Finding purpose in DBS Foundation

An ad for the DBS Foundation Grant, neatly cut out from a local Taiwanese newspaper, laid out on his desk by his mum – that’s how Taiwanese sweater and knit apparel vendor UKL Enterprise found out about our flagship grant programme in 2022.<

Gary Hsieh, the company’s Executive Vice President, had plans to create sustainable fabric from pineapple fibre – a by-product of Taiwan’s viral (and very delicious) pineapple tarts. He now needed support to get it going.

When our team and other volunteer DBS evaluators across the bank read his application, we saw the potential impact his invention could have on food waste, his drive for sustainable fashion, and his goal for Taiwanese farmers to reduce waste too.

We shortlisted his application, and he whizzed through the various rounds. He was eventually awarded the grant (we found out later, he was pretty nervous about his application, citing the competitiveness of the process).

In my last four years at DBS Foundation, I’ve had to look at thousands of grant proposals to shortlist innovative and impactful ones.

It’s rewarding but also grueling work – and that’s why I’m grateful for DBS colleagues who volunteer their skills and expertise to help applicants improve their pitch, and prepare them to face tough questions by the judging panel.

Ultimately, the decision to award the grant isn’t up to us, but an independent panel of judges – still, we try to prepare the businesses as much as we can throughout their grant journey.

Results day can be particularly nerve wrecking for us too – we’re always excited when notifying the winners and witnessing their reactions, but also share in the disappointment of those who don’t receive the grant.

Gary’s win was particularly special for us, as he was one of several SMEs awarded the grant (we had expanded the award category to include SMEs that same year).

In 2022, we awarded around SGD 3 million to 23 grant awardees (15 SEs and eight SMEs) across the region.

Other notable grantees that year include Breer, that produces craft beers from unsold surplus bread like bolo bao in Hong Kong (they were featured in our latest DBS Sparks episode!), and Singaporean craft beer producer Brewerkz, who is using brewer’s spent grains to create snacks.

Today, Gary has launched his sustainable EVOPURE+ clothing apparel line that’s made from sea wool yarn, retired fishing net yarn and pineapple fibre. It will also be featured in the 2023 Taipei Fashion Week.

Apart from seeking out and guiding enterprises through the grant process, we connect them to experts within DBS, and open doors to opportunities and networks with our ecosystem of partners and clients.

Knowing that I’ve, in some ways, enabled many of these business, brings me a great sense of fulfilment and purpose. I always look forward to connecting with and learning from more of these entrepreneurs.” - Christine Lin, DBS Foundation

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