Lim Jing Ying is ‘Souledeiring’ on with her business, Soule providing, “a sole for every soul.”
What’s your story?
My name is Jing Ying and I co-founded the social enterprise, Soule with my two friends, Justine Lee and John Tay.
Soule is a play on two words – Soul and Sole. It all started as a project in the year 2008 after Justine, my good friend, was impacted by a humanitarian trip to China after finishing his O Level exams. Upon witnessing the lack of proper footwear in the rural villages, Justine thought of a sustainable business model: for every Soule product bought, part of the proceeds will go into helping children in need – aka to provide a Sole for every Soul.
We then started this journey with another friend, John Tay (we were then aged 16 and 17 respectively) and took the business to new heights in the youth’s business and social enterprise platform.
Currently, I am the chief shopkeeper of The Soule Store, selling locally-designed lifestyle goods such as flip-flops, sunglasses and notebooks. A portion of each sale of every Soule product goes into initiatives for children from low-income families and survivors of natural disasters. Our products are housed at our online store and in physical stores like Naiise and The Nail Social.
We have gifted a total of 1,877 pairs of footwear to children in rural schools in China and also footwear for survivors of natural disasters and 154 school bags to Singaporean children. We believe in the viability of a commercially successful brand that can sell attractive products and at the same time generate finances and awareness for social work.
Besides selling products, we recently started branching out into Soule Social Consulting to provide Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) consultancy services to corporations that seek to engage in social work or social engagement projects.
What excites you most about your industry?
What I think excites me the most is the idea that businesses can be a platform to do good, disrupt the way traditional businesses are being done and the concept of doing well, whilst doing good. We are indeed living in exciting times.
What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m was born and bred in Singapore. One of my favourite countries is China, where we have been doing shoe drops in the past few years to gift the children in the Yunnan province with shoes and school supplies.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
China! Funnily enough, after doing this business for the past 8 years, businesses in Singapore and China have heard about us either through media or word of mouth. Some business owners have approached us to find out more about how they can do their part to help the community – which led to the start of our CSR Consulting arm. In our consulting arm, we aim to help businesses better define and achieve their social objectives and to help give back to their community in sustainable ways.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“You create the world, blink by blink. It is entirely yours to discover and yours to create.”
― Sophia Amoruso, #GIRLBOSS
I love this quote as it inspires me to think beyond the box that we constantly and subconsciously house ourselves in.
One more quote!
“Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”
– Mother Teresa
Who inspires you?
Elim Chew (founder of 77th Street) is probably one female entrepreneur that inspires me to be bold and outspoken about what I believe in. Also, she was a very good mentor to us during our start up days; and her belief in youth inspire me to always give back to the next generation just as she has done for me personally.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I think it was not a recent encounter per say, but I would like to share the story of the girl with the pencil sharpener. During our very first shoe drop in 2010, we collected paper hearts filled with the dreams of the children in China. Before leaving that particular village school in the mountains of Yunnan, Lincang, I came across a written heart by a Primary 3 student, that stated – her dream was to own a pencil sharpener. I was shocked! Before that, when we asked the students, their dreams were lofty and big, and they had ambitions. However, this little girl’s dream was to own a pencil sharpener.
To any of us in Singapore, this item would be a necessity. It really blew me away in that sense. Upon uncovering this dream, we then combed the entire village school and found one last pencil sharpener that was in the staffroom. We then gave it to the girl and she was speechless. It made me realise that it sometimes takes very little to impact another person, me included.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would embrace myself and my failures with a little more grace.
How do you unwind?
I love reading and binge watching different shows on Netflix (not proud of it but not ashamed either!)
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Krabi! I recently went there for a beach vacation and it was really fun. I would love to take another short trip there again soon.
Everyone in business should read this book:
A light, fun read for lady bosses would be #Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso. Her advice really speaks to me as she also spearheaded her own brand through e-commerce and selling products online.
Shameless plug for your business:
Soüle = Sole + Soul. Our mission is to provide a sole for every soul.
Can shopping change the world? We think so. Every purchase you make at Soule goes towards empowering someone in need. Since 2008, our “Sole for every Soul” initiative and Souledier movement have enabled change through shopping – a portion of each sale of every Soule product goes into initiatives for children living under the poverty line and survivors of natural disasters. To find out more about us, check out www.soule.com.sg
This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:
Callum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries. He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence. A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.
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