Helping others is her 'second phase' of life
Philanthropist who used to own ad agency says running social enterprises is harder work but worth it
It is not everyone who can take a six-year sabbatical and then throw themselves into pursuing a philanthropic venture.
After selling their advertising agency in 2001, Ms Josephine Ng and her husband travelled and spent quality time with their families.
But the break also prompted Ms Ng to get back to work and start a business that could give back to society.
"I was introduced to social enterprise at NUS' Asia Centre for Social Entrepreneurship & Philanthropy. It was perfect for me," said Ms Ng, 47.
In 2010, she started the A-changin (now called Alteration Initiative) chain of clothing alteration shops that employs disadvantaged women as seamstresses.
After it took off on both the social and commercial fronts, Ms Ng wanted to start a second social enterprise.
"One of the greatest challenges in six years is that we had to turn away those whose challenges we couldn't help with, like the physically disabled.
"Alteration is a highly skilled profession and is not easy to pick up.
"We wondered what kind of industry can be very inclusive."
Ms Ng decided that the food and beverage industry would best help disabled people reintegrate into society.
The result was New Rasa Singapura, which was launched in November last year.
Located in Tanglin Post Office, it is right across where the famous Rasa Singapura Food Centre once stood, hence the name.
Serving local fare such as chicken rice, the 75-seat restaurant-bar has 20 staff, eight of whom have a disability.
Two of the staff use crutches to get around. They prepare the ingredients while seated.
Ms Ng has seen her efforts bear fruit: "We're starting to feel commercial satisfaction. We haven't broke even yet, but we feel good when people tell us our food is good."
Her focus is on getting the business on track because the commercial aspect is as important as its social mission.
"The primary motivation is the social objective, but without strong commercial motivation, the social enterprise will not be sustainable," she said.
Running social enterprises is harder work than her ad agency days, but Ms Ng is not complaining.
"It is my second phase of life. I actually work harder now, but my life became a lot more meaningful.
"I feel a lot happier," she said.