Empowering Today’s Women

Jul 19, 2011
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A dysfunctional teenager turns savvy entrepreneur with a heart for women in need.

1094 A dysfunctional teenager turned empowered entrepreneur. (Photo by Johncy Concepcion)

Every time I see Anna Tsang, I am mesmerised by her generosity. Beset by challenges at a young age that led to an emotional breakdown at 13, one could conveniently assume that she would join the growing numbers of dysfunctional citizens. However, instead of using her disability to take advantage of others, Anna drew courage from her experiences to help women in similar predicaments.

A fashion designer by training and passionate about empowering women, Anna, successfully “married” what she is good at and what she loves doing the most when she started the Mother and Child Project (MNCP) in 2006. Singapore mothers from disadvantaged backgrounds, women recovering from psychiatric illnesses, mothers who need to stay at home to attend to the needs of the family but in dire need of income, and most recently, unsupported retirees are the main beneficiaries.

The main thrust of the Mother and Child Project is to provide home-based sewing contract work for its beneficiaries so that they become economically self-sufficient. Product categories primarily include Gifts and Home Furnishings, Clothing and Accessories. Items can also be customised into eco-friendly or ethnic inspired products that suit the client’s preferences, needs and budget. Products are all designed by Anna and sown by the women by MNCP.

Anna’s business model is unique among many others claiming to empower the community. This model is one that equips the mothers with skills that allow them to produce products that the market wants. Anna understands her beneficiaries’ sewing skills, matching them to products they can do most efficiently and effectively.

She also provides training to the mothers. With Anna’s talents and skills, she exercises flexibility in customising items to clients’ specifications, allowing her to create products that actually sell.

What is most striking is how Anna manages to keep product costs low, so that mothers are paid above market rates. Anna makes use of donated raw materials and transforms the beads, fabrics, second-hand garments and other recyclable materials into creative products. The Samsui woman doorstopper, one of the best-selling items in the shop, is made from donated used denim jeans.

1096 Anna makes use of donated raw materials and transforms them into creative products. (Photo by Johncy Concepcion)

Anna’s big idea is to receive donations of unwanted materials from the well-to-do, create desirable products from these and indigenous materials available locally, and then sell quality products to the world. Anna reckons that using donated materials to help underprivileged women is sustainable in a country like Singapore. Therefore, the lack of natural resources does not limit the women from having a constant source of income.

Anna cuts costs by relying heavily on volunteers. She is in constant need of manpower that can develop sales/ distribution network, train mothers to sew, organise social events for the mothers and their children, and raise funds/ source for vouchers as added incentives for the mothers, especially during the school holidays. Currently, Anna is looking for someone to manage the business side of the social enterprise so that she can focus on designing products and training the mothers to sew, preparing for future growth and expansion. Mother and Child Project indeed has the potential to be replicated in different parts of Singapore, and perhaps in other parts of the world.


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1095 Anna’s business model is unique among many others claiming to empower the community. (Diagram: Anna Tsang)






The article was first published in The Good Paper.