Sunday, 25 November 2012

Firm does alterations and also helps women in need

Company among those profiled in book for being viable businesses with heart
By Leslie Kay Lim, The Straits Times, 23 Nov 2012

IN THREE years, alteration company A-Changin has gone from having fewer than five employees to more than 30 now and has expanded to two outlets and a sewing workshop.

Revenue has risen threefold and partnerships with high-end boutiques and franchising opportunities are being explored.

But co-founder Josephine Ng, 43, is also proud of its non-financial achievements. Its mission, she said, is to provide training and employment for women in need.

She said: "We want to be a world-class social enterprise with inclusive, flexible employment."

A-Changin is among 10 social enterprises highlighted by the Ministry of Social and Family Development's first social-enterprise casebook.

Speaking at its launch on Wednesday, Minister of State for Social and Family Development Halimah Yacob said the ministry wants to spread awareness of the financial sustainability, in addition to the community impact, of social enterprises.

She said: "We wanted to profile viable business opportunities with heart."

At A-Changin, about half the 34 women hired are aged 50 and above, single mothers, disabled or formerly unemployed. All are trained in alteration techniques, then hired as seamstresses or to provide customer service.

Madam Doris Mok, 60, joined as a seamstress two years ago.

A wheelchair-user, she had been looking for work after being retrenched from assembly-line work in 2008.

"I like that my colleagues teach me things on the job," she said of the flexi-work environment.

Breakthrough Cafe, another social enterprise featured in the casebook, noted that its outlet at People's Park Centre - open since 2007 - is well-patronised.

It hires former drug addicts who have gone through Breakthrough Missions' rehabilitation programme. The Christian halfway home was set up in 1983 by former addicts.

Like A-Changin, revenue is not the cafe's top priority.

"Our focus is to train these people," said executive director Pastor Simon Neo.

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