Alvin – founder of Clay Street, a social enterprise which aims at bonding team members through fun experiences and interactive co-creation with clay.
Q1: What do you appreciate yourself in the business mainly for?
I went to the handicap association in 2009, it was recession time, right after the financial crisis. I called for some of the blind people, we set around the table. I felt sad about them, they were just waiting, doing nothing. They told me they used to work, do some Christmas cards or other things for companies. But during the recession year there was no job. They were going to the workshop but there was no job for them. Our company was in quite good stage so I decided that one day every month I would do something good, not business, but charity, volunteering. I started to think about those blind people… what do they have in their mind? How do they imagine love, for example? I got curious. Maybe we could sponsor clay and one day a month play with them. It was an experiment, I didn’t know if they would like it. 30 of them signed up. So many! I needed more people to organize it. I sent emails to friends explaining everything and they sent it to their friends and people started to answer that they want to volunteer, we created an international group of volunteers. We started. Slowly we learned how to communicate with them. We started with something simple, step by step. And after few meetings they became better. Visual Impact People – VIP and Angels – my volunteers worked together. We created bonds, friendship. After few months I had a crazy idea… I said: hey guys, are you really serious about doing things? Yes! Do you want to have an exhibition? Yes! They got very excited, started to do things which really have meanings. We managed to get some sponsors and we had the exhibition in a big space, everything was done by volunteers. At the exhibition the VIP came dressed elegant, suit, tie, they never had the chance to be recognized as artists. Usually people feel sorry for them, help them, donate money. If you always get donation, your self-esteem goes down. I wanted to change that. Blind but artist, artist with exhibition! They were so proud. We sold a lot of pieces. They all made some money. But it’s not money that matters, but self-esteem.
Q2: What is the biggest challenge for you now?
There are some people coming to us but not interested, kids forced by parents. But sometimes even they discover something through being here.
Q3: What advice do you have for yourself in this situation?
This year we hope to have few major programs. Clay Street is also a business, we have to be sure we have money to pay rent and other things. It’s a minor business for me, I have another one, but for my partner is the main, so I want to be sure it goes well. You can have 10 small projects, but it’s more work than one big project. That’s why we want to concentrated on few, bigger ones.
Would you like to add something more?
Clay Street is a creative place, you can come here and learn pottery. We also use clay to set up team bonding activity. For companies, for families, for classes at school.
The questions were asked on our behalf by Anna and Andrea from How to (ex) change the world.
Singapore, 15th April 2016