Giving social entrepreneurs a reason to prosper

October 22, 2012 | 15:53
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On the occasion of 2nd Annual Social Entrepreneur Affair in Hanoi during October 25-26,  International Women’s Federation of Commerce and Industry (IWFCI) Singapore chairwoman Ann Phua talks with VIR about the group’s  support for Vietnam’s social entrepreneurs.

giving social entrepreneurs a reason to prosperCould you tell us about the main activities of IWFCI Singapore?

IWFCI Singapore, established five years ago, is to provide a platform for business growth. Since its incorporation, we have held several international business conferences and workshops to improve business skills and business-matching locally and overseas.

We also had several inter-trade missions between Vietnam and Singapore. Through our relationship with CWD, my social business, Hemispheres Foundation, has expanded to Vietnam. We now provide community service learning experiences for students and adults to the social welfare centres in Hanoi, Ben Tre and Chau Doc. We have also extended Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives on behalf of our partner, Falcon Incorporation. Singapore public relation company, NBS Consulting has entered into a business partnership with Vietnamese public relation company, Jolen Consulting.

Our signature business incubation programme has helped aspiring and young entrepreneurs to reflect on their dream of being an entrepreneur.

Recognising that women are also caregivers and committed to their families, we have recently launched IWFCI-Simply Her Extraordinary Women Awards. The awards recognise these extraordinary women who have gone the extra mile of not just having started their business but are also able to have a work-life balance and gone out to help society.

We partnered the shopping mall Orchard Central in providing a marketplace opportunity for women entrepreneurs to merchandise their business.

What are your assessments on the competitive capacity of businesses led by women and the role of women in community activities?

Women entrepreneurs’ main challenge in developing their business would be having to take on additional tasks caring for their family. However, since most women are by nature and instinct nurturers and caregivers, they seem to manage an effective work-life balance. With the help of more support groups and modern communication technology, women entrepreneurs of this generation have excelled much better then the previous generation. Because of their instinctive ability to nurture and care, they are well fitted in the role of social business, as one of the key components of social business is to be involved and help the communities. Women are gifted dealing in that area.

CSR is currently receiving a lot of attention from companies. It not only expresses prosperity but also sustainable development. What is your opinion about business morality and taking interest in communities, environment, customers, staff and shareholders?

Organisations have introduced CSR for a very long time. In most cases, a CSR sector in an organisation that depends very much on the CEO of the organisation. The initiator who introduces CSR in an organisation would define its organisation’s core value and mission statement.

Organisations that take a personal interest in the welfare of its staff, communities and the environment are not totally concerned with its bottom line or image. CSR does not have to be about giving money to benefit the communities. Organisations have recognised that CSR activities in an organisation can help develop employee’s management and personal skills that in turn can help the productivity of the organisations.

What has IWFCI Singapore done in Vietnam to encourage more enterprises to join social activities?

Having our 2nd Annual Social Entrepreneur Affair in Hanoi was a decision made after we held a Social Business Forum in Hanoi last year. During the Social Business Forum, we recognised the interest of social business and the lack of awareness. CWD is a good platform for encouraging women entrepreneurs to reassess their business strategy and model.

This 2nd Annual International Entrepreneur Affair will benefit women entrepreneurs tremendously as it not only provides the awareness of social business, but also can learn from the highly experienced social entrepreneurs with discussions on international marketing and raising funds for the business success. Also at the end of the conference we have organised a social business boot camp at Halong Bay onboard an overnight cruiser. The objective of the two-day boot camp is for candidates to construct a solid social business model to kick-start their social business.

IWFCI will continue to support Vietnam social entrepreneurs with international events like this International Social Entrepreneur Affairs as it is important for countries to get together, network and to share best practices and to learn from each other. Social entrepreneurs must learn from non-social entrepreneurs, as social business is also a business.

We are also launching IWFCI Vietnam Xtraordinary women awards at the International Social Entrepreneur Affair event. The awards will encourage and inspire more Vietnamese women entrepreneurs to come forward to help the community and maintain a work-life balance. This award will also allow women entrepreneur to review their business strategy and perhaps modify their business into social business to help the community.

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