Empowering Differently-abled Teens and B40 Single Mothers
SevenTeaOne Sdn. Bhd. is a social enterprise that is accredited by the Ministry of Entrepreneurial Development and Cooperatives. It provides training opportunities and also employment space for teenagers with autism and down syndrome, as well as single mothers from the B40 community.
“We provide opportunities to train these people to process the four main products of our company - local herbal tea, gluten-free and vegan-friendly cookies, natural handmade soap, and premium dried fruits,” said Lai Chong Haur, the owner of SevenTeaOne Sdn. Bhd.
How It Started
After 20 years in the corporate world, Lai wanted to do something different. He wanted to help people, enrich their lives and help them to grow. That led him to start SevenTeaOne with his fellow co-founder. He hoped the training and support provided would be able to assist the beneficiaries in coping with the challenges of life. Lai took over the social enterprise from his co-founder in 2018.
“All they need is a chance. SevenTeaOne trains and employs differently-abled teenagers and people from the marginalised communities to earn an income in a non-discriminative work environment,” said Lai.
“For the past 4 years, the journey was not that smooth because there were many challenges along the way, in terms of capacity building, finance, manpower, daily operations of the centre and our training programme for the special teens. However, we managed to sail through and today we have 21 beneficiaries,” he explained.
The covid-19 pandemic and the ongoing movement control order (MCO) and various SOPs implemented had affected the operations and sales revenue of the centre. In terms of training, the teens now come to the centre on a rotation basis based on work schedule.
Besides the four main products, SevenTeaOne launched a new offering of cooked meals during the pandemic and MCO, as there was a demand for it.
Growing the Social Enterprise
“Since we focus on providing training and employment income for differently-abled teens from the B40 community, we can increase their rate of employability and improve the socioeconomic level of their families. Now, the special teens are no longer a burden for the family but helping to generate income for the family in their own special way,” said Lai.
“In 2019, we managed to get job placements for two of our teens and they are earning about RM1,600 per month now. Meanwhile, the teens working at our centre get paid RM5-10 per hour,” he added.
In March 2021, SevenTeaOne set up a new centre, which was near its existing centre in Setia Alam. The new centre aimed to provide more training programmes for more differently-abled teens, such as flower arrangement skills, office administration skills, basic computer skills, and handicraft making skills.
“Our biggest recognition received was The Star Golden Hearts Award 2020 and Gamuda Inspiration Award 2020,” said Lai.
In addition, SevenTeaOne is a part of the Pemangkin Usahawan Sosial Hebat (PUSH) programme, and supported by the Economic Planning Unit (EPU), the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI) and the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC). PUSH is a scale-up programme with an ambition to grow social enterprises and increase their social impact through a personalised capacity building and skills development training.
“PUSH helped us in various ways. Firstly, it has instilled in us valuable knowledge on how to run a sustainable social enterprise. Secondly, PUSH provided networking opportunities through various programmes by MaGIC, such as Buy For Impact, the Dialogues series and e-perolehan. We managed to expand our network to include larger corporations and government agencies for possible collaborations in the future. Thirdly, PUSH provided timely monetary grants which helped us to sustain through this difficult period. Lastly, the recognition of MaGIC has helped to enhance public confidence and awareness about our impact mission and products,” explained Lai.
How You Can Help
“SevenTeaOne has become a place where our beneficiaries find hope, love, acceptance and support. They joined us as strangers, but today, they are bonded together like a family,” said Lai.
There are various ways the public can support SevenTeaOne. First of all, you are invited to purchase its products, such as herbal infusion tea leaves, dried fruits, handmade soap, cookies and cooked meals.
SevenTeaOne also welcomes volunteers at the centre, but this has been halted for the time being due to the pandemic and strict SOPs. You can also help by promoting its brand and mission to grow public awareness. Suitably qualified experts may also render technical assistance or knowledge in guiding SevenTeaOne to grow.
Lastly, private companies are encouraged to collaborate with SevenTeaOne in terms of product procurement and provision of job placements for the teens.
For more information, you can check out their website and follow them on social media for the latest updates: