This week, we tell the story of our CEO Yeen Teck — including how he came to lead Helpling Singapore today.
These are words that any would-be entrepreneur knows well, and which Yeen Teck took seriously. The Helpling that you see today started out – believe it or not – as a community project in the estate where he lived. He was one man who decided to take action and solve a social problem that mattered to him.
For the first few years of his working life, Yeen Teck was a civil servant, initially in the Singapore Foreign Service and then at the Ministry of Manpower. He started Spickify back at the start of 2014, which later was acquired to become the Helpling of today.
“Those first years in the civil service were really formative,” he said. “I was fortunate to have worked for many of the brightest people around, and on some of the biggest problems that Singapore faced and continues to face.” For example: as a junior diplomat at the UN, he saw first-hand how small countries could be bullied (and spectacularly so) if they were not constantly careful. “Having observed how other countries’ governments worked,” he added, “I dare say that we are pretty fortunate to have managed to build a coherent and well-functioning one.”
It was later at the Ministry of Manpower that Yeen Teck got the opportunity to work on a number of pressing social-economic problems. “As our economy powered ahead, we really wrestled with the question of how to make sure that our workers in the lower rungs do not get left behind,” he said.
This was an issue undeniably real and daunting, and often kept him and his colleagues working late into the night.
With his experience studying low-wage worker issues, Yeen Teck felt that there were more things that could be done, things that perhaps the Government wasn’t able to do. So he started a community project in his neighbourhood to match residents in low-income rental flats with part-time domestic cleaning jobs in the wealthier private estates across the road.
“It was a pilot and a modest success, but it showed us that it could be something more. So I convinced a few friends to start a proper service that could be replicated across the whole island.” Thus, Spickify was born, which eventually became Helpling when it was acquired earlier this year.
Today, Helpling works with many cleaning partners from underprivileged backgrounds, who for various reasons find it difficult to hold full-time or regular jobs. Childcare needs, elder care responsibilities, physical disabilities, to name a few, prevent many of them from getting good incomes.
Looking back on his journey so far, Yeen Teck remarks that it has been a very fulfilling one. “There are lots of things to learn, all the time. For example, to better understand what our cleaners go through, in the beginning we actually went to clean customers’ homes – toilets, floors and all!”
With Helpling, Yeen Teck says that the institutional support is tremendous and gives him the opportunity to do even more in Singapore. “We have great support and we are thankful for it.”
He adds: “In many ways, my work at Spickify, and now Helpling, is a continuation of the work from my earlier years.”
Well said indeed. After all, the one thing that is better than coming back to a clean home, is knowing that you were able to help the person who had cleaned your home!
To find out more about Helping, please visit our website at www.helpling.com.sg.