Man at His Best

Projek57: Changing The Malaysian Mindset One T-Shirt At A Time

Projek57 aims to unite Malaysians with stylish national pride t-shirts.

BY Nawaf Rahman and Shermian Lim | May 2, 2016 | Culture

Syed Syadiq Albar, 41, and Colin Swee, 48. Qippy Photography

The founders of Projek57 have a special mission to accomplish—to spread a message of love and hope for fellow Malaysians, by selling one million t-shirts in two years.

A social enterprise, Projek57 is aimed at supporting unprivileged youth and poor single mothers, while reminding people of the spirit of tolerance and diversity.

Syed Syadiq Albar, 41, and Colin Swee, 48, are the brains behind Projek57, as well as business partners in running an engineering company providing intelligent handling services to ports nationwide.

“We chose 1957 as the focal point for this project because it embodies the values of progressiveness, unity, diversity and tolerance,” said co-founder Syed Syadiq.

“It’s about the constitution, the values, the story and the message that was carried from 1957. It’s not about the (independence) day itself, literally.”

Projek57 t-shirts are 100 percent made in Malaysia and priced between RM38 to RM42. Forty percent of the profits are channelled towards empowering single mothers and unprivileged youth programmes. You can purchase them online and during events that will be held throughout the year.

The idea of this project came about after their engineering company retreat awhile back.

“When everyone was asked about their plans for the next five years, most of them said that they wanted to immigrate. We were taken aback and wondered, what was happening?” explained Syed Syadiq. “Everyone has allowed themselves to focus on the negativity and forget the great things about our country.”

“Malaysia is now at the crossroads, so obviously there are issues, but leaving the country doesn’t solve the problem.”

The idea of selling t-shirts came into the picture when Swee and Syed Syadiq realised that there were not enough cool and edgy t-shirts with nationalistic messages. “T-shirts are a global trend, and putting a message on a t-shirt is like a walking billboard,” said Swee. So we think it’s the right medium to achieve what we are trying to do, which is to spread the message of hope.” Syed Syadiq and Swee have set 2017 as the deadline on reaching the millionth t-shirt sale mark. “It is a stretch target, but nothing is impossible,” says Swee.

 

 

The project kicked off with the launch of an online store on August 31, 2015 and since then they've managed to sell a few thousand t-shirts, online and offline. “We are confident that we’ll achieve our target to sell one million t-shirts,” says Syed Syadiq. “We have a long way to go to hit the target but hey, we are not going to stop anytime soon.”

“We will use 40 percent of the profits to empower the unprivileged community by providing them opportunities,” says Swee. By enlisting at-risk youth who show promise to help with Projek57, they are given an opportunity to learn what running a business is about. As an incentive, they receive RM5 for every t-shirt sold. And if that gives even just one individual a chance to “break free from the cycle of poverty and give them a better future,” the guys believe that they would have achieved something even greater than hitting their million mark.

“That is the real intention of this project, and what social enterprise is all about,” says Swee.

But as all ventures go, there are challenges to overcome. From choosing the designs (more graphics or more text?), to maintaining the price of the t-shirts (costs are up from last year), in this current state of economy—despite Syed Syadiq and Swee’s experience as business owners, it has not been entirely smooth sailing. The utmost challenge for them, however, is gaining the trust of the groups they are trying to help. Lessons in interacting with the underprivileged—namely low-income single mothers were learned—but the duo are more determined to push their project on with a few exciting plans.

After the t-shirt and merchandise business is sustainable, they would like to kickstart mini projects: an ‘eternal flame’ at the Tunku Abdul Rahman memorial; a Volkswagen convoy drive across Malaysia; and a unity run.

“At the end of the day, it’s not about the profits. We are nothing without our history," says Syed Sadiq. “We should value our roots and where we came from. Thus, we do sincerely hope that this movement of hope will inspire people for a better future for Malaysia.”

Swee adds: “As Tunku Abdul Rahman said, 'Our future depends on how well the different types of people can work and live together.”

Projek57 officially launches at 11AM on May 21, 2016 in Atria. For more information, visit projek57.com


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