One form of startup that is gaining ground, both in terms of profit and responsibility, is the social enterprise, which is a little different from the more traditionally profit-driven business. Essentially, social enterprises apply a market-driven approach to their business with the goal of solving social problems by completely reinvesting their profits into their chosen field of social work. It’s what you get when a business makes their CSR the main objective of the organisation, rather than a sidebar.
Many of the startups in Malaysia have adopted this business model to help tackle specific social issues in the country, and some are already making a real impact in society. So, we’d like to shine a spotlight on these local social enterprises in an editorial mini-series here on ExpatGo. This time, we take a look at The Batik Boutique as we chat with its founder, Amy Blair.
Merging Business and Philanthropy
Originally from Texas, USA, Amy has been living in Malaysia for 10 years. The Batik Boutique started around 2009 when Amy met a single mother, Ana, who at the time was looking to supplement her income to support her family. Together, they began brainstorming for ideas. In the end, they bought some batik fabric which Ana transformed into unique gifts using her talents as a seamstress. Soon, word spread about Ana’s handiwork and demand grew.
That’s when Amy decided to launch The Batik Boutique to help women like Ana get a fair and sustainable income to provide for themselves and their family. Rather than relying on donations, TBB utilises a sustainable business model by working with batik artisans in Malaysia and focusing on scaling their production at fair wages. The revenue that TBB makes from product sales goes straight back into the business, to sustain the impact they’re making. They also implement eco-friendly means of production whenever possible.
Amy tells us that she actually didn’t start TBB with the intention of making it a social enterprise. She just wanted to help her friend…and help she has! To date, TBB works with seven people in their studio, 15 women in the production centre, and several dozen batik artists. TBB mainly employs women from low-income communities in KL as seamstresses while also working with established batik artisans in Kelantan. They find new beneficiaries through word of mouth and advertising withing the housing area where their sewing centre is located.
They’re also always on the lookout for more batik artists, so if you’d like to work with them or know someone who does, look them up! TBB actually provides free training for women who want to become seamstresses or hone their sewing skills.
The main goal for TBB is to work individually with each beneficiary to establish goals, both personal and financial. Each artisan they work with aims to become more financially stable and independent and when that goal is met, TBB considers themselves successful. It’s a refreshing take on running a business and we hope the success of TBB can encourage more people to explore the social enterprise model.
Crafting Batik Art
TBB sources their batik form established artisans in Malaysia, working with them to come up with custom designs. The batik is then taken to their sewing centre where the team of seamstresses work their magic, whipping up all their products by hand. They make plenty of items from bags to clothes, accessories, and even home decor items like coasters and pillows – which are all available on their online store. They also offer batik workshops for anyone who’s interested in making some batik items themselves, so if you’re feeling crafty, you know where to go.
A social enterprise directly empowers the community, so if you’d like to help The Batik Boutique make a difference in the likes of local artisans and those in need, do check out their products and workshops. Apart from their online store, you can also find their products at their studio in Desa Sri Hartamas.