The Batik Boutique

The Batik Boutique: Artisan Social Enterprise Giving Women Sustainable Incomes

Klang Valley , Malaysia
Year Founded:
2013
Organization type: 
hybrid
Project Stage:
Established
Budget: 
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

The Batik Boutique is a social enterprise that equips vulnerable women with a sustainable income by employing them to produce Batik products. When women have access to sustainable pay and the dignity that work brings, they are able to begin to take their own actions to end the cycle of poverty.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if women in lower-income and vulnerable communities in Malaysia had sustainable, dignified employment to meet their needs, and could pass on hard-working values to the next generation?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Many women in low economic situations have few economic opportunities. The problem is they do not have a sustainable and accessible income. The women we work with participated in government-funded programs that taught them how to sew and bought them sewing machines. But the program was not accountable or sustainable: with no business demand for their skills, the machines went unused and the women remained poor.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

We created a business to create and market products created by these women, who set their own wages and hours. We design and source Malaysian batik, then we deliver this fabric to women who sew in their homes or in our sewing training center, allowing our seamstresses (women with lower-incomes, many of whom are single mothers) the flexibility needed to provide for their family with a sustainable, dignified income. Malaysian corporations and US fair-trade companies order our products, and we sell consignment and wholesale in stores both in Malaysia and abroad. When women have access to sustainable pay and the dignity that work brings, they are able to begin to take their own actions to end the cycle of poverty.

Awards

Top 12 Most Innovative Social Enterprises in Malaysia; MAGIC Amplify Award
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

In January 2015, we started a sewing center in the flats where many of the women we work with live. This enabled us to expand the amount of women we are able to offer reliable employment to, and train new women who are in need of work. Locating the sewing center in the building where they live allows them to access work in a more flexible and convenient way - regardless of barriers like transportation, childcare, or mobility. We have also been able to conduct community development programs in the sewing center, such as a financial literacy training. We constantly provide projects for them to sew so that they have a consistent workflow.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Since launching in 2013, we have impacted 50 artisans in local communities (including both seamstresses and batik artists). We also work with 10 family-run batik factories, providing business for the local communities and factory workers and artisans. We have been introducing eco-friendly dyes to batik artisans, reducing the environmental impacts of our textiles. Beyond giving a consistent, fair source of employment to women, we seek to empower our seamstresses. We provide financial literacy training to teach them how to set their own goals for income. We also fund training for our seamstresses to advance in their careers, dental check-ups for our artisans and their family, and financial literacy training. They describe being empowered by earning their own income and being able to provide for their families. As demand grows, we want to expand to offer more women income and training.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

This is a scalable model - we would like to open multiple sewing centers in vulnerable communities over the next 5-10 years, allowing us to reach and employ more women. We will also expand our social programs to address the needs identified by the communities we work with. We are also involved with government ministries and programs to encourage social enterprises in Malaysia and create an environment where they can thrive and are also highly accountable for their impacts.
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

We currently have a positive cash flow, demonstrated demand for our products and long-term partnerships that enable more flexibility and security. We will now grow to develop economies of scale and meet increasing demand, especially from corporations who want large orders. Our projections are that demand will continue to grow, so we need support to help fund this growth and training, ensuring we continue to be sustainable.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

The government does training but does not offer sustainable incomes, and NGOs conduct social programs but do are not self-funding and do not create sustainable incomes. We do both of these - supplying equipment, training, and income opportunities, as well as funding social programs to address other community needs.
Team

Founding Story

In 2009, Amy became friends with a local Malaysian woman named Ana, who as a recently divorced single mother with two kids, often struggled to make ends meet. They began to brainstorm what they could do to help Ana earn some extra money. When Amy found out that Ana had a sewing machine, they bought fabric and made gifts for Amy’s American friends. After seeing the positive response, she enlisted more women, and began expanding the business. Since then, the business has grown into local stores, corporate gift orders, and has partnered with Raven + Lily, a major US fair-trade brand.

Team

Currently, our team consists of five full-time staff. As demand grows, we are looking to fill key positions. Amy Blair is the founder and leader of the social enterprise. As CEO, she has an involvement in every part of the business. She trains the staff and helps grow their abilities and their responsibilities in the company. She is the face of the company and leads sales and networking. Kylin Kwan is Production Manager. She is responsible for sourcing for and producing all of our products. Silvie Hosea is the TBB Relationships Specialist. She is the main liaison with the center’s seamstresses and volunteers, as well as with existing customers. She manages inventory, production, and retail. Mohd Yuzwan Mohd Yusopk is the textile manager. He designs and produces batik, sources fabric, and develops new designs and techniques. Our business is growing and we have the relationships and business in place to be able to provide dignified work to an increasing number of women.
Background
Please confirm how you heard about the Unilever Awards:

Through online searching

Please confirm your role in the initiative (eg Founder/co-Founder) and your organisational title:

Founder and CEO

Which of the 8 UN Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals) pre-selected for this competition does your solution relate most closely to? [select all that apply]

No Poverty.

Leadership and the Unilever Awards
Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

I helped started a nonprofit called Pathways for Mutual Respect in 2006 in partnership with Yale University, which seeks to increase understanding between Muslims and Christians through dialogue, education, training, and cultural events. This gave me leadership experience working with different cultures.

Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?

We are working with MAGIC, a Malaysian government-funded program that supports social entrepreneurship and innovation in Malaysia. They offer training, support, and networking to our company and other groups and entrepreneurs in Malaysia. We work with their Vice President, Ehon Chan, who gives us advice and expertise.