Jonathan Tan, “We Didn’t Come in from the Business Angle”

NTUC Labourbeat, Myskillsfuture, Oct 10, 2019

An economist by training, 30-year-old Benjamin Chua never expected to go into business, much less set up Spic & Span, a company specialising in supplying commercial cleaning services to offices in the Central Business District.

The turning point came back in 2015, when a friend working in a hotel called with news that seven older workers were being retrenched. The friend wanted to know if there was anything that he and Benjamin could do to help them. Recounting that seminal moment, Benjamin shared how they started a housekeeping company to help the workers find jobs as housekeepers in the various service apartments he got to know through his day job.

“I just took the step forward. We didn’t come in from the business angle. We came in simply because there was a group of people who needed a job and we wanted to do something. I had been volunteering for a while, but this was the first time where I felt that I could be directly involved in helping someone,” said Benjamin, who eventually left his day job in a venture capital firm to devote more attention to growing Spic & Span, which was set up in August 2015.

He also decided from the onset that the company, now a 50-strong Singaporean team, would have a social mission to help Singaporeans from marginalised backgrounds find sustainable employment. Spic & Span was also one of the participating companies during the recent Green Jobs Symposium event that took place at Our Tampines Hub on 9 February 2018.


“A Cleaning Company Gives Marginalised Workers a Fresh Start”

Temasek, Sep 28, 2019 

Spic & Span, which provides cleaning services to clients including Temasek Shophouse, is showing how a company can transform the personal lives of its workforce through sustainable employment.

Booted out from his home in his 20s, Mr Yap had to stand on his own two feet. But with no formal education or the resolve to find work, the young adult was left destitute and homeless.

He sought refuge at a shelter run by the Catholic Welfare Services for the past decade. But even as job opportunities came by – from working part time in a gym or as a mover, he did not remain in any job for more than a few days.

“He may have been facing psychosis – it is a type of mental health condition that makes him feel inferior to others,” shared Mr Benjamin Chua, founder of Spic & Span, an inclusive company which recruits people such as ex-convicts and the mentally challenged.

Mr Yap’s transformative journey began when social workers at his home introduced him to Mr Chua, who gradually eased him into working life two years ago.

“We started by getting him to work one day a week. We then slowly worked with the social workers and put him on a two-day shift per week,” he said.

“It took us nine months before he (Mr Yap) finally said, ‘I think I would want to work for you guys’.”

This year, Mr Yap took another big step forward when he was promoted to team leader, managing a small team of cleaners at Temasek Shophouse.

“It was a very long courting and dating process. He started showing signs of responsibility. From his former dishevelled look, he bought new shoes, he bought new clothes, and he cut his hair,” recalled Mr Chua.


“Company Of Good: Transforming Lives and The Cleaning Industry”

Channel News Asia, Sep 5, 2019

Employing the marginalised while introducing new technology to the cleaning industry – how Spic & Span makes an impact.


“Spic & Span leads with the heart to transform its business”

Straits Times, Sep 4, 2019

The cleaning company develops new technology to open doors for both the company and its staff.

Mr Benjamin Chua left a promising career in the public service because he wanted to help a group of older, retrenched hotel employees find new jobs as housekeepers. He thus started a seven-person housekeeping service for service apartments.

Three years later, the social enterprise has grown into a building management and cleaning service that hires more than 50 people, mainly marginalised and vulnerable Singaporeans.

Spic & Span works with over 60 social service agencies to provide stable employment opportunities to ex-offenders, persons with disabilities, single parents, victims of domestic abuse and the homeless.


“Helping seniors work longer, build up CPF savings a crucial first step despite uncertain economy: Josephine Teo”

One-on-one interview with Second Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo, Jan 30. Photo: Raj Nadarajan/TODAY

Faris Mokhtar, TODAY, Aug 19, 2019 

The moves to enable seniors to work longer and build up their Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings mean that businesses, still smarting from an escalating trade war that has no end in sight, will have to shoulder higher manpower costs, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo has acknowledged.

But she stressed the need to maximise the pool of workers in “labour-constrained” Singapore….


Business owners welcomed the raising of retirement and re-employment ages, although they noted that the increase in CPF contribution rates would definitely increase business costs.

For cleaning company Spic & Span, some of its workers are already above the retirement and re-employment ages, its founder Benjamin Chua said.

He added that there is value in hiring older workers as they tend to manage conflicts in a calm manner compared with younger workers who can be more “hot-headed”.


“Singaporean cleaning firm Spic & Span provides career progression opportunities for the disadvantaged”

Ryan Drillsma, Taiwan News, May 15, 2019 

Spic & Span is a cleaning firm with a difference, placing social outreach at the core of its operations.

The company hires disadvantaged workers that face difficulties securing and sustaining employment. Not only does it offer stable jobs in the cleaning industry, it also provides a close support network in cooperation with over 60 voluntary organizations, and trains employees beyond cleaning to mobilize them into more white-collar fields of work.

Taiwan News spoke to the company founder Benjamin Chua, who received a Social Progress award for Spic & Span at this year’s Asia Pacific Social Enterprise Summit (APSES) in Kaohsiung.


“2019 Asia Pacific Social Innovation Partnership Award Ceremony: Social Innovation in Taiwan That Influences the World”

Small and Medium Enterprise Administration, Ministry of Economic Affairs, May 12, 2019

The first Asia Pacific Social Innovation Partnership Award ceremony was held in the Kaohsiung Exhibition Center on the evening of May 11, 2019 (Saturday). The event was organized by the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) to encourage social innovation partnerships in the Asia-Pacific region. The first year of its organization, the event attracted 62 applications from 13 countries. Comprised of experts in social innovation coming from 7 countries in Asia-Pacific, the international jury panel chosen 11 entries for three categories, namely, The Biosphere Sustainability Award, The Social Progress Award, The Inclusive Business Award, and also for the Special Jury Prize. The awarded units came from Taiwan, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Vietnam, and Singapore and have focused on issues ranging from sustainable fashion to employment cultivation.

The winning cases were rich in diversity. The overseas cases included Indonesia’s Bandung Creative City Forum, which has built an eco-friendly environment between sustainability and fashion; Singapore’s Spic & Span Pte Ltd raise, which promotes the employment of people in vulnerable conditions; Vietnam’s mGreem, which develops a point-collection APP for recycling; and the Hong Kong Council of Social Service, the first social enterprise business center in Hong Kong with a long-term trajectory in social enterprise cultivation.


“The Big Read: In the pursuit of technology, what happens to workers left behind?”

Kenneth Cheng, TODAY, Mar 2, 2019 

As the relentless march of technology leaves its mark across industries, scores of Singapore workers young and old have risen to the challenge, jumping over hurdles to embrace new skills and stay ahead of the curve.

Yet, there remains a segment of society who risk being left in the dust. Some of these workers, who are typically of the older set and quick to profess a lack of technological know-how, are not only struggling to keep pace with changes roiling almost every industry. They also fear technology would usurp their roles, leaving them jobless.

It begs the question: What happens to these workers?

While these challenges are not unique to Singapore, the importance of adapting to technology is more acute for workers here than in many other countries, said economics lecturer Kelvin Seah of the National University of Singapore.


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