Social Impact – “Project Forward” Micro Entrepreneurship Programme
Primus Wellness is a social enterprise of Myskills Foundation. To better empower our community, Primus Wellness has launched a micro-entrepreneurship training program called “Project FORWARD” in May 2020. Project FORWARD in a unique program that continuously coach and handhold participants throughout their journey in becoming a micro-entrepreneur.
This initiative aims to provide an income generating opportunity for the deserving low income group and financially vulnerable, particularly to those who are affected by the pandemic. Economists say this would enable individuals and businesses to temporarily suspend work and the need to support the welfare of the jobless through income generating activities and liquidity support (Institute of Strategic & International Studies (ISIS). This issue should be taken seriously as studies show Malaysia’s unemployment rate could hit the highest level in three decades as more Malaysians are likely to lose their jobs and 4% of unemployment rate has been estimated this year. (The Star, 15th April 2020).
The direct cash support via BSH and other sources of support is just a one-off transfer amount to enable communities to purchase necessities during the movement controls. It may not provide the long-term financial solution to particularly vulnerable groups such as the lower-income, unemployed, part time workers, single mothers and retirees to manage the post-Covid 19 effects. Thus there is a need to provide, very specific training to this group of people, therefore they are later able to generate income and survive the crisis independently.
To achieve this, Project FORWARD will not just provide training per say; but will focus on coaching and mentoring the targeted participants in pursuing their business interests. The participants will be guided on entrepreneurial, social and other related skills. One of our missions in Project FORWARD is to put our best foot forward to guide and assist all of our participants to plan and execute an income generating activity/ies even if they are not well versed in it. To give them the right tool kits, confidence, mentorship and hand holding so that they can achieve their dreams and break free from poverty with confidence that they have proper guidance and support.
We aim to build a network of successful micro entrepreneurs in our financially vulnerable and urban poor communities. Their progress will be measured periodically. The solutions may vary for each participant as they all will come in with unique issues. We will also provide them with legal services/advice or counselling if need be, especially those who are in a vicious cycle of an unhealthy environments. When we are able to assist them with issues from home and providing them with continuous social support, we are able to clear their minds and then feed them all the necessary knowledge and skills they will need to run a successful business.
The ultimate vision of this initiative is to make the target group financially independent. This eventually will lead to increased social wellbeing and quality life.
Conceptualized in 2018, the PRIMUS WELLNESS Sdn Bhd is relatively a new company that offers all kinds of health and wellness products. They range from products improving overall health holistically which includes herbal supplement, facial, skin and beauty care.
PRIMUS WELLNESS has a mission to promote a responsible commerce of herbal products to ensure that consumers continue to enjoy informed access to a wide variety of herbal goods.
Owning 35 acres of land in Kalumpang, Selangor, we are increasing and improving the productivity of our land by planting moringa trees and other herbs. Due to its nutritional characteristics, we manufacture and commercialize the moringa leaves into different types of end-products such as moringa shampoo, moringa powder and many others. These end products are then promoted, marketed and sold by the single mothers, low income and identified individuals directly to the end consumers in the local market or to bigger retailers. These individuals are coached, mentored and their progress are tracked continuously to ensure they see an increased income.
Direct cash or one-off welfare assistance may not be the long term financial solution to particularly financially vulnerable groups. There is a need to navigate these group into a viable income generating business model with solid coaching and support to help them survive the pandemic crisis independently.
Our social mission involves
Plantation and cultivation of Moringa trees and herbs on our 35 acres of land
R&D and Manufacturing
Herbal based end-products
Creating, coaching, mentoring and transforming the lower income and financially vulnerable into micro entrepreneurs
Sales profit channelled to Myskills Foundation to support the education of underprivileged youth
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
Article contributed by Dr Kannan Pasamanikam (a well wisher of Primus Wellness, Myskills Foundation)
I have written about the MySkills Organisation (The STAR 19th Sept’ 2019). The organization has been striving to become self-sufficient financially and not be dependant on donors. One effort to achieving this goal was to set up a subsidiary: “Primus Wellness” about one year ago. A truly Malaysian effort. Primus Wellness in partnership with Malay and Chinese entrepreneurs produces organic health products. These are then marketed to the public by Malaysians in the B40 socioeconomic group. Through fortnightly lectures, tutorials on sales techniques, role play and troubleshooting sessions these micro entrepreneurs are trained to engage with the public and sell the products. This effort has multiple benefits: 1. A steady source of income for MySkills to run its programs 2. Enable citizens in the B40 group to develop their confidence and skills and stand on their own two feet to become self-sufficient and not be depend on handouts 3. In the long term these micro entrepreneurs could set up their own businesses.
On Wednesday June 10th 2020, my friend Mr Pasupathy, the Founder Director of MySkills Organisation sent me an inspirational message. During a meeting with a group of financially challenged ladies training to be salespersons for Primus Wellness, he had posed this question; “What would be the one wish you will ask God if He appears in front of you”. A request for material things like money, food or a house would not have been surprising, coming especially from people who were deprived of these. However one of them Mdm Maruthayi, surprised everyone present by answering “I will ask God to give me Self Confidence”. I was humbled to learn of this and asked Pasupathy to arrange for me to meet this exceptional lady.
