18 Nov Global Entrepreneurship Week 2022 [Part 4]
Yesterday, we celebrated Social Enterprise Day and today as part of our series this Global Entrepreneurship Week, we want to shine the spotlight on a social enterprise – SMARTER (Society for Management of Autism Related issues in Training, Education and Resources) Brunei. A family support organisation, SMARTER Brunei is run by parents and family members, focusing on providing world class quality services, programmes, training and employment to individualswith autism. Malai Didi, CEO of SMARTER Brunei, shares more about her motivation and the misconception people might have of social enterprises.
Malai Didi of SMARTER Brunei
Q: What encouraged you to take your first step in becoming an entrepreneur?
SMARTER (Society for Management of Autism Related issues in Training, Education and Resources) Brunei has always faced issues with funding, being both a non-profit and non-governmental organization meant that we needed to find a more sustainable model to operate and continue to provide our services. SMARTER was founded and born when my little brother was diagnosed with autism. SMARTER Brunei grew as he did, and so when he turned 12, my father thought of what would be in store for him. He would soon be an adult. Often times people forget that our kids with autism, turn into adults with autism. This began our journey into the research of what can we do. What opportunities are there for people with autism who aren’t highly skilled? Who needs more support and accommodation? The answer at the time was, unfortunately, none. That’s what truly drove us to venture into opening a social enterprise. It was also a constant question of what more can we do to provide opportunities, create a bigger impact on our community, how can we raise awareness about inclusion and autism/disability-friendly workplaces.
It was in 2008 that we first ventured into testing the waters of opening a social enterprise. My late father has always believed in being entrepreneurial.
Q: What’s one misconception you feel people might have about entrepreneurship, and what do you have to say to them?
That a social enterprise is like running a normal business. Often times people are confused about what is a social enterprise, what is the purpose of it. And often times we get told, “isn’t that just like running a business?” It’s frustrating, to say the least, to always hear the same thing being told to you and that awareness about social enterprises isn’t much. Running a social enterprise is running a business but with far deeper social impacts attached to it. There are more collaborations needed, more than just buying a product from us. A social enterprise heavily relies on the community to succeed. I hope to see more social enterprises and entrepreneurs in the near future.