At Singapore’s National Day Rally on August 20, an equivalent of the US’s State of the Union address, BioMers and Joan Bowen Cafe were highlighted by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at different parts of his speech as examples of exemplary initiatives by Singaporeans.
While justifying why foreign students are needed in local institutions despite taking away places for local students, he brought up the example of BioMers, a startup with a mix of Singaporean and foreign co-founders.
Started by students from the National University of Singapore, the company’s flagship product is the SimpliClear braces system, a translucent, almost invisible braces system that is customized for each patient.
“You can look beautiful or handsome even while they are straightening your teeth,” said the premier in his national sales pitch.
When the Prime Minister moved on to talk about how citizens can take initiative to support community causes, he mentioned Joan Bowen Cafe, located in Jalan Wangi. The social enterprise was started by Khong Yoon Kay and Jeanne Seah, parents of special needs daughter Joan Bo Wen, as a means of finding employment for her.
The place is run by a crew of 16 Autistic youths, who learn food preparation through a manual with pictures and detailed instructions. They just launched a second outlet in St Andrew’s Village.
According to Channel NewsAsia, while they’ve not made any profit since they’ve just broken even, the speech seems to be helping somewhat, with the couple receiving employment and joint venture requests following the Rally.
The journey for them has not been easy though, since they had no prior experience in F&B. The owners also feel that the Singapore government can do more to lower the barrier to starting a social enterprise.
“What the government could consider doing, on top of monetary incentives, is to help more parents or other entrepreneurs who want to start up something like this to help special needs children, by providing them tools, setting standards,” said the couple.
Photo: World Economic Forum
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