What a privilege to have been one of the judges on the 14th of April for the Taylor’s-CIMB Islamic Entrepreneurship Programme, which aims to build entrepreneurs out of the public low-cost housing (PPR) community in Malaysia. The residents in this programme undergo 4 months of training, equipping them with the business skills and knowledge required for successful and sustainable business expansions. After the training, these entrepreneurs present their business plan to a panel of judges, graduate from the programme, and the selected businesses will receive a seed grant to kickstart their growth.

The programme is a comprehensive, step-by-step guide for these upcoming entrepreneurs as they undergo a Motivation phase and Education phase, after which they present their business plans and the selected entrepreneurs are awarded grants. Upon receiving the grants, the entrepreneurs are guided and monitored over the next six months by representatives from Yayasan Salam Malaysia to ensure business growth and sustainability.

The first year of the programme in 2017 had an overwhelming response of 109 attendees – exceeding the target of 50 attendees – and resulted in 13 residents receiving grants of over RM46,000. From that success, TEG and CIMB Islamic set out to scale the programme in 2018, targeting to award 100 residents with a grant worth RM500,000. They have also expanded their outreach to include communities from PPR Gombak Setia, Pantai Dalam area, Taman Putra Damai Lembah Subang, Sungai Besi and Kampung Muhibbah.

Incitement has worked closely with Taylor’s Education Group in developing Hourglass – a methodology for measuring social impact – and it was great to see the Hourglass being applied, and how those results were used to gain insight on the programme’s success, leading to the continuation of this project this year – with more participants, larger grants, and ultimately more impact.

As part of the panel of judges for the business presentation rounds, it was inspiring not only to hear their stories, but also to witness the entrepreneurial zeal and aspirations of these residents. Despite being part of the urban poor community, the participants showed grit that was not held back in their limited resources.

If there was one underlying theme with every presentation delivered, it would be passion. They shared their dreams of taking their small businesses to another level, of adding value to the market, of contributing to the nation’s economy, of being a role model and inspiration to their community, of being a provider for a better quality of life for their families, and of their ambition to fulfill their potential and break the cycle of urban poverty.

What’s great about this programme is how TEG and CIMB Islamic are not giving handouts; they are investing in the people. As Dato’ Loy Teik Ngan, CEO of Taylor’s education Group, said, “We have been working with the residents over the year, but this initiative is an especially meaningful one because we are equipping them with the technical know-how to grow their business and the ability to sustain their business.”

We often get asked by Brands what the ‘best’ CSR initiative or social impact project is, and frankly, we don’t know. What I have seen however, is when impact goes beyond touch-and-go and truly makes a difference in people’s lives whether it is a change in their core values, their perspectives, and their behaviour, those are the most impactful projects I’ve seen. It may start with a change in one person, but a change that influences their thoughts, words, and actions positively, will create a ripple effect towards their family, friends, community, etc. I look forward to seeing the ripple of effects the entrepreneurs of this programme will create. Great work and thanks for having me, Taylor’s and CIMB!