5 Entrepreneurs Who Started Their Social Businesses As Students

While most of us are struggling through assignments and social life, these five students were striving for something else on top of their college student responsibilities: they were running full-fledged businesses that have a primary social mission.

Would you do it, too?


1. Ehon Chan


Ehon has not always been a go-getter entrepreneur. He was always that popular kid, but at the age of 12, he experienced a terrible tragedy: his best friend committed suicide. He went through a tumultuous phase and realised that the meaning of his life lays in impacting others (very deep for a young teenager, right?).

While studying in a university in Australia, he kept himself busy also after the classes and founded multiple enterprises: one of them was YES BNE. YES BNE was a consulting body and a non-profit organisation committed to profile, support and resource young people in Brisbane with innovative ideas. Not just that, he also started the largest male suicide prevention campaign “Soften the Fck Up,” from which he won his various accolades such as Suicide Prevention Australia’s “LIFE Award.” (WOW!!)

Ehon returned to Malaysia and is now the youngest Executive Director of MaGIC, the Malaysian Global Innovation Center.

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2. Wong Gwen Yi


Gwen Yi is a serial social entrepreneur, who aims to impact 30 million lives by the time she turns 30. She dropped out of formal education at INTI College when she felt like she’s at a boiling point with how nonchalant people seemed about true impact. She decided to show them how a change could be lead = by doing it herself.

Her journey of entrepreneurship began when she was attending networking events, getting her name out there, going for conferences, etc. Soon after, she started three startups -all of which failed. To Gwen, that was progress – because she takes everything as an experience to accelerate her learning curve. Recently, during a hackathon organised by MasterCard and AngelHack, she created “One Small Step”. It’s an app encouraging girls and women to engage with coding-centric games. Eventually, the app can potentially create a whole new generation of girl coders! Besides this project, she was also one of the two winners to represent Malaysia at the first Telenor Youth Summit in Oslo in 2013.

3. Yong Wei Shian, Foodninja


Wei Shian is the founder and ‘Executive Ninja’ of Foodninja, an organisation that collects surplus food from hypermarkets and delivers them to charities that require food. (How simple and brilliant the idea is! Whoa.)  Oh, yeah, he was a final year pharmacy student at Universiti Sains Malaysia when he founded it. Now he’s graduated and is interning at KFIT, which is also another startup bringing you fitness deals. I guess the entrepreneurial spirit never dies!

4. Athirah Rosik, Thrift-on-Wheels


Athirah is a passionate young woman who started Thrift-on-Wheels with her sister, while she was still in university. Thrift-on-Wheels is an enterprise resembling those uncles who shout “Sou Gao Bao Zhi! Newspaper! Old Newspaper!”, driving an antique car around your neighbourhood. Thrift-on-Wheels drives around collecting old clothes to gift to fashionistas in need instead. Athirah is extremely passionate about waste management, corporate responsibility in the fashion industry and sustainability.

5. Suzanne Ling, Lee Swee Lin and Kim Lim, PICHA Project


Suzanne, Swee Lin and Kim started volunteering at refugee camps while they were still in college (UCSI University), when they realised the main problem for refugees in a foreign country is their inability to earn income for their family. Back in their home countries, the refugees were considered high-level executives or professionals, and had a good life. But as they came to Malaysia, they were unable to even work as a street cleaner due to legal restrictions.

3 friends thought of a way to help them. It was connected to food, since in Malaysia it’s the hottest topic throughout the year: why not get refugees to cook food and sell it online? PICHA Project then came to life. Now, it connects refugees from Myanmar and Afghanistan who cook authentic meals from their home country to be delivered, like Foodpanda, to customers ordering their food. The income goes to the refugees who will then have money to set food on the table for dinners to come. Not bad!

Are you inspired yet? If you’re in college, know that it’s never too early to get started on your entrepreneurial ventures. Better yet, birth your enterprise with a social mission!

Zuzanna Ch
World traveller, but with the heart stuck in Malaysia.

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