Social enterprises to get professional help

SINGAPORE - Winners of this year's President's Challenge Social Enterprise Award will receive advice and guidance from industry leaders - on top of the cash prizes of up to $15,000. They will get to work with corporate organisations to develop their capabilities in areas such as business, marketing and law.

The initiative was announced by President Tony Tan Keng Yam on Saturday, at the launch of the second run of the award at the inaugural Social Enterprise Carnival @ DBS Marina Regatta.

Ms Elim Chew, a member of the award committee, said such business advice was important for social enterprises. "A lot of them started with a good heart, but they may not know... how to grow their businesses."

The corporate partners can help to mentor them, give them hands-on experience and develop a network of contacts, she added.

So far, five organisations have joined the initiative. They are: management consultancy Bain & Company, the Law Society's Pro Bono Services Office, Keppel Group, Philosophy Brand Consultants and DBS Bank.

Singapore country head for DBS Sim S. Lim said the bank was "delighted to be a partner to create more awareness on the positive change that social enterprises bring about and the difference they make to society".

The award committee will also try to conduct on-site visits with more applicants this year. Ms Chew said those who were visited last year found it helpful as the judges also gave them business tips.

The carnival, which continues today and next weekend, features more than 20 social enterprises.

One of them, Circus in Motion, intends to apply for this year's award. The company teaches circus and life skills such as perseverance to at-risk youth and special needs students.

Founder Jay Che said he thinks the business advice for social enterprises will help. "I'm trained in social work, and my team and I are trained in circus skills. So, consultancy about business models and marketing will help because we do not have as much knowledge in these aspects."

Last year, 37 social enterprises applied, of which four won the award. President Tan said he hoped to see even more step forward this time around.

To apply, go to Applications close on July 31.

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