From The Straits Times    |

“A school that leaves no one behind” was what social entrepreneur Mint Lim set out to launch when she established the School of Concepts (SOC) in 2015. 

The school, which welcomes children in preschool as well as students in primary school, is designed to offer quality English language education to every child, regardless of their financial background or learning needs.

Mint was inspired to open the school after her own experience with a learning disability. “The desire was planted when I received help to acquire literacy as a dyslexic child,” she shares. “And the desire to give back grew as I noticed a growing gap – I did not want any child to be left behind. Children only turn two, three, or four once. If we miss that window to provide access to quality education, it gets lost forever.”

Children only turn two, three, or four once. If we miss that window to provide access to quality education, it gets lost forever.

Mint Lim, founder of School of Concepts

To ensure that every child is given access to quality education, Mint runs the school as an inclusive social enterprise. “Our schools enrol inclusively; we set aside enrolment for disadvantaged children and provide in-house subsidies of up to 91 percent,” she explains. Classes are also designed to be inclusive for children of different learning styles to learn together. “We are a school where all children can gain access to quality programmes and enjoy a customised learning experience through the SOC method.”  

The “SOC method” Mint speaks of is a proprietary VAK (visual/auditory/kinesthetic) approach. The award-winning curriculum at SOC includes both phonics-based as well as play-based learning in order to create a fun and interactive learning environment for little ones. 

Mint Lim, founder of the School of Concepts

Mint also believes in “walking the talk”. She explains: “30 percent of our colleagues on our operations team are Persons with Disabilities (PWDs), and they contribute greatly to SOC through their strengths.” 

Last month in April, the social entrepreneur was announced as one of the 33 fellows of the Cartier Women’s Initiative (CWI), a program by Cartier that’s open to women-run and women-owned businesses from any country and sector, with an aim to have a strong and sustainable positive impact on society as defined by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Mint is the first woman entrepreneur from Singapore to be recognised by the Cartier Women’s Initiative. 

She will be using the opportunity to help further the school’s cause, she says. “This year, we want to do even more, we just launched our mobile game app, Alphabet Explorer and we hope to help 1 million children acquire early literacy through the app’s unique features mainly augmented reality especially those who want to build spatial intelligence and/or have learning differences, lack the expertise at home and could use the help of an app that is able to bring about self-directed learning through voice and handwriting recognition functions.” 

Here, we speak to Mint to find out more about the future plans she has for SOC, the challenges of running the social enterprise, and her thoughts on being a fellow of the CWI. 

Is this the career path that you envisioned for yourself?

No, I wanted to be many things but never a social entrepreneur. I didn’t even know what that was until I started SOC. I always tell others I’m an accidental social entrepreneur. All I knew back in 2012 was that I wanted to do a business to do good without relying on donations to sustain. 

What are some of the challenges you have faced while running this social enterprise, and how have you overcome them?

Accurately articulating what a double bottom line business is about to stakeholders especially during the early years, while working on self-improvement to grow with the impact and team altogether was challenging. 

I didn’t manage to overcome them, my team did. Along this journey, SOC has been blessed by superhero individuals who have committed themselves to the mission and share the same vision of a future where no child would be left behind. 

How did you feel when you first received the news that you are the first Singaporean fellow of the Cartier Women’s Initiative?

Very humbled, yet affirmed and immensely grateful.

It was affirmation that the work put together by the superhero leaders on my team alongside their teammates has brought SOC to where it is today. Grateful to be surrounded by kindred souls who’ve so generously contributed their time, commitment, and expertise, taking what started out as a child-like desire to a ready mission to gaining recognition in some parts of the world today. 

How will you be using this opportunity with the Cartier Women’s Initiative to further your cause?

The CWI network is a global platform that I believe will accelerate SOC’s internationalisation plans. It may springboard the growth of our recently launched Edtech products – mainly the Alphabet Explorer mobile app and our content portal, School on Cloud. 

What are some of your other long-term plans?

An immediate plan would be to equip 1 million children with literacy by 2025. Beyond that, we aim to work with fellow educators to be a content hub to onboard and deliver content from partners in education – bringing valuable educational content from all over the world to every educator and every learner.

Locally, we aim to work with more family foundations who are keen to invest in a sustainable business through opening brick-and-mortar inclusive schools for children from all walks of life to learn in.

Applications for the 2024 edition of Cartier Women’s Initiative begins from 10th May and runs till 30th June. Click here for more information.