S03E013: Debbie Choa, Co-founder & Chief Operating Officer, Projek57, Malaysia

What could we bring with our business experience, but also do something impactful? And what was interesting was that my husband and his business partner sat down with their management team and asked, where do you see yourself in five to 10 years? More than half of them actually had aspirations to leave the country. 

Debbie Choa

In this episode, I am speaking to Debbie Choa, co-founder and chief operating officer of Projek57, a social enterprise in Malaysia that focuses on unity and youth.

debbie choa projek57 malaysia
Some 300,000 Unity Ribbons of Projek57 have been purchased and worn by Malaysians
from different walks of life since 2018. This makes Debbie exhilarated!

I was given one of Projek57’s products, a unity ribbon a few years ago. About 300,000 unity ribbons handmade by the underprivileged, have been sold to date. And the best part of all, 100% of the profits go back to the people who made them. 

Debbie and her husband, Collin started Projek57 with Collin’s long-time friend, Syed Sadiq Albar with the hope of bringing unity through youth engagement while giving back to the community.

I’m Chinese yet I can’t relate to being China Chinese or Taiwanese Chinese. Innate in each of us, even those who go overseas, [we’re Malaysians]. They migrate, they still have that connection with Malaysia. So the question was, could we inspire or do campaigns, projects or workshops or whatever activities, collaborations, even with corporates that could inspire and get people to reflect or bring out [the feeling] and touch their heart in some way?

Projek57 began as a conversation about bringing true unity back into Malaysia. The founders were dismayed that racial polarisation and religious tension were rising in Malaysia and believed they needed to take action and do something to enable Malaysians to stand together as one. 

Working with corporations and youth, Projek57 has channelled more than RM400,000 to help the underprivileged in Malaysia. They undertake workshops and projects that foster the spirit of unity in Malaysian youth.

Debbie says she is inspired by five women in her Entrepreneurs Organisation forum that she meets once a month where they talk about life – personal, business, family & community.

“We have been together for more than 10 years – Theresa De Silva, Lim Woon Wei, Lavina Valiram, Maureen Ooi and Amanda Lokman and they’re also entrepreneurs, wives and mothers and most importantly, my sounding boards!” says Debbie.

Can we look at things the way that can and can we basically be more accepting? And can we be the ones that we understand that we are the ones that are wrong- everyone is wrong basically. And these youth, if we can teach our children because they use social media, they are the ones that can go out there and be much more impactful. So can there be this ripple effect, you know, starting from our hopes, starting from ourselves as individuals?

A big milestone for her is that some 300,000 Unity Ribbons of Projek57 have been purchased and worn by Malaysians from different walks of life since 2018.

“It’s so encouraging to know that no matter what, Malaysians love our nation and many want to be united!”

(Krista’s note: It’s so apt that this episode airs today. The past week has been incredibly trying for many Malaysians who lost their homes and for some their lives during the flooding. Despite the struggle, Malaysians used Twitter to rally for help and came together to help each other whether it was cooking food, donating supplies or even cleaning up mud-filled houses. What a fantastic demonstration of our true Malaysian spirit.)

Connect with her on FB & Instagram: @debbiechoa

Projek57 on FB.
Projek57 on Instagram.

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