with a specific focus on helping single mothers and ex-offenders.

Newton Circus’ chief executive officer and organiser of Hackathon, Daryl Arnold, said: “You can imagine how we can create a web portal for example, that would enable people to plan and volunteer time where they can provide childcare support within the local community, (or we can create) a mobile app to find somebody who might be travelling in that direction which our single mums can hitch a ride to reduce the cost of their transportation.”

S$60,000 has been set aside to help viable ideas tossed up during the hackathon materialise.

Rene de Monchy, who is head of marketing at Asia Pacific Breweries, said: “We felt that the time was really right to introduce it to Singapore. Social entrepreneurship is becoming much more understood.”

Bettr Barista hopes to increase the number of disadvantaged women it helps from 11 to 30 a year.

Source: CNA