We have all probably seen the term “social entrepreneur” but what does it actually mean? I am sure it is different for each entrepreneur, but I asked the very inspirational Valerie Khoo what it means to her.
In your words, what is a social entrepreneur?
A social entrepreneur is someone who tries to find solutions to social problems through entrepreneurial activities or innovations.
What does it mean to you to be a social entrepreneur?
To be honest, I’ve never considered that question. It’s just something I do. And it’s one of the many hats I wear. I’m not only a social entrepreneur through my business Taylor & Khoo – which is committed to helping disadvantaged people and orphans in poverty in Cambodia, but I’m also a journalist, business person and trainer. The social entrepreneurship work I do is fulfilling – but that’s not why I do it.
I don’t do it because I feel rewarded because, to be honest, the frustrations and blood, sweat and tears, can sometimes outweigh the rewards. I do it because there is a great need and, as it’s in my power to do something to help alleviate that need, it simply makes sense to help. The people we help are profoundly disadvantaged – the plight or orphans and land mine victims can be dire in Cambodia. If there is something I can do to improve their lives – and their opportunities – I want to be able to do that.
What promoted you to become a social entrepreneur?
My friend Kylie Taylor and I went to Cambodia on holiday in June 2002. We were simply tourists visiting the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat. However, we also visited a couple of orphanages and it was at one in Siem Reap (the town near Angkor Wat) that we realised what terrible conditions these kids were living in. We wanted to help in some way. But we wanted to do something that lasted longer than a one-off donation. That’s how the concept of Taylor & Khoo – a fashion and homewares business – was born.
We wanted to create a business model that would continue to generate awareness – and more, importantly an income stream – to help support the orphanage in the years to come. It had to be a sustainable solution.
Now, we have a store in Pitt Street Mall and, through various fund-raising activities – have been able to raise about $130,000 to make significant improvements to the orphanage. We chose fashion and homewares so that we could use the beautiful silks from Cambodia and almost all our work is given to people with disabilities – so that they have a chance to earn an income and build better lives for themselves and their families.
Check out Taylor & Khoo
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