Five Social Enterprises in Sabah that you need to know

By Natasha Sim, Parents Avenue’s Writer

In recent days, some companies have taken it upon themselves to solve society’s most pressing issues via their businesses. Social Enterprises (SEs) aims to balance profit and social work to best impact the community they live in. 


Here, Parents Avenue features five homegrown SEs that would leave you feeling good when you reach into your pockets. And no guilty conscience afterwards! So worth it. 

#1 Grow The Goose (GTG)


Grow The Goose is focused on providing financial literacy programs to children, youths and some grown-ups too in an effort to strengthen financial empowerment within the community. 


According to GTG Founder & CEO Nina Othman, she was inspired by her own children to start the company. “They wanted roller shoes and asked for money. I told them they needed to find their own money. They were 4- and 6-years-old then,” said Nina. 


“After that, my kids started selling healthy sausages and within two weeks made enough money for each of them to buy a pair of roller shoes.” 


It is her view that all children are capable of setting goals, saving and earning their own money. No age is too young to start learning financial literacy. 


As of now, banks and corporations engage GTG to run the programs that teach money management for children of the client’s employees. The workshops are also delivered to rural communities as part of community outreach programs. 


In the long-term, GTG hopes that financial empowerment and stronger financial wisdom may contribute to lowering societal income inequalities.

#2 UPcycled Shack


Tressie Yap is the brainchild behind UPcycled Shack, a business that believes in turning trash into treasure.


She drew from her background as an architect and artist to make art and wearable goods out of normally discarded household items. 


“I am very observant about materials that I am in touch with in my career and daily life, including the discarded. I managed to combine my hobby craft skills to explore the beautiful side of some trash items,” she said. 


She works with communities in Kg Nahaba, Kota Belud, Kg Matan, Ranau and Sabah Society for the Deaf, amongst others, to produce beautiful handicraft and fashion accessories. 


Materials used to make the items include discarded plastic wrappers, one-time use coffee capsules, electrical wires and more. 


“My only objective is to devise any plan that is within my means to make Sabah a little bit cleaner and greener,” said Tressie. 


“With my current achievement, I think that I am creating awareness to rethink waste management in some communities, schools, corporations and governmental departments,” she continued. 


 All of what she does is in hope that the public will be able to accept “trash businesses.” For example, houses constructed of marine debris, bricks made of plastic trash, clothes made of plastics and others. 


#3 Borneo Cocoa

Borneo Cocoa works with small grower farms in Kg Tambatuon, Kota Belud to produce flavoured cocoa nibs, which are not just a superfood but a yummy snack for kids and adults alike. 


The company is another venture of Nina Othman (of GTG). “Borneo Cocoa is still very new. We’re going into 3 months and still at product validation stage, although we have sold 80 packs of cocoa nibs already.”


With Borneo Cocoa, Nina has initiated a buyback programme with some four cocoa farming families at the kampung. 


“We purchase the ready-to-consume products from farmers at quadruple the price of initial costs to ferment, dry and make the cocoa nibs,” she said. 


“I do this with an aim to upscale the farmers and to show them that they’ve got a quality product in their hands,” Nina continued.


Further down the road, Nina hopes to upgrade the farmers’ traditional equipment to modern ones in view that they would be able to make their own artisanal chocolate products.


“Who knows what they can experiment with. They could even make bambangan-flavoured chocolate,” she said. 

#4 Pangrok Sulap


Pangrok Sulap are first and foremost an art collective. The group made up of artists, musicians and social activists was founded in 2010 to empower rural communities through art. 


The group’s artwork mostly feature strong socio-political messages. There are t-shirts that read, “Jangan Beli, Bikin Sendiri” that highlight their DIY ethos. Meanwhile, large-scale prints produced alongside the communities they work with depict kampung life and struggles; and serve as commentary against corruption, greed and environmental destruction. 


Their larger printwork has been showcased in West Malaysia, Hong Kong, Japan and Europe, while proceeds received through their commissioned work are funneled back into conceiving more rural projects. 


Right now, Pangrok Sulap are in the midst of completing a community arts and crafts centre in Kg Keiyep, Ranau. 


The Kg Keiyep community will be able to sell handmade crafts at the centre, while the multipurpose space will also be used as hub for workshops and more. 

#5 Changgih Designs


Founders of Changgih Designs Jo Moss and Bethany Dawson began their business as new moms. Naturally, being new moms themselves, the two were inspired to help mothers in rural communities earn an income, while looking after their newborns. 


We are a social enterprise dedicated to empowering through skill development and vocational opportunities,” said Jo. 


Changgih Designs works with artisans in several areas including Penampang, Telipok Ria, Kota Belud, Putatan and Likas to produce one-of-a-kind clothing and fashion accessories.


How do they give back to the community? According to Jo, 10% of proceeds are used for community building programs involving communities that the artisans live in. 


Their Give10toSabah program provides skill-based vocational training, job training courses, English language camps and provide disaster relief to nearby towns.

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