SMU student Tylor Jong shares his entrepreneurship journey at ASEAN+3 conference

Final-year SMU economics student Tylor Jong recently represented Singapore at the Young ASEAN+3 Social Entrepreneurs in Action conference which was held in Thailand from 4 to 8 February 2018.

Tylor and three student social entrepreneurs from other education institutions were selected by Singapore’s National Youth Council to attend the conference. Organised by the Department of Children and Youth in Thailand, the conference sought to formulate guidelines to nurture young social entrepreneurs, promote social business among the younger generation, to expand and strengthen social entrepreneur network, and to promote business cooperation, creativity, and sustainability among youths in ASEAN+3.

ASEAN+3 refers to the 10 countries in ASEAN, China, Japan and South Korea.

Tylor is the co-founder of TreeDots, the first-of-its-kind online outlet mall in Asia for food items that are still safe for consumption but do not meet the usual aesthetic and industry expectations of consumers. He and his team have created a B2B marketplace for such food items to be sold at a discounted price to TreeDots’ partners, which include F&B companies and non-profit associations.

At the conference, Tylor shared that TreeDots is a social enterprise that aims to reduce food wastage in Singapore and beyond through the redistribution and repurposing of underappreciated food. The company does so with an online platform that facilitates the transaction of these underappreciated food at discounted prices and providing logistics and technical support. To ensure the sustainability of this venture, TreeDots has to align its social mission of reducing food waste with the business interests of firms in the F&B value chain.

Within three months of starting operations, TreeDots has helped to save 919kg of food from going to waste. It currently has more than 140 companies as partners.

Caption: Tylor (standing, extreme right) giving a presentation on a social enterprise his team and he came up with that attempts to tackle the problem of low literacy rates in Southeast Asia at one of the workshops during the conference.

During the five-day event, Tylor had the opportunity to interact with social entrepreneurs from the 13 countries, and discussed various issues related to social entrepreneurship at workshops and at a panel discussion.

Summing up his experience at the event, Tylor said, “It was interesting to learn that the social entrepreneurship scene in Asia is so vibrant. Singapore seems to be a little behind our neighbouring countries when it comes to interest in creating social enterprises despite having so much support provided locally.

“As a social entrepreneur, you may receive criticism for your efforts to make a difference. However, my advice is to stay true to what you know is right and press on with your efforts. Keep your company focused on making an impact and persevere, regardless of what others may say. Your goals may be lofty, but the world will never be changed with small dreams and narrow perspectives.”

Looking ahead, TreeDots is currently firming up partnerships with several businesses, as well as refining its business model so as to scale up its operations.

Featured photo: SMU student Tylor Jong (extreme left) with fellow representatives from Singapore receiving the certificate of participation from Mr Vitat Tachaboon, Director of the Department of Children and Youth, Thailand.