Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The development of this label as a social enterprise (Part One)

Few people know this but I almost gave this up last year. While I loved designing and started this label because I came from the angle of the artist, I was resentful of having to expend energy on marketing.

Besides jewellery designing, I had my other commitments, both social and philanthropic, and I found myself having less and less time to engage in those because of marketing the label. Suddenly, the love of jewellery dissolved. As such, I thought I'd just go back to doing private commission work for some choice clients as opposed to pushing out a bona fide ready-to-wear collection.

Then, by pure serendipity, I happened to meet up with a friend who ran a consultancy firm in Singapore. He runs Sequoia and he spoke a little about the concept of social entrepreneurship. He told me that many people laboured under the misconception that social entrepreneurships are only non-profits where in fact, a significant number operate as for-profit businesses. And seemingly ironically, these firms with social missions were partly judged by how much money they raised. As more money was raised, the social mission would be better addressed. In other words, it was a double bottomeline, with both profit maximisation and addressing a key social cause built into the core business mission.

He told me that my business was effectively a social enerprise, given my work with the hill tribe artisans. I didn't know it then, but the talk left a huge impression on me and I can safely say it was a watershed moment in my life. All of a sudden, the resentment of having to invest so much energy in marketing vanished. There was a perceived personal meaning to it; that this became bigger than just profit-maximisation and I was happy to pursue it.

So thank you Shang, you didn't know it, but you're partly responsible for the existence of Choo Yilin Artisan Jewellery. :)

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