Beyond Corporate: How 3 Women Navigated Sustainable Entrepreneurship
The idea of ‘sustainability’ climbed up the ranks to quickly become one of the most used buzzwords on the Internet, and the hottest topic in town. But when exactly did ‘sustainability-consciousness’--the engine which propelled the entire sustainability movement-- awaken in the people’s hearts and minds?
You might think that the whole sustainability movement came about only in recent years, when it began to see a rapid increase of interest within organisations and individuals. However, did you know that the sustainability movement began way back in time, in 1892 when John Muir (more colloquially known as ‘the father of national parks’) started the Sierra Club for lovers of the outdoor life? Thankfully, the legacy of John Muir continued. In fact, the sustainability movement transcended time to establish its presence in the hearts and minds of many entrepreneurs and leaders today -- whether in organisations or their personal lives.
The Eco Statement
Having grown up in a small town surrounded with lush green fields of wheat, seasonal vegetables, and farmers with their grazing cattle, Sangeeta Nair (founder of The Eco Statement) was a first-hand witness of the rapid urbanisation taking place right at her doorstep. She recalled:
“...The fields gave way to industry and concrete buildings. Everyone around me called this as development and progress. When I moved out of the small town to big cities (in search of means of livelihood), there were more concrete buildings & more bright light that greeted me. I longed for & still long for those green lush fields & slow life.”
With a deep longing for the green lush fields of the countryside, Sangeeta began to explore the field of sustainable urban living. Her passion fueled her to undertake an education in Sustainability and Sustainable Business Management to deepen her knowledge and skills in her area of passion. A firm believer of ‘actions speak louder than words’, Sangeeta conceived The Eco Statement - a company producing green gifts, stationery, homeware, and partyware from recycled and biodegradable raw materials.
As someone who truly walks the talk, Sangeeta’s wish for the progress of environmental sustainability is that ‘sustainable design products’ become as viral as the next luxury handbag, iPhone or statement item. Sangeeta continues,
“While I realise that going back to the days of lush green fields may not be a possibility, it’s nevertheless possible to bring a slice of that green life to the urban cities. We can alter our behaviors to reduce our footprint on the environment, one item as a time, by making ‘environmentally sustainable products’ or ‘circular design products’ that can potentially become the next trending arm candy.”
“You’ll never know health is wealth until you are sick.”
These grim words by Jasmine Chiam (founder of Wellness Within) goes far back to the conditions surrounding the very day of her birth. Born with a weak immune system and allergies that led to dermatitis (or more commonly known as eczema), Jasmine’s steroid addiction and eventual withdrawal were what led her to look beyond labels -- and how she can lead a more sustainable and healthier way of living.
Jasmine used steroid creams and chemical-based products for years to treat her eczema, but only saw recurring flares with no significant improvement to her health. The chemical names on these product labels were also so foreign that it led her to wonder what exactly she had been feeding her body, all those years of her life prior to the conception of Wellness Within.
She is a firm believer that natural and clean ingredients are able to heal her ailments from within:
“Studies have shown that some chemicals remain and accumulate in the body as the body is unable to remove it. It takes as quick as 30 seconds for your skincare to be absorbed into your bloodstream.”
With limited ‘clean’ products available (at least back in the day!) and a difficulty in finding them at affordable prices, Jasmine decided to bridge the gap by starting Wellness Within:
“Wellness Within was created to provide information and alternatives to make it easier for the community to switch to a healthier lifestyle."
Ma Te Sai
An invitation to speak at a British Council craft conference led Emi Weir to Yangon in 2016, where she met a designer, Mr Singhi Kartono from Indonesia. A conversation with Singhi enabled Emi to see how she can support villages to be more connected through tourism and product sales. The conversation also led Emi to realise how important it was to move production from the towns out to the villages.
Equipped with knowledge in the travel and tourism field for many years, Emi saw that her sales and marketing skills could serve to help producers from remote areas to access new markets, and elevate their craft by developing products suitable for the international market.
“As Ma Te Sai grew, our producers, their income, and their skills grew with us.
At the same time, my knowledge and ability to design for the market grew too,
and handmade items became a major part of my life.”
Having lived in various different countries all her life, Emi’s exposure to the different cultures helped develop her eye for design, and love for the arts from a tender young age. Later in her life, Emi did a scholarship year in China after university, and also had the opportunity to manage a retail travel business -- which helped hone her business skills and develop her resilience. All in all, her life experiences enabled her to develop this business we dearly know as Ma Te Sai today. Emi reaffirms:
“We’re all about ‘from the village, for the village’ - that’s our philosophy at Ma Te Sai.”
Despite differing in starting points, the paths of all 3 founders converge at a common point: a passion for sustainability, whether as entrepreneurs or consumers.
What is your understanding of this huge word ‘sustainability’? How do you make conscious choices as a consumer?
You’re invited to join us for the 3-day digital launch of our ecommerce platform The Green TIngkat, happening 27 - 29 Aug.
Sangeeta, Jasmine, Emi, and many of our other partner brands will be sharing more about their entrepreneurial journeys in our “Caught Green Handed” segment! Catch them on IG Live on 28 Aug, 4-6.30pm, and 29 Aug, 2-6pm.
Find out more or sign up here: https://bit.ly/344mNn6