Paula – spokesperson of Hla Day, a shop selling products and souvenirs done by Myanmar artisans from disadvantages backgrounds.
Q1: What do you appreciate yourself in the business mainly for?
It was 3 intense months when after leaving Pomelo [another social enterprise, Ed.] we started everything from the scratch again. But now it’s taking shape. Producers are even more involved than before. When Pomelo started the producers didn’t really understand the concept of social enterprise and how involved they can be. Now they understand that this business is also their business, that together we are stronger. We had a fundraising event, for kicking off the crowdfunding campaign and it was incredible, so many people showed up and since then we’ve had constant flow of emails and calls, everyone wants to support the cause. We are happy to still work together, almost all original team which before opened Pomelo, is now in Hla Day. All designers came from us. We continue with what we believe: having a sustainable social enterprise.
Q2: What is the biggest challenge for you now?
The main challenge is the structure, once you are big and successful problems start. We cannot officially work as a social enterprise, it’s not recognized in Myanmar yet. Right now we are registered as a normal business. But the lawyer company which is helping us on a pro bono base – we were very lucky with that – will ensure that all profits will be reinvested in the business. Everything is transparent, no profit misuse. The idea is to have also an advisory board, especially of business-minded people. For us business comes first. If there is no business, people can’t benefit from us. A business with the right legal structure.
Q3: What advice do you have for yourself in this situation?
To have a social business, 100%, in which all profits are reinvested back into the business. We need to expand, to reach other communities in Myanmar and to open the market for them. A market they would not be able to reach themselves. We always tell them: together we are stronger, and it’s true. Next important thing is diversity of products, all from Myanmar. Everything is made and outsourced here. All our products have a Myanmar touch. We have Western-type of products but always with Myanmar touch. Myanmar symbols, materials, fabrics. You have all those elements with very funky, colorful design.
Would you like to add something else?
Spread the word! Right now it’s what it is all about for us. We are working on new products, competition is good also for our producers, to be able to have other markets, possibilities. We work really hard to create new designs. We want to be successful and have impact. At the end of the day most of us will leave Myanmar, we want to be sure that when the original team goes, Hla Day remains as sustainable, stable business to benefit Myanmar people and that they are mature, business people who are able to lead it by themselves.
The questions were asked on our behalf by Anna and Andrea from How to (ex) change the world.
Singapore, 7th May, 2016