DBS Foundation helps HK social enterprises expand business and contribute to society
Social enterprises aim to make a positive difference for the community and world around them. Although they have a good vision, sometimes that's not enough, and they need financial resources to continue their growth. To assist in their efforts, DBS Foundation’s flagship Social Enterprise Grant Programme has been offering necessary resources to social enterprises throughout Asian countries. There are some beneficiaries in Hong Kong, and Marketing recently spoke with two of them.
Founded in 2016, GreenPrice is a social enterprise selling retail surplus and short-dated stock. It also mitigates food waste by reselling food items that are still good but due for clearance or near expiry dates in its retail chain of stores.
One of the awardees of the DBS Foundation Social Enterprise Grant Programme, GreenPrice used the grant to support the automation and digitalisation of its supply chain and expansion of its retail stores, including the latest addition in Quarry Bay.
“There are lots of customers around living abroad previously and they are open to short-dated items. That’s why we open a shop here,” said Terence Hon, retail manager of GreenPrice.
Currently, 70% of products available across all five stores in the city are food. Before putting the food on the shelves, GreenPrice conducts internal tasting by trying the potential products and identical goods available at other stores in the market.
Running a social enterprise is never easy and GreenPrice is no exception. Five years ago the founders of GreenPrice were still university students and they could hardly spare time to run the business. It was also difficult for them to source funding. Fortunately, it gained money from organisations such as The Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Fund before DBS's grant.
Currently, DBS Hong Kong also helps GreenPrice liaise with foreign suppliers particularly from Singapore, as well as other businesses when looking for further opportunities or collaborations.
The public still tends to doubt surplus and short-dated stock, with some questioning quality and origin of the products while others do not even know how to buy them. GreenPrice faced an additional challenge as suppliers were not interested in offering them their products either. However, since gaining exposure in the media and market, GreenPrice has been gradually recognised by the public and it has become easier for them to source items.
Looking forward, Hon said GreenPrice had no idea about how far the business could go. “But we are hoping to bring the idea of ‘best before’ items beyond Hong Kong," he adds.
Meanwhile, in the city, it is planning to open stores in residential areas, targeting Hongkongers with overseas exposure and white-collar employees too.
Apart from GreenPrice, DBS Foundation has also been supporting HelperChoice, an online platform connecting domestic workers and employers.
The platform is aimed at helping migrant domestic workers who are often vulnerable to exploitation by connecting domestic workers to employers through technology, eradicating the culture of placement fees and ensuring safe and fair working conditions.
Founded in 2012, HelperChoice has been facilitating 50,000 recruitments with more than HK$549 million of illegal placement fees saved.
To help domestic workers, they do not have to pay any money to use the service, while potential employers pay for subscriptions. In 2020, the entire world was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and HelperChoice’s contribution to society was even more significant.
“A lot of employers in Hong Kong decided to leave the city and had financial difficulties, so their domestic workers were asked to leave. However, the domestic workers only have two weeks to find a new employer due to government regulations, and many of them went to our platform for a new job,” said Mahée Leclerc, head of business development at HelperChoice.
The organisation adopts different approaches to engage domestic workers and employers. For example, HelperChoice has been spending efforts on social media as it is domestic workers’ main source of information. It relies on word-of-mouth among the workers as well.
Apart from helping domestic workers find a new employer, HelperChoice also offers a wide variety of services, including handling visa applications and offering necessary assistance if they fall out with the employers. The organisation is also planning to help domestic workers open bank accounts in the future.
As for employers, HelperChoice has been creating content and handling relationship management for them.
With the DBS Foundation Grant, HelperChoice will be able to expand to Singapore. “Originally, we are answering the existing issues in the city. While we are helping people find a job, we will continue to expand to Singapore to help more people there,” commented Leclerc.