5 ways SOW Asia can help your social enterprise

By Emma Yong

SOW Asia is a Hong Kong based charitable foundation that aims to support start-up social enterprises scale their social and/or environmental impact. SOW Asia was founded in 2009 by Darius Yuen who left the banking industry to tackle the world of venture philanthropy through the application of business disciplines for the betterment of society.

We aim to build an environment in which social businesses gain further industrial knowledge and understanding to help their innovations flourish. We have currently supported over 65 social enterprises over the years, some of which have partnered with SOW Asia and receive direct or equitable financial investment, whereas other social enterprises who have completed the accelerator programme continue to receive non-financial support from SOW Asia.

SOW Asia aims to provide the very best tailored support to the social enterprises who reach out to us. Here are 5 ways SOW Asia can help your social enterprise achieve their business objectives:


1. SOW Asia’s themed cohorts provide you with tailored industrial knowledge

SOW Asia’s accelerator programme runs over the course of approximately four to six months. Each intake of social enterprises who undergo the accelerator programme will be known as a ‘cohort’, and each ‘cohort’ is based on a particular social issue.

For example, some of our previous cohorts include an Active Healthy Ageing cohort, an Environmental Cohort, an Education Cohort as well as our recent Biotechnology and Wellbeing Cohort. The aim of this is so that each aspect of the accelerator programme is tailored to the cohort’s needs. Our workshops will contain relevant industrial information and our mentors will come from relevant work and academic backgrounds to best support your social enterprise.


2. SOW Asia will provide you with a series of workshops to help your social enterprise grow

During the accelerator programme, SOW Asia delivers approximately four to five workshops (excluding practice pitch events) to provide you with the relevant information to grow your social enterprise. These workshops include but are not limited to presentations on fundraising, social impact measurement and other tailored content depending on the theme of the cohort.


3. SOW Asia is committed to providing one-on-one mentorship and consolidating industrial contacts

SOW Asia assigns each social enterprise a business professional mentor who helps with coaching, strengthening business models and pitch refining. Each mentor is carefully hand picked to best suit the social venture’s business objective and social goals. SOW Asia is also committed to building a wide network of connections for each social venture to help find the funds, expertise and industrial connection to assist business growth and success. SOW Asia will provide these social ventures with their network of entrepreneurs, mentors and experts in relevant sectors and functions.


4. SOW Asia arranges pitch nights for social enterprises to showcase their business

At the end of the accelerator programme, SOW Asia organises a pitch night where each social enterprise is given the opportunity to showcase their business to a panel of investors. Our panel of investors include philanthropists, impact investors and angel investors. This gives the social enterprises an opportunity to network with potential investors or discuss further ideas to better their business innovations ready for future investment. Prior to this pitch night, SOW Asia will also arrange pitch practice opportunities.


5. SOW Asia may decide to invest or co-invest in the social enterprise alumni

Where there is a potential to foster a long term partnership, SOW Asia may decide to invest or co-invest in your social enterprise. Where a social enterprise adheres to our impact focus, is evidently committed to scaling their social impact and has at least two years of operation experience, SOW Asia may decide to continue to support them. This can be done through our accelerator programme, which gives us a chance to see what a long term partnership would look like, or through SOW Asia’s independent sourcing and due diligence activities.

For example, HK Recycles underwent SOW Asia’s accelerator programme in 2014 and has provided them with the ‘resources necessary to achieve ready-for-investment status’ according to Johnny Lim, Operations Manager of HK Recycles. They have since received an initial investment from SOW Asia and have moved forward into becoming a sustainable company environmentally and economically, saving over 100,000kg of recyclables in Hong Kong from being dumped into landfills. Happy-Retired has also completed SOW Asia’s accelerator programme in the fall of 2017 and has become a portfolio company of SOW Asia in 2018.

Please visit our website for more information about investments: http://www.sowasia.org/investment


Concluding thoughts:

SOW Asia’s team is committed to providing the very best and tailored support to social enterprises. We aim to help business innovations improve and be refined for the betterment of society.

If you think SOW Asia can help you and your social venture flourish, visit our website about more information about how to apply to be in one of our cohorts!