They mix business with a good cause

They mix business with a good cause

SINGAPORE - When three 19-year-olds set up a business that adds artistic pockets to clothes, they were not only hoping to generate a profit.

They also intended to help the community by employing intellectually disabled people to sew these "unique" features onto the garments, which will then be sold.

For full-time national servicemen Looi Qin En, Oswald Yeo and Seah Ying Cong, this was a good way to channel their entrepreneurial instincts into a good cause and get other young people involved.

The trio - whose enterprise is called Arts and Sew - are far from the only young people interested in combining business with social good.

During the Budget debate last month, Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong noted that rising numbers of young people are setting up social enterprises. There are more than 200 youth sector organisations today, compared with a mere 70 a decade ago.

This positive trend was affirmed by the $100 million National Youth Fund announced last month, which will provide an annual budget of about $5 million for ground-up initiatives by young people - more than eight times the current annual funding.

Social enterprises are not required to register under any body. But a check by The Straits Times with various organisations in the scene revealed that they have observed an increased interest in social entrepreneurship among young people across the board.

For example, the Young Social Entrepreneurs programme run by the Singapore International Foundation has expanded from a five-day workshop with 25 participants in 2010 to a seven-month-long mentorship programme that saw 110 applicants this year.

The HUB, an incubator for entrepreneurs of sustainable businesses, said its tally of youth members has increased from 60 last October to 123 today.

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