Social enterprises to get more help

Social supermarket Saltsteps founder Desiree Yang with her father, Mr Roland Yeo. Ms Yang's social enterprise collects food and disposable goods that suppliers cannot sell, and sells them to needy families at a discount.
Social supermarket Saltsteps founder Desiree Yang with her father, Mr Roland Yeo. Ms Yang's social enterprise collects food and disposable goods that suppliers cannot sell, and sells them to needy families at a discount.ST FILE PHOTO

Key initiatives include funding for pilot ideas that address social needs

A slew of new initiatives to help aspiring and existing social enterprises were announced yesterday at the inaugural Singapore Social Enterprise Conference.

For the first time, those who have yet to set up a social enterprise but want to pilot ideas that address social needs can apply for up to $20,000 in grants.

This is one type of grant offered under the VentureForGood initiative by the Singapore Centre for Social Enterprise (raiSE), which was set up three months ago.

Previously, only registered social enterprises - businesses with a social mission - could apply for the Government's ComCare Enterprise Fund - now administered by raiSE.

raiSE will also administer all other applications for funding support. Social enterprise start-ups can receive up to $100,000 in seed grants, while those operating for at least two years can get financial help to expand.

Applications close on Aug 31.

Ms Chloe Huang, head of social finance, strategy and research at raiSE, told The Straits Times: "We realise that not everybody who is passionate about doing good would quit their jobs to start a social enterprise. But they had good ideas that they wanted to try out...

"We introduced the early-stage funding scheme to allow people to experiment and test out their ideas which, hopefully, can evolve into a viable social enterprise or be adopted by other 'non-profits' or businesses."

About 350 people attended the conference at Fusionopolis. Among the other initiatives announced at the event were a new accelerator programme that will be launched next month, to help social enterprises improve their business model and expand their social impact.

Four partner organisations will help up to eight raiSE members in this six-month programme.

In addition, raiSE chairman Gautam Banerjee announced that the application deadline for the President's Challenge Social Enterprise Award this year has been extended by two weeks to Aug 14.

He said this was due to an increase in applications - there are 42 so far - more than they have received previously.

Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin, who was the guest of honour at yesterday's event, said: "Developing social entrepreneurship is a bold initiative to progressively shift from relying just on charitable relief to creating systemic solutions."

Ms Desiree Yang, who set up social supermarket Saltsteps last year, welcomed the grant for aspiring social entrepreneurs. Saltsteps collects food and disposable goods that suppliers cannot sell - for reasons such as mislabelling - and sells them to needy families at a discount.

She said: "When we started out, we had to get money from crowdfunding and I used my own savings. The new grant would be beneficial, especially if it is given as seed funding, rather than on a reimbursement basis."

•For more information on the new initiatives, go to www.raise.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 01, 2015, with the headline 'Social enterprises to get more help'. Print Edition | Subscribe