Rainbow Chow is the founder of MicroForests, a social enterprise that aims to empower marginalized women from low-income families by providing training and job opportunities that equip them with life and employability skills, build self-esteem, and encourage self-sustainability.  As a panelist at the “Dialogue with Social Entrepreneurs” session at the BXAI Summer Program 2017, Chow spoke about her entrepreneurial experiences and emphasized the importance of setting priorities, staying true to one’s values, and following one’s passion.

Reflecting on how she discovered her passion for her career, Chow recalls having an entrepreneurial spirit and a desire to bring positive change at a young age.  At 17, Chow opened a dessert restaurant that employed mentally disabled people and donated sweet soups to the homeless and elderly.  This successful foray led Chow to discover her love for business and serving the community.  After acquiring her degree in social services management, Chow devoted herself to full-time social work, which allowed her to meet many underserved people and opened her eyes to the needs of society.  She realized that her creativity, willingness to take risks, and penchant for learning new things would serve her well in social entrepreneurship, so she went on to set up a child development center and a parenting magazine.  While both businesses encountered numerous challenges, Chow insists that each failure did not discourage her but instead drove her to grow and learn.

MicroForests was established in 2014, and the journey so far has been a rewarding one.  “Though the work has been tough, seeing these women’s lives being transformed makes it all worth it,” says Chow.  “Everyone needs a sense of mission, and I found mine in serving the underprivileged.  At difficult times, I’ve relied on my Christian faith and have found strength through the support of my church community.  I think it’s important not to be afraid of failure, but to see it as an opportunity to grow, mature, and persevere.”

To students interested in social entrepreneurship, Chow encourages them to go for it.  “Don’t ‘wait and see’,” she says.  “With youth on your side, you should feel free to take a chance and pursue your passion.  Try different things, learn about social issues, and find out what society’s needs are.  Don’t just sit there and read about them – to be an effective social entrepreneur, you have to go out, meet people, and see these issues firsthand before you can formulate innovative solutions and effect change.”