SIRG in Singapore – 3 major questions for Social Entrepreneurs

Interview Summary: To our surprise, many social entrepreneurs never thought they would become a social entrepreneur one day. However, one thing they have in common is the passion to go and make a difference. As business owners, social entrepreneurs face challenges every day, from lack of financial resources to doubts of their intentions from outside parties. Some ended up failing because of these challenges. Some conquered difficulties one by one and achieved successes. Below are some of their answers to our questions. – Note: Responses are not in the exact words used by the entrepreneurs.

1. What prompted you go to get into this area?

“I started with a small consulting company and was very lucky to be staffed to consult many large enterprises. By doing that, I met with many business leaders. I started to shift my focus to social enterprise because I saw opportunities in this field.” – James Fierro, Chairman and CEO Recipco Holdings Ltd.

“I had my frozen food business in Australia. One day, I was holding my daughter in my arms. Suddenly I thought, ‘what would happen to my child if I leave the world?’ This prompted me to give back to the children who lost their parents. At the start of my business, I was too busy and found myself not having enough time to give back to the community. One day I attended an entrepreneurship conference and introduced the audience my business. A voice at the back of the room shouted out, ‘Wow, that’s buy one, get one.’ That was when the Buy 1 Give 1 idea comes alive.” – Masami Sato, Founder, B1G1

“It happened during the Japanese earthquake. I rushed to the stairs only to discover the
exit door in front of me was locked. There I was, standing in a staircase with the building
shaking. I started to fear, ‘what if I die today? I would have left nothing to this world! ’ I
decided to start the Be-movement after this incident, hoping to make a difference for people and organizations who care about the social good.” – Founder, Be-movement

2. What was the biggest challenge in getting your enterprise started?

“There are many challenges we face at the start of our business. One of them is to gain support from governments and philanthropists. We though as long as we made the product free, they will be interesting in helping us and customers will sign up, but that’s not always true. Government officials and philanthropists sometimes doubt your intentions, and customer won’t necessarily use products or services just because they are free.” – Shane Hill, Founder and CEO, Skoolbo

“One of the challenges we faced is people were too busy doing multi-tasking when we were small. As a result, I decided to give people more focused roles based on their knowledge and passion. It takes time to get to know my people, but it is a worthy investment.” Veronica Gamez, Executive Director, Aidha

3. Failure is an integral part of the innovation process – agree or disagree?

“I absolutely agree. For example, I once trusted a person with my business. It turned out to be a disaster. I ended up having to spend a lot of effort to put out the fire.” – James Fierro, Chairman and CEO Recipco Holdings Ltd.

“Yes, failure, same as success, is a process. You fail and succeed every day in various tasks. If you view failure as a process, you won’t be as scared as some other people who stop pursuing their dreams after they’ve failed once.” – Masami Sato, Founder, B1G1

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