On Sunday 26th July 2020, over brunch I met with a group of energetic and enthusiastic people – in a world currently fraught with negativism, the meeting opened my eyes to the generosity and dogged perseverance inherent in many Malaysians and created a lot of hope and joy in my heart. Leading the group was Ms Selvamalar the vocal CEO of Primus Wellness who was brimming with ideas. Selvamalar has a brilliant academic resume – as a student she scored a CGPA of 4.0, holds a Ist class honours degree and a Masters in Human Resource Management from UPM where she also won the King’s Gold Medal for all round achievement. She then went onto to get a 1st class honours LLB degree from a UK University. Even as an undergraduate, she organized a team of brilliant undergraduates to undertake community projects in estates and schools. Though Selvamalar had a successful career in the corporate sector after graduation, she found something lacking ; she than found her calling in contributing to the growth of her community, so she resigned from the Genting Group and joined MySkills. With such an intelligent and passionate person leading it, Primus Wellness can only be successful. Mr D(he requested to be anonymous) is involved in an NGO (www.pkam.org) – for several years his organization has been collecting funds to uplift impoverished communities in Malaysia ; this include providing cash, clothes schoolbooks and food to. Members of this organization are led by the principles of Saint Ramalinggam (ThiruArutpragasa Vallalar) who preached equality for all and treating all beings as equal. Mr D realized that providing a means of becoming self-reliant would provide the best long term solution to these people’s woes – so he introduced them to Primus Wellness. Selvamalar also told me about Mr Ng Tet Wong, who played an important role in the evolution of Primus Wellness. Mr Ng had been interested in organic farming from his school days ; his own research and personal experience taught him the benefits of consuming the fruits and leaves of the Moringa Tree earning him the moniker Mr Moringa in MySkills circles. Impressed by MySkills noble efforts to transform a marginalised group of people, Mr Ng decided to teach them how to plant, harvest and commercialise the products of the Moringa tree to enhance society’s health and in the process earn money for the organisation.
The salespersons do not have to put up any cash; Primus Wellness provides them with the products to sell. Each salesperson gets to keep 25% of the profits of the product. A timeline is set – those who succeed in selling their quota before the time line stand to get a bonus – thus an added impetus to succeed.
I spoke to four of the salespersons. Mdm Maruthayi came through as intelligent, very hardworking, and talented. She told me failure was not an option. Aged 47 years, she married at 26 and has 9 children. Her husband is a factory worker whose earnings are not enough to support the needs of her family. A wiry lady who sleeps only 3 – 4 hours every day, by self-admission she works non-stop. Maruthayi does every honest job that comes her way to provide for her family: she cleans peoples’ homes and has built a reputation for her work. She also provides post-partum care for both mothers and their newborn – she says her massaging techniques enables the infant to sleep soundly and the mother to regain her shape in record time – she earnestly believes that the God she prays to gives her the skills. She also earns some money by singing devotional songs at functions. Initially a recipient of PKAM’s generosity, she was introduced to Primus Wellness by him. Her fifth child, Sivagami ,a daughter helps her in approaching the public to sell. When I asked Maruthayi about the answer she gave Mr Pasupathy, she replied that a material gift like money would have transient value, whereas a personal attribute like self-confidence would last a lifetime and enable her to succeed in life. She also prays that her efforts will raise her children’s lot in life and that they will never have to do the menial jobs she does.
Mdm. Kasthuri is 33 years old. She suffers from epilepsy. Her husband was blinded in a motor vehicle accident (hit and run). They have 4 growing children and desperately need money. She has tried the herbal products from Primus Wellness which she said has cured her of her insomnia, headaches and body aches. Her brother a milk vendor found that his joint pains improved tremendously after using the products. Armed with personal experience which she shares with her customers, Kasthuri makes her sales – being successful as a salesperson, has enabled her confidence to grow. With his own experience, Kasthuri’s brother helps her promote her products with his own customers. In spite of her predicament, Kasturi told me that once she is successful, she would also want to participate in charitable activities – such a noble goal for someone who has major challenges of her own.
Mdm Low Bee Bee, is a single mother. Her husband abandoned her and her 2 children now aged 17 and 20. Her son scored 10As and is currently pursuing optometry at University Kebangsaan. A highly energetic person with good communication skills, Bee Bee is multilingual. To put food on the family table Bee Bee has driven Grab cars, sold organic farm products like kampong eggs and provided transportation for school children. She was introduced to Primus Wellness by Mr Tet Wong, who used to supply her with organic products to sell. Incidentally, Mr Tet Wong was instrumental in Primus Wellness producing organic herbal products – he taught them the process of making products from the Moringa oleifera tree (superfood).
Maslinda Othman is a single mother. Her husband passed on and she has a 18 year old son who will be joining a government skills training institute soon. With a monthly income of RM2000 she is hard pressed to fulfil all her family’s needs. Born in an estate in Kulim her multilingual skills include speaking Tamil. She has experienced personal benefits with Primus Wellness products and so, armed with this and good communication and networking skills (she posts on WhatsApp and other social media platforms) Maslinda has been successful in selling the herbs – a testimony to her success is the many repeat sales she has had. Maslinda’s mother Puan Lijah Sapparee is a strong motivating force encouraging her daughter never to give up.
As Mr Pasupathy put it, Primus Wellness is a truly Malaysian venture benefitting Malaysians at various levels. As sales persons do not put cash up front, cash flow is an issue when sales are slow or delayed, so at this time donations are still needed. As Pope Francis recently said “We are all born to help each another. No matter how difficult it is, life is good when you are happy but much better when others are happy because of you”.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
Here we share some of the stories of our entrepreneurs (from left Ms Low Bee Bee, Ms Maruthayi, Ms Kasturi and Ms Linda)