A different business model

THE term “social enterprise” has been used a lot these days as businesses are increasingly looking for a model that not only has a positive impact on the growth of the company but also on the community at large.

The Truly Loving Company chief executive officer Julia Chong recalls how difficult it was to convince everyone 10 years ago that they were not crazy for adopting such a model.

Up until about five years ago, people had never really heard about social enterprises, she notes.

But today, support for such business models has been forthcoming. In Malaysia, the Malaysian Global Innovation & Creative Centre (MaGIC) has been actively driving the cause for social enterprises over the past two years. Grants and coaching programmes are available for budding entrepreneurs looking to inject a social impact into their businesses.

And this trend is encouraging.

“Today’s Gen-Y and millennials want to give back to the society when they are young. They are very inspired and driven. They are not just about delivering KPIs (key performance indicators). And younger consumers want brand purpose. They want to have a positive impact.

“This is very encouraging and it is a good thing for our future generations,” says Chong.

TLC has also been involved with various efforts to groom and encourage social enterprises.

Chong says one of the things that social enterprises need to do to succeed is to ensure the quality of their products and services. Getting the support of the market through a social cause alone does not make a sustainable business model.

Notably, this can be challenging and would take a longer time to succeed as social enterprises need time to convince the market to support their causes and to also convince investors that their strategies are viable.

“Be committed to your dream and don’t be afraid that it will take a longer time to achieve what you are passionate about. Use the best of your capability to fulfill your dream,” she advises.

She notes that growing demand for positive impact has also encouraged established companies to take a different approach on their CSR programmes. Writing fat cheques is no longer in vogue. Companies are increasingly encouraging their employees to roll up their sleeves to participate in charitable activities instead.

Chong also says there are more requests from corporations interested to partner with TLC to have more effective CSR programmes.