Mentors to give social enterprises a helping hand

Mentors to give social enterprises a helping hand
Dr Tan trying out a jacket, which simulates hugs that help keep children with autism calm, from social enterprise T.Ware at the Social Collab conference. With him are (from left) Social Enterprise Association executive director Alfie Othman, T.Ware special needs educator Ivy Chew, and the association's co-chair Seah Kian Peng.

When social entrepreneur James Teh's company had a workforce of five, including everybody in meetings was a simple matter.

But as T.Ware grows, Dr Teh is having to work out how to keep his staff informed with not every one attending every meeting. And at the same time, he may need to ensure that sensitive information stays within the company.

"These are small details but you have to do them effectively and efficiently to minimise costs," said the 32-year-old chief executive, whose two-year-old company makes high-tech jackets which simulate hugs, helping to keep children with autism calm.

With the aim of helping Dr Teh and other entrepreneurs like him improve their businesses, the Ministry of Social and Family Development is piloting a Social Enterprise Mentoring Programme in December.

President Tony Tan Keng Yam announced the initiative on Monday at the Social Enterprise Association's annual conference, Social Collab, at the Marina Bay Financial Centre.

Dr Tan told the 300 representatives from social enterprises, voluntary welfare organisations and corporations attending the event that the mentoring programme "aims to help social enterprises scale up their operations and to achieve greater social impact".

The first five social enterprises who will take part in the pilot programme, in which they will get help on business practices ranging from strategic planning to marketing, are being finalised.

One of the five, however, will be Bliss Restaurant and Catering, which provides jobs for those with disabilities and people from marginalised groups.

The group's founder Christine Low, who is waiting to find out who the mentors will be, said: "I hope to get help on branding to tighten the outfit, because currently all the outlets have different looks. It's hard to afford to pay someone to come in and do branding for us."

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