We are incorporating a new social enterprise here in Chiang Mai! It’s a web/graphic design agency & stationery shop located right beside Chiang Mai University, below a student apartment building.
Many of you may already know that we have been doing freelance web/graphic design since we were in Singapore and we have been coaching youths in Thailand in these skills for the past 1 year. Officially incorporating a web/graphic design agency is therefore a natural extension of one of the ministry platforms we have been actively pursuing. We had envisioned that the design skills training would create employment opportunities for the youths and we are seeing it coming to fruition in the past 3 months. By incorporating the agency, we will widen our bandwidth to generate sustained work opportunities for our student designers and future batches to come.
Why a stationery shop then? As we surveyed the area, we realised that there was no stationery shop around the vicinity despite it being a student hotspot. What an opportunity for us to put ourselves in the paths of university students since students will always need stationery. Hence, the stationery shop is our intentional way of inviting students into our space to build meaningful relationships with them, and one way we diversify our income streams for the social enterprise. Also, Sheryl is a total stationery junkie.
We have 3 main objectives for our social enterprise:
- Create training and employment opportunities for Thai youths and young graduates
- Be a gathering point for university students so as to build relationships
- Generate resources to further God’s kingdom work in Thailand
But why and why now?
We have known for a long time that God has a unique Business as Missions calling for us, which we wrote about in March 2019. While we have been doing our research, the doors remained closed and we always thought that the business would not be happening anytime soon. As usual, God works when we least expect it – about 3 weeks ago, the door suddenly opened through a crisis!
Due to Thailand’s strict visa laws and with covid-19 complicating things further, we have again faced challenges in renewing and changing our visa that will be expiring soon. We hold a short-term visa now and have been trying to convert to a long-term one since 2020. However, every long-term solution we knew of requires us to exit and re-enter the country with a new visa. While we really miss home and would love to head back to Singapore to visit family and friends, it is too impractical and expensive for us to be travelling during this pandemic.
We did hear of how we could convert our visa in-country and we considered it. But we found out from trusted sources that this conversion is technically not right and can come back to bite us in the future. Many foreigners do it, but we personally felt it wasn’t the way to go and we did not want to jeopardise our long-term vision here. We wanted to trust God to provide us with a legitimate and long-term platform to stay and serve Him here in Thailand.
Isn’t it funny then that in the end, our only legitimate option now for a stable visa platform is to incorporate a business? In consideration of our nationality, our current visa type, and the current visa laws in Thailand, this is the option that a few lawyers/agents have presented to us. These people had no idea about our calling into business and we were quite in shock, wondering if this is really the time.
In a short span of 3 weeks, God provided the people we needed to kick-start the business registration, including an agent/legal advisor that was recommended by our closest Thai friends. We are exceedingly thankful for these God-sent people, and we are now already in the process of setting up the business entity! Thank God for His continued assurance even as He nudges us into a new unknown.
How about the community centre ministry?
We are still fully committed to the community centre ministry that God has entrusted to us in this season. In fact, we do not see the business as separate; we hope to integrate the business with our community centre work.
For example, as part of our business visa requirement, the company will have to hire at least 4 full-time Thai staff. We plan to officially include regular volunteer hours at the community centre into their job scope. In this way, the community centre will benefit from having regular Christian volunteers and we get to expose our company staff to ministry opportunities. Win-win!
As for the community centre, it has always been our heart to broaden opportunities for the people in the neighbourhood we serve. God-willing, our company could generate credible employment opportunities for the at-risk community as well.
Where will the profits go to?
Since we operate as a social enterprise, our profits will go into funding ministry expressions.
Are you all still missionaries?
Yes and yes of course! The social enterprise, just like the community centre, is an expression of our ministry of loving Thai people with God’s love and creating practical and unique opportunities for the less-privileged.
We invite you to journey with us in faith
Officially incorporating our social enterprise is such a faith step for us! It’s a huge undertaking but we will continue to trust God in how He wants us to bless the nations and love His people.
Would you consider contributing to a seed money fund for our first year of operations? We estimate that we need about 30,000 SGD in total to cover office rent, salaries, social security, and other expenses, and we will be putting in some of our savings as well. Please contact us over the usual chat messaging apps or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to give to this project.
“He (one who delights in the law of the Lord)Psalm 1:3
is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.”