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Impact 0506: Building a better community: Food and the environment

Tan Shi En · 31 March 2022
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Youth Action Challenge (YAC) is a platform for youth to provide solutions that tackle the issues we are concerned about. Since October 2021, over 80 teams and more than 310 youths have undertaken the YAC Season 3 journey.

Tan Shi En, 25, is a Year-2 undergraduate in NUS studying Business Administration, specialising in Innovation & Entrepreneurship. 

When he was in Temasek Polytechnic, he was in a CCA called TP Enactus, and he also started a project there that collaborated with the Health Promotion Board (HPB) to organise talks and workshops to raise awareness of the importance of having balanced meals for youth. 

Now in NUS and part of the EzCompostr team, he wants to build an application with a centralised marketplace and education features for composting, gardening and other sustainability practices to grow a passionate community that repurposes household food waste and builds a better environment for tomorrow, together. 

Besides EzCompostr, Shi En is also developing another start-up project called “Our Food Chapter” (OFC) that aims to help Hawkers and other F&B SMEs to better survive in the competitive market, which then preserves hawker culture and Singaporean cuisine through the simplifying and automating the process of social media marketing management. OFC’s vision is to bring local food to the global stage.

What was your role within your YAC project?

I am the Project Director and Founder of EzCompostr.

What motivated you to join YAC?

Firstly, to be motivated and stay motivated by other young enthusiasts who also want to make or create an impact in Singapore.

Secondly, the access to potential funding support would allow our project to develop further and create more impact in repurposing household food waste. 

Thirdly, to access the National Youth Council or YAC network. 

Lastly, for the mentorship support to help to keep us on the right track.

Can you share with us your experience with your YAC project?

I started this project after winning first runner up for Hult Prize NUS in November 2020, with the theme of “Food for Good: Transforming food into a vehicle for change”. I decided to carry on with the project and brought it to the Hangar Community by NUS Enterprise and Hult Prize Portsmouth Impact Summit Competition. After a year of promoting and pivoting the idea, we finally pitched it during YAC and secured some funds to support our journey. 

To me, it has been quite satisfying and motivating to finally see this project progressing, after being stagnant for a few months because of a lack of resources. We recently organised a webinar, “Compost For a Better Tomorrow”, in collaboration with Ecosami Sg and Trueroots Sg, local companies in Singapore who are providing composting services.

What are some challenges you faced while working on your YAC project?

The lack of resources for both talents and funds was a challenge. I was developing EzCompostr alone from November 2020 to September 2021. It was rather stressful and I was quite unmotivated when doing this alone. Without funds, I was unable to develop anything progressive for EzCompostr. So, I had no choice but to leave it stagnant until I managed to find co-founders from NUS SIC. However, we were still unable to develop anything impactful without funds, which caused us to be quite unmotivated at one point of time.

Could you share more on how your project has a positive impact?

Just one or a few companies, projects or people would never be enough to solve the problem of food wastage. Instead of having many social entrepreneurs, government agencies or even non-profit organisations who are solving or even competing to solve a very similar issue of food waste in Singapore, we want to develop a centralised platform that can complement all the initiatives in sustainability, especially in tackling food wastage. We hope to gather all the resources to better solve the problem and create a passionate community to work together to create a better environment tomorrow. 

As we are developing an application, this gives us the potential to scale to other countries, and utilise the resources from other countries to better solve the increasing food wastage problem in Singapore too.

Were there any key takeaways or learning points from your time with YAC?

I particularly find the pitching workshop and one-to-one pitching consultation most memorable and helpful in YAC. As I have a business school background, most of the other workshops conducted were rather repetitive to me. Furthermore, I felt that pitching our idea correctly and with impact was one of the most difficult challenges, especially since we were seeking investments or funds. The help we got for pitching better was really much appreciated. We are very grateful for the experience and help received from YAC and our mentors.

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