Photo: Flavien Prioreau and Zoe Kovacs

Tell us about The Social Space …
It’s a one-stop-lifestyle destination offering a café, fair-trade retail area, event and workshop space, meeting rooms and co-working space. We just opened our second outlet in DUO Galleria, Bugis, in addition to our first venue in Kreta Ayer Road.

Is this your first social enterprise?
I’m also the co-founder of The Nail Social, a nail salon that opened in 2014. Both businesses aim to provide a platform for those facing employment difficulties. We employ single mothers, youth-at-risk, ex-offenders, ex-drug addicts, persons with special needs, learning disabilities or physical disabilities, as well as those recovering from mental health issues. 

How challenging is this?
It makes managing the dynamics more demanding, but it also exposes our staff to the needs of others, and how to be more understanding and patient. Most staff at The Social Space have no experience of working in F&B. However, when onboard, many of them realise they’re a lot more capable than they thought and this boosts their self-confidence.

You stock lovely local brands …
Our retail space is strictly curated and dedicated to only featuring sustainable brands that have a positive impact on underserved communities as well as the environment. We go through a very detailed screening process for potential vendors to find out more about their mission, values and ethos. Brands include Riau Candle Co, Yeni Draws, Talking Toes, Refind, Happiness Initiative, and more.

How hard is it to find high-quality sustainable brands?
I think the public perception of socially conscious products and services is that they’re sub-standard and low quality. But the reality is that social enterprises have really upped their game and today products are comparable, if not better, than similar commercial brands in the market. 

How do your pop-ups work?
We rotate a dedicated pop-up space at our outlets to give emerging sustainable brands a chance to showcase products without having to commit to expensive rentals. Our current partner is Thryft ( who stock used books and clothes. 

What happens to profits from The Social Space?
A good portion of our revenue (not just profits) goes towards the community and our profit margins are a lot lower than a typical commercial business. We also hold regular fundraising campaigns by donating a percentage of café and retail sales (not profits) to a charitiable cause. For example, in 2018 we donated over S$20,000 to Red Cross Australia to support their fight against the bushfires. 

How would you like The Social Space to grow?
Right now, we’re planning a third space to offer more employment opportunities. The beneficiaries we’ve met don’t want to rely on the government or donors for financial support. By empowering them with vocational skills, stable employment and income, they can be independent and support themselves and their family. 

How can ANZA members contribute?
Come and visit as a paying customer and spread the word about us – there is strength in community! We hope consumers will realise that they have the power to make a difference simply by making a conscious decision to support social enterprises and businesses that give back.