Wrapped up in helping underdogs

Ms Shelley Siu, managing director of The Singapore Shawl, showing her latest eco-friendly design, woven from strands of bamboo.

SINGAPORE - Social entrepreneur Shelley Siu has shunned her family's advice by refusing to wind up her decade-old business, The Singapore Shawl.

The 69-year-old designs scarves and shawls, which are sewn by her team of seven seamstresses, whom she describes as "underdogs".

Some are cancer survivors, others are just women who have fallen on hard times.

But all are paid "market rate" salaries.

"We have become like her friends now," said employee Hah Ah Moi, 65.

"She even invites us over for Chinese New Year."

Ms Siu, a married mother of two, told The Straits Times: "I grew up poor, so I can relate to them."

Her designs have even become popular among foreign dignitaries, including the wives of politicians such as Chinese President Xi Jinping and former Japanese prime minister Yasuo Fukuda.

While Ms Siu's team has shrunk due to the ongoing labour crunch, she intends to adopt a new micro-franchising business model.

She will train needy women and find locations for them to sell her products.

The grandmother of three said: "I know my retirement is overdue, but this work is my vision and passion, so I will carry on with it."

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