"Greater than the sum of its parts" could not have been more accurate to describe this year's TEDx NTU. Independently organised by Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore), the event saw speakers from various disciplines gathered at Nanyang Auditorium to share their take on the complexities of society and the world.
Social entrepreneur Mr. Daniel Teh recalled how his life as a reckless teenager landed him in trouble with the law. Yet it proved to be a life-changing moment. An encounter with special needs inmates made him realise that while he had the fortune of being physically and mentally able, he lacked "the right heart and the right attitude".
Inspired, he started Pope Jai Thai, a Thai restaurant which strived to give equal opportunities to everyone. Aiming to create an inclusive environment, he began hiring people from different beneficiary groups. To date, he announced that these employees make up nearly 90 per cent of his staff, to great applause.
Out in the foyer, individuals and startups alike had their own ideas on making a difference. For two groups of Minor in Entrepreneurship (MiE) students, it was a chance for them to showcase their handmade goods.
One such team, comprised of members Elwin Chua Jun Jie, Lynn Chan Qing Lin and Sng Kai Zhou Derek, tackled sustainability with their product Avenoir - sugar exfoliating soaps designed for dry and inflamed skin.
"Most people tend to use liquid soap. However, we realised a lot of plastic is used in its packaging, so we wanted to reduce the usage by coming up with bar soaps," said Lynn.
Indeed, the soaps were contained in boxes and glass jars, the former only including a single piece of plastic to keep out humidity. To incentivise customers to reuse their glass jars, the team also planned to give a discount to those who bring them back for repeat purchases.
Bringing their ideas to life was a long process. The team had to cover several Minor of Entrepreneurship modules over the course of a few weeks, followed by rounds of testing and user feedback to create their final product. Furthermore, save for their supplier providing the bases, each bar of soap was made entirely by hand to ensure they knew exactly what ingredients went into each one.
This was the case for students Yap Chee Sheng, Lim Wen Xuan Venus, Eugene Lim Kai Jie and Ang Xin Lei Marilyn as well, who jumped at the opportunity to introduce their scented candles, The Candelier, at TEDx NTU. Prior to this, they have set up booths at events held at Marina Barrage and Singapore Arts Museum.
"Being in the handmade business in Singapore is tough," said Eugene. "Before this, I didn't put a lot of thought into whether an item is handmade or not. But now, I have greater appreciation for it."
The team added that they still had a long way to go, and participating in events has helped generate a lot of experience and exposure for them.
"We did not expect the crowd to be responsive and more interactive (at the event), as we assumed that they would be mainly interested in the TED Talk and nothing else," said Chee Sheng.
"It was an incredibly pleasant surprise for us."