5 Things I've Learnt During Pandemic Year While Running a Social Enterprise
You know, as humans, we seem to have high tendency to want control. But in life, we have an overall plan, yet we need to be able to go with the flow - learning and adapting along the way. Isn't this the very first thing we all have learnt this year with the global pandemic? A new normal, people say ☺️
It has now become an end-of-the-year affair for me to reflect upon the year, and I hope you shall find time to do so too! So, here are 5 things I've learnt-
1. Plans are a funny thing. They don't always turn out the way you expect
At the beginning of this year, I took an acrylic pour workshop with @jellygxx . She told me several times that I don’t have to be so careful and uptight during the session. After the first try of mixing paint together and pouring, I was amazed and it slowly became therapeutic for me swirling the paint around. It was interesting to me too - I had to have some sort of idea on paint colour combination to mix in a cup first, and when the mix is poured on top of a canvas, I couldn’t exactly control 100% of the pattern that turns out, but I could swirl and adjust along the way, creating something that can never be replicated exactly the same ever again.
Look! At the end of the session, we have a beautiful coffee table!
Soon after, Covid-19 hit us all and things quickly escalated around the world. We launched several new products on pre-order to test market demand, one of which was Mori's own unique creation Dual Zip pouch. It was created from suggestions to have a multi-functional wallet/pouch as some ladies find it troublesome to carry a wallet plus other small items like lipstick, tissue paper, portable charger etc. We received preorders for it, but the result wasn't great. It was daunting as this is the year I decided on working on Mori full-time.
We started asking Mori followers and customers if it was a matter of timing (tightening of belts as Covid-19 situation was building up), price, or product functionality. One of our supportive customers @lin_mei_shan was captivated by the pineapple print dual zip pouch back then, but suggested to have an external pocket slot for easy access to items like cards, as well as detachable sling body strap. Our Mori moms did not know how to make adjustable sling straps using vegan leather at that point of time. Throughout the months in the year, we worked with Ate Remy and eventually managed to make the sling straps.
This resulted in our newly launched improvised upgraded Mori Dual Zip Sling Bag ♥️ We also upsized it a little to fit bulkier phone/portable charger.
How do you like our hands-free companion for your dates, strolls, errands, shopping, travel? ☺️ A negative outcome isn't always the final ending, and presents to us opportunities to review and reinvent (or realign, or repair, or rethink to change the course, and so on).
In March, Manila where our Mori moms are based, went into lockdown due to Covid-19. Mori moms started assembling face shields for frontliners in the Philippines. This opportunity gave more Mori moms jobs during the lockdown period, an answered prayer. Subsequently, they started making reusable fabric face masks with the available fabrics left over, as fabric shops were closed. Demand for the reusable masks and hence, jobs increased with support from partners like Faithworks! At the same time, "you are a new creation" drawstring pouches were made early this year for baptism gifts, which could not be sold with the hit of the pandemic. In April, Anywhr.co reached out to purchase the pouches for their gift set boxes, and subsequently more small pouches which were simple enough for more mothers to hand make with the operational constraints due to lockdown. We give thanks to our Daddy God who supplies to us in times of need.
2. The furthest distance in the world is between the head and the heart
I remember when I was in my mid-20s, having faced a few years of realities out of school, I started pondering about what it means to be ‘as innocent as doves, as wise as serpent’. C.S Lewis in his writings explained what it means is "to be simple, single-minded, affectionate, and teachable, as good children are; but also use every bit of intelligence we have to be alert at work, and in first-class fighting trim". The fact that we are giving money to a charity (something good) does not mean that we need not try to find out whether that charity is a fraud or not (foolishness). But that also doesn’t mean that we should become cynical and have our hearts hardened. Hardened hearts make a prideful person, which isn’t characteristic of a child.
As the pace of life slowed down this year, especially in Q2, the year gifted to me time and margin to do more readings and reflections. The former helped expand my thinking and perspective; the latter helped process things and connect to my heart.
What are some things you have become cynical about by overthinking? What are some things/issues you can dig a little deeper? Perhaps reading up on them or discussing can shed some new perspectives? How do you connect these to your heart? Give these journal prompts a try for your year-end reflections ☺️
3. Stewardship is to use and enjoy what we have and passing them on in better shape than it was
Throughout the years in the social enterprise space in Singapore, I've received quite a fair bit of questions for what I do. Opposing voices are not without valid pointers. One of the things I constantly ask myself is if what we do is truly "teaching and equipping one to fish on his/her own" (what ignited my interest in social entrepreneurship in the first place), and if the products and services we offer provide value-add to you, our users. Both Mitzi and I are convicted that what Mori creates and sells (albeit made by Mori mothers from urban poor areas for livelihoods) should create value-add to both the maker and end users/customers. It is why Mori's mission is to bring purpose and joy to both makers and users.
One of the readings I sought to do was For the Least of These by Anne Bradley and Art Lindsley to understand income inequality/poverty from biblical perspective.
4. Life isn't black and white, but that's where Grace and Mercy flow
One of the things we learn in adulting is that the world is not black and white, but grey. Notice how sense of justice in youths is strong - in those years you feel like every wrong must be made right (except maybe our own wrongs). Later on, we learn that fairness may not be absolute. But living in a grey world, that's where grace and mercy flow.
Mercy is the act of withholding deserved punishment, while grace is the act of endowing unmerited favour.
This year has been filled with thanksgiving, opportunity to slow down and realign, learn and grow; but not without some down moments! It can be easy to feel stuck in darkness at times, but reading @wilderhearts ‘s post reminded me that ‘it can also be easy to dismiss all the light that still gets through the cracks, but that’s how darkness is conquered. Little by little. Slowly but surely. That even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff they comfort me.’
As I recount the people who have come alongside, it reminded me of the moment in time when I learnt that there are those who sustain us, and with their love we sustain others. Not that one is greater than the other, but that love empowers us to love others.
When I first connected with @jangandfox, our collaboration went ahead pretty fast. It was such a surprise for me, as back then Mori was just a social enterprise here in Singapore with not much awareness. I was so in love with Jang’s little stories of the fox and animal friends- the spirit behind her content was something Mitzi and I deeply resonate with. Throughout our collaboration, she has been both forthcoming but kind and patient; which really helped us to grow. It was one that spurred, but above all, you could feel that they are done in love and support. Thank you Jang for your trust and sowing into Mori! Almost 2 years later, the collaboration still goes on because of your support for us ♥️ If you’d love bringing out fox and ele as your companion, we now have them across Mori’s creations (you may click on each image below to bring you directly to the product page). Each comes with a small card to let recipient know of Jang’s stories of fox and ele.