51-year-old Lai Chong Haur is a businessman who left the corporate world to pursue a social enterprise and cafe called Seven Tea One back in 2018 and he is not regretting his decision despite the pandemic.
The organisation is focused on helping employ and train people with special needs especially differently-abled teenagers and the marginalised to earn an income in a healthy environment.
Speaking to The Star, Lai said, “The business of Seven Tea One (also known as 7tea1) is based on the philosophy of ‘business as a matter of inclusiveness’ and since we are essentially a local herbal infusion tea company, our name 7tea1 means ‘seven kinds of teas bringing communities together as one.”
The handcrafted teas of Seven Tea One are made from local ingredients sourced from urban small-scale, family-run farms and community gardens around the Klang Valley.
Since starting in 2018, the organisation has expanded their range of products to nine types of herbal infusion tea leaves, various types of cookies, pastries and cakes, and handmade soaps which they sell at their cafe in Shah Alam.
Seven Tea One was also among other nine winners of the Star Golden Hearts Award 2o20 including the Gamuda Inspiration Award and they have now opened up a second centre where they are able to grow their own herbs and plants in Setia Alam.
“The second centre focuses mainly on providing more training programmes for the teens such as flower arrangement, handicraft, living skills, office administration skills and basic computer skills.
“We hope more parents will send their teens to our centre to equip them with valuable skills for their future.”
They are now focusing on online sales via e-commerce platforms, their website and social media since the lockdowns have impacted their business like many others.
“We also started our #WeAreTogether campaign where we seek contributions from our friends and supporters to buy our cooked meals and gift sets (cookies and dried fruits) which we deliver to Sg Buloh Hospital, Hospital Tengku Ampuan Rahimah, Klang, welfare homes and also needy communities in Pandamaran and Kg Subang in Selangor.
“These campaigns are beneficial because they give our differently abled teens the opportunity to train and produce these items and also generate a small revenue to sustain our centre.
“We pay our teens wages for every hour they do their training here. As for contributors and donors, they are actually doing a two-way charity – helping the needy, and also the centre and our teens,” said Lai.
Lai also hopes to open up more centres in more local areas in the future.
“We hope to grow our centres’ operations and increase the number of our beneficiaries. Hopefully, within these three years, we can have three or four centres with more than 50 beneficiaries,” he said.
“We also hope that our teens, after being trained in vocational skills at our centres, can get job placements in the market. We are looking forward to collaborating with private companies to ensure that they can secure jobs,” said Lai.
You can check our Seven Tea One’s website here.