From The Straits Times    |
Hazel Kweh, Founder, Bloomback

Hazel Kweh, Founder, Bloomback

Hazel Kweh takes unwanted flowers and turns them into beautiful bouquets that she distributes to strangers.

It started out as an idea she came up with to help her sister Faith – who has visual and hearing impairments – navigate depression. A friend who had just got married offered to give Hazel the flowers after the wedding, and knowing how much her sister loved flowers, Hazel accepted. The plan: to rope Faith in to repackage the flowers and hand them out to strangers. The sisters then went door to door, distributing the flowers in a low-income neighbourhood, and received a warm reception from residents who were pleasantly surprised to get the free blooms. Hazel saw the potential for this to grow into a social movement where wedding flowers could be recycled for a good cause – making people smile.

Hazel set up social enterprise Bloomback in 2017 to build on this. She now has a team of more than 200 volunteers to repackage and distribute flowers. Each month, she gets four to five floral donations from weddings, and makes about six visits to nursing homes or hospitals.

One patient – who had not received flowers in 40 years – was thrilled to get a bouquet. “The emotional engagement is very different compared with donating, say, a tin of biscuits,” says Hazel.

To sustain the social arm of her company, Hazel started an e-commerce platform for florists to sell their arrangements, and developed a line of preserved-flower products. She also left her job in financial planning to focus on Bloomback, which now provides full-time employment to seven marginalised women from non-profits like Daughters of Tomorrow and the Breast Cancer Foundation. They make sure orders are fulfilled, and handle administrative tasks.

“Rather than give these women handouts, I want to teach them to fish,” she says.

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