Singaporeans love e-shopping, and our love affair with online retail has grown even more as Covid forced us indoors.
This demand has inspired many to start their own online businesses. For example, over the past year, there have been more home-based food stores and craft stores selling items like patterned masks.
But not everyone is going online to take advantage of this new business niche. Some have used this opportunity to sell items to raise funds for good causes.
Three ground-up organisations, part of the Shop For Good SG Facebook group, have taken to crafting to raise funds for charity.
Social Lab SG
Social Lab SG is the brainchild of Madgeline Leimena, a 33-year-old stay-at-home mother of Timothy, 2 and Nicholas, 5.
Madgeline, who founded the social enterprise with her savings in early 2020, tells The Pride that it came out of a decision to stop ignoring problems that she can help to fix.
“I didn’t want to wait for someone else to come along and fix things,” she says.
That is why she also set up the Shop For Good SG Facebook group.
Social Lab SG consists of two programmes – the Young Philantropreneurs and the Warriors of Life.
Young Philanthropreneurs was created to provide easy and fun ways to increase social awareness for children as young as six years old (and their parents!).
Most of the time, says Madgeline, children only donate old toys or use their pocket money to give to charity. However, she wanted them to be more involved in the process of volunteering.
Says Madgeline: “I want to make it easy and fun. Not only that, I want them to think that ‘I can do something to help people even though I’m just a child.’”
She does call-outs and posts on parent groups on Facebook and creates DIY craft kits for kids to make products such as tassels, keychains and lanterns. These items are sold for $10 to $12 on her Facebook page, of which 75% of the proceeds go to charity.
For her latest project, Madgeline recruited 50 children to make paper clip bookmarks and raised almost $1,000 for Club Rainbow.
Not only does she want to teach children to be charitable, she also wants to make them more environmentally conscious. That’s why her craft kits are made mostly from upcycled or donated materials, which her husband helps collect and deliver.
“The first (Youth Philanthropreneur project) that we did, we made keychains from donated saris,” explains Madgeline.
Madgeline wants her young volunteers to “think about other children that are in need and also be more mindful and more grateful about what they have.”
She hopes that these activities will get the children asking more questions and finding more ways to help others in the community.
Social Lab SG’s Warriors of Life programme follows a similar pattern, but is targeted at adult entrepreneurs.
“It’s more about supporting them through their entrepreneurship journey because at the end of it, I want them to be independent,” Madgeline tells The Pride.
She started off with five recruits, providing them with resources and equipping them with skills to start their businesses. She also supports them by sourcing and purchasing materials, particularly during the initial stages of their start-ups.
She tells The Pride: “I wanted to start (the) Young Philanthropreneurs and Warriors of Life programmes because I want everybody to think that you can do anything you want in life.”
Madgeline hopes to start more children’s workshops, including in writing and graphic design, as well as generate more inspiring and relatable content on her website.
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Out of Social Lab SG’s Warriors of Life programme comes Hseun Handmade, an online gift shop specialising in handmade products
It started during Covid, says founder Rosalind Ang, 45.
The circuit breaker inspired ground-up movements of people stuck at home with nothing to do. Some started sewing masks and while volunteering to help, Rosalind met other stay-at-home mums who, like her, were struggling to re-enter the workforce.
“Hseun (Handmade) came about to support these women,” Rosalind tells The Pride. She aims to provide a way for other stay-at-home mums to earn an income during tough times.
It was only after joining Social Lab SG’s Warriors of Life programme that Rosalind really got her brand off the ground.
She sells printed items such as key fobs, clutches and pouches. She also plans to come up with a batik-inspired collection and another for Mother’s Day.
She has a small roster of SAHMs who help create her items and they are paid for each piece that they help craft. Although the business is still small, says Rosalind, she wants to engage more women to help out and reach a more diverse group of customers.
Set up by a group of six students from Raffles Girls’ School (Secondary), Project Beansprouts got its unusual name from an unlikely source.
It came about after a visit to the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) in 2019, says Celine Lee, 18.
She tells The Pride: “We wanted to partner with NKF and help them to raise funds for the kidney patients.”
At first, the girls – Celine and her friends Tan Yi Hui, Lucinda Li, Tan Jin Wyee, Raeanne Ong and Hannah Xue – called themselves Project Beans, as in “kidney bean”, to raise funds by selling ice cream during recess at school.
“We used the money to take the patients on an outing (to) the Singapore Bicentennial”, explains Lee. The group continued their physical fundraising efforts up till their graduation, passing on their mission to their juniors, who inherited the name.
NKF cancelled its physical volunteering activities, such as befriending sessions, last year due to Covid but this year, it has set up a virtual carnival “Kidney We Care: Let’s Revolutionise!” (KWCLR), which ends tomorrow (Mar 31).
The girls, now in Raffles Institution, decided to participate and rebranded themselves as Project Beansprouts to sell cross-stitch kits to raise money.
Lucinda says that they wanted to “(find) an activity that was family-friendly and that everyone could enjoy”, so they designed three cross-stitch patterns, sourced from materials bought online.
The kits, featuring koi fish, a monarch butterfly and a fox (all designed by Lucinda) cost $10 each.
Project Beansprouts isn’t the only group contributing to the NKF online carnival – there are groups selling other products, as well as virtual games and workshops to check out.
The girls wants to help NKF to raise awareness and clear misconceptions about kidney disease. For example, many people believe that kidney disease only affects older people when in reality, it affects people of all ages.
Social Lab SG, Hsuen Handmade and Project Beansprouts are just a few examples of everyday Singaporeans starting their own ground-up movements to support a good cause. You too, can support them by following them and sharing their posts.
“Even if you don’t want to buy (our products), or even if you’re not so interested, you can share it and it may reach someone who wants to buy something,” says Madgeline.
Adds Rosalind: “That’s how you can help to make dreams happen.”