Women entrepreneurs lead economic sustainability

Caroline Fong

Caroline Fong, founder and owner of CoffeeZone Malaysia, and Kim Lim, one third of the brain behind the Picha Project, were the two invited speakers in the latest On the Edge Talks held at Monash University Malaysia. The two female entrepreneurs shared about their ups, downs, and lessons learned in business.

Hosted by the School of Business’ Entrepreneurship and Innovation Hub (eiHub), the two-hour talk was aptly titled ‘Women Entrepreneurs: Agents of Change’.

Operationally, the two businesses were as different as night and day - one sells premium coffee at affordable prices in university campuses, while the other helps monetise the cooking talents and catering capabilities of marginalised groups.

However, they share a common desire to cultivate social inclusivity, across the spectrum of the Malaysian economy, thus, promoting economic sustainability. This is evidenced by the differently-abled staff members employed by CoffeeZone, and in the 15 marginalised families who have officially teamed up with the Picha Project.

For Tawau native Fong, she feels most fulfilled when she is able to provide work opportunities to students from lower-income families, as well as those who are differently abled. “It’s actually very hard for the differently abled to get jobs. Providing them with gainful employment gives them a chance to earn their own living and be in control of their lives,” she shared.Kim Lim

“There was definitely challenges and setbacks when we first started the initiative. However, we managed to work together, overcome them, and eventually we found our rhythm,” she continued.

In the next session, Lim shared very candidly about starting the Picha Project. “None of us had any experience in business,” the young businesswoman said with a laugh, before adding that rejection from the corporations and venture capitalists they had approached were aplenty.

Essentially a food delivery and catering service enterprise, the Picha Project thrives with a twist: helping better the lives and living conditions of the marginalised groups in Malaysia. Working with 15 cooking families, the organisation has, to date, delivered approximately 80,000 meals and given RM800,000 back to the community.

To fellow social entrepreneurs wishing to make a difference in the world, Lim has this to say: “You should never give up on your projects. Never let anyone tell you that you cannot do something. People tell you the things that you [supposedly] cannot do, because they cannot do it.”