Entrepreneur

Inspired By Her Mum, This S'porean Pays It Forward With Flowers To Help The Less Privileged

Every year, we pay tribute to mothers around the world on Mother’s Day, typically held on the second Sunday of the month of May.

With their nurturing and self-sacrificing qualities, mothers are the backbone of the family. They are our biggest cheerleader, the glue that holds the family together, the person we go to for advice and our moral compass that teaches us how to differentiate right from wrong.

For Hazel Kweh, co-founder and CEO of social enterprise and floral company BloomBack, her mother also serves as her business inspiration.

Learning Compassion From Her Mum

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Hazel (right) and her mother / Image Credit: Hazel Kweh

Hazel grew up in a low-income single parent family and her two siblings fought tough health battles.

Her sister Faith is partially disabled — she battles with retinitis pigmentosa, a group of rare genetic disorders that affects her hearing and vision — while her brother suffered from depression.

Her mother raised the three kids single-handedly with a low-paying hawker job. She struggled to make ends meet, which made Hazel bear grudges against her own father.

She often blamed her dad for the broken family, but her mother often reminded her to be “kind and forgive him.” She finally got round to forgiving him three years ago, when religion helped her see clearly what her mum has taught her: kindness and forgiveness.

Although they were not financially well-off, her mum never failed to show care and concern for the underprivileged.

As a hawker running her own noodles stall back then, she was struggling to make ends meet (but) she has a big heart and treated those who couldn’t afford to eat on a regular basis.

– Hazel Kweh, co-founder and CEO of BloomBack

This selfless quality from her mother went on to become an important core value for Hazel, both in her personal life and career.

A Social Movement To Deliver Flowers To Seniors And Patients

To ease her family’s financial problems, Hazel took on multiple jobs while juggling school to support herself.

After graduation, she worked as a stewardess with Singapore Airlines before becoming a financial planner with Prudential.

During her time at Prudential, she received multiple awards including the prestigious Million Dollar Round Table in recognition for her outstanding performance, and she quickly rose through the ranks to a leadership role.

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Hazel (left) and her sister Faith / Image Credit: Hazel Kweh

However, her sister Faith was grappling with depression due to difficulties in finding a job, as well as a broken marriage.

To cheer her up, Hazel brought her along to a friend’s wedding, where Faith fell in love with the decorative flowers.

I was wondering what else I could do to encourage my sister when my friend suggested that I take home flowers after the wedding to make them into something useful.

– Hazel Kweh, co-founder and CEO of BloomBack

The sisters repurposed the wedding flowers into bouquets and went door-to-door distributing them to seniors living alone in rental flats on Beach Road to cheer them up.

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Distributing flowers to seniors living alone / Image Credit: BloomBack

This spontaneous initiative of theirs helped Faith to be happy and cheerful again. Upon seeing the positive difference that floral therapy can bring to people’s lives, Faith decided to pursue floristry.

However, floristry has become more than just a floral-arranging activity for her. She wanted to use it to help other marginalised women, like her single mother and sister.

This was what inspired her to start the social movement Bloom It Forward, where she repurposes donated flowers from weddings and events into bouquets so they can be delivered to hospitals and nursing homes.

Helping Other Single Mothers And Disabled Individuals

A few months after starting the social movement, Hazel left her corporate job and co-founded BloomBack in February 2017.

BloomBack is a social enterprise and online florist company that sells gifts made out of preserved flowers.

Image Credit: BloomBack

While Hazel’s mother was initially shocked by her decision to quit her full-time job, she grew extremely supportive when she learnt that BloomBack aims to help marginalised individuals.

According to Hazel, there are many marginalised women in Asia (including Singapore) with limited skillsets and insufficient qualifications, making it a struggle for them to find suitable employment opportunities.

These women include low-income earning single mothers, abused housewives, elderly women and ex-convicts. Social and economic exclusion have unfortunately caused them to have a lack of self-confidence and also live in fear and insecurity.

Because of her mum’s plight, she wanted to help women in similar predicament by conducting floral arrangement sessions to help train them to be full-time floral artisans.

The floral products created by these trained florists will then be sold on BloomBack’s online platform.

Hazel’s mum also currently works as a floral artisan at BloomBack to help out with the business since leaving her hawker job.

Due to this unique business concept, BloomBack has received financial support through a grant from Singapore Centre for Social Enterprise.

With her mum onboard, Hazel has went on to set up a full-fledged retail outlet at Havelock 2 Mall, supplementing their online presence with a physical store.

Giving Back To Society

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Image Credit: BloomBack

Today, BloomBack finds ways to give back to society through non‑profit organisations such as YWCA of Singapore, Breast Cancer Foundation and Daughters of Tomorrow.

One of their business milestones was working with Breast Cancer Foundation as their floral organiser for their 20th anniversary.

Another memorable collaboration is with Parkway Cancer Centre (PCC) for a Community Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative where they bought pink charm gifts for media partners and influencers as well as flowers from BloomBack to gift to their cancer patients.

PCC also sponsored a free mammogram test for every gift set bought on the platform.

A Special Mother’s Day This Year

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Hazel’s mum / Image Credit: BloomBack

For the past few years, Hazel and her mum have been spending every Mother’s Day doing fun activities at home.

She shared that due to her hectic career and lifestyle in her previous jobs (as a stewardess and financial planner), she seldom got to spend much quality time with her mother beyond sharing a simple meal together.

Now that she’s in the gifting business, it means that they are busy whenever a special occasion comes around, so Hazel makes sure to plan ahead and celebrate Mother’s Day in advance.

We celebrated Mother’s Day three days before by doing a home facial together! It was very memorable and my mum said that it is a very special Mother’s Day for her.

– Hazel Kweh, co-founder and CEO of BloomBack

While this year’s Mother’s Day will be a different kind of celebration for us as we are all staying home, take this time as an opportunity to spend quality time with your family in the comfort of your own home.

Instead of the usual Mother’s Day dinner at a fancy restaurant, simply sharing a home-cooked meal can be equally precious.

Featured Image Credit: Hazel Kweh / BloomBack

 

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