Welcome back to TopNotch again, my dear friend. In conjunction with the Patriotic Month, we had shared stories about Malaysia and Malaysians in the past 6 consecutive weeks. This week, let us wrap up the Patriotic Month by observing some of the Community-friendly Enterprises in Malaysia.

What is called a Community-friendly Enterprise?

The main purpose of every business is to earn money. The more you earn, the better you live. A community-friendly enterprise is a business which not only cares about its own profit, but also the well-being of the whole community including their suppliers, clients and the environments.

I always admire those who take initiatives to make good impacts to the society. I believe it is important for us to bring up the people around us when we’re doing well. After all, equality is the key to the economic growth and the harmony of society.

Let’s see how these enterprises give good vibes to the people around the nation.

Catama Borneo

Catama Borneo is a social enterprise based in Sarawak that empowers rural artisans to craft contemporary design pieces for sale to create a sustainable livelihood. The traditional plaiting techniques can produce very beautiful and attractive pieces. However, the artisans in rural areas have very limited access to the market – their majority buyers are tourists. Thus, they slowly giving up their crafting skills. This lead to the fading of the indigenous traditional crafts in Sarawak communities.

Catama Borneo buys the plaited rattan products like baskets, hampers, handbags, etc. from the artisans and then sell them online or to third parties around the world. They are committed to Fair Trade principles – craft makers are paid a fair price upfront for each piece they produce. Besides, Catama Borneo conducts training to upgrade artisans’ skills in craft production, as well as in quality control, business management and entrepreneurial skills. 

They are providing sustainable economies to the rural communities in Sarawak and preserving the traditional crafting techniques. At the same time, Catama Borneo also exposes the beauty of traditional plaiting crafts in Sarawak to worldwide.

Tanoti

Tanoti is also an enterprise which engaged with Sarawakian artisans to produce unique crafts. Their artisans’ expertise is in songket weaving. Songket is a type of fabric which is handwoven from silk or cotton and intricately patterned with gold or silver thread. The crafting of beautiful songket requires hours of intense labour and careful attention. Sadly, the art of crafting songket is in danger of losing its charm because the younger generation is opting for jobs with a steadier income.

Tanoti employs weavers and provides them good salary packages come with proper benefits and mentorship program. Similar as Catama Borneo, Tanoti also wishes to offer the Sarawakian artisans a better career path so that they can provide their children better education.

The weavers and designers from Tanoti have successfully created a lot of high-quality apparels from their hand-woven songket fabrics. During 8th of July, Tanoti was invited to the Theatre of Clothes and had presented a beautiful series of Luxe Handwoven. Dato Kee Hua Chee has documented the entire lineup of Tanoti’s pieces during the event, you can follow the link below to admire the beautiful pieces.

FOLO Organic Farm

Every day, 25,000 to 30,000 tons of waste is generated in Malaysia. Over 90% of it is not recycled. Of that, 45-60% is organic waste. FOLO Organic Farm which based in Johor Bahru takes the initiative to cut down the organic waste in the region and transforming the kitchen waste into the best compost.

Each day, FOLO collects food waste from Renaissance Hotel Johor Bahru, a fishmonger, a restaurant, an onion and garlic wholesaler, and a vegetable wholesaler. The food waste is then being transformed to produce microbes-rich compost that can effectively heal the land, grow healthy food and drive chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides out of Malaysia.

To avoid the exploitation by middlemen, FOLO doesn’t sell their veggies in supermarkets. Instead, they provide subscription plans for their members. FOLO’s members pay in advance for a 24-week or 12-week share, then they pick up their veggies from the farm every Saturday. Each week the farm will provide a different combination of veggies based on their harvests.

Moreover, FOLO conducts their Saturday workshops regularly to educate public about the knowledge and skills of organic farming. They hope to inspire more people and organizations to join them and form more organic farms because they believe the consumption free-pollution organic veggies can nourish and heal everyone.

It is not easy to combine the idea of bringing up communities into a profitable business. You may not be able to achieve a quick success if you are trying to build a social enterprise. But if you take one step at a time to make things right, you are not only building a successful business, you are transforming the region into a better place for living!

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