Starting as a Student Activity Unit at Campus, The Rainbow English Centre Founded as a Manifestation of Youth Empowerment

The Rainbow English Centre is one of the businesses supported by Youth Co:Lab – co-created programme by UNDP and Citi Foundation to empower youth in fostering Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through leadership, social innovation, and entrepreneurship. In 2021, Youth Co:Lab is also supported by the Multi-Partner Trust Fund (MPTF), a joint initiative implemented by UNDP, ILO, UNAIDS and UNHCR in providing post-pandemic support for vulnerable populations in Indonesia, including young people and women.

Flora Irawati (30) or fondly called Flora is the founder of The Rainbow English Centre (TREC) from East Kutai district, East Kalimantan province. Starting from the student activity unit 'English Club' on campus, Flora and several friends in 2016 decided to teach English to children in a fishing village. The teaching activities were carried out voluntarily from preparing snacks to story books for children. Since childhood, Flora dreamed of becoming a teacher.

But as time went on, Flora realized that they need cash to continue their activity. At the end of 2018, Flora and her team tried to offer paid English course services. Starting from one student being taught, the course turned out getting positive response from the community. One of them is because the learning method is fun and interesting for children. With the power of word of mouth from parents, they can reach more students.

As a young entrepreneur, Flora feels the need to gain entrepreneurial knowledge and skills. Flora tried various opportunities including joining Kutimpreneur, which conducted by one of the private companies in her city, to joining the East Kalimantan Youth Entrepreneurship Forum (FKP). Through this group forum, Flora got information about 'Ideathonesia' – a crowdsourcing for impactful business ideas, targeted young people as part of the Youth Co:Lab initiative in Indonesia.

Through Ideathonesia, Flora heard the term of 'sociopreneur' for the first time. “This is where [Ideathonesia] I realized that the business I run has a social impact. I formulated with my friends [team] – which initially only focused on the 'course', became a 'centre' to unify business and social activities with various products/ services in the future,” said Flora. She mentioned that the material provided was helpful, such as design thinking and the social business model canvas.

Selected into top 30 Ideathonesia, TREC had the opportunity to join the Youth Co:Lab bootcamp, an incubator program to develop the potential of young people through entrepreneurship that has an impact on the achievement of the SDGs. “Through series of activities in this program, it is like a map for us [TREC]. We know how to navigate our business journey. I also become confident with the business,” said Flora.

In the midst of the challenging COVID-19 pandemic situation, the pandemic encourages digital transformation – reimagining the role of information technology – which previously had not been fully utilized. "In the past, getting the latest information was a bit leggy, but with the internet and increased online activities, I am able to get training information faster," explained Flora. In addition, TREC's current market reach is not only in East Kutai, but also Java (20%) and Makassar (10%) through virtual learning.

Using technology is not easy. Flora spent several months studying the app's features, customizing virtual learning methods, and training the teachers. In addition, limited equipment is also an obstacle because there are several teachers who have not adequate equipment to teach online.

TREC currently has 50 active students consisting of elementary, middle, and high school students and 9 teachers. TREC's teachers are young people aged 21 to 29 years whom Flora has recruited from her community. It certainly contributes to providing job opportunities for young people in the area whereas 16 out of 100 young people in East Kalimantan are not absorbed in the job market.

One of the lessons learned at the entrepreneurship bootcamp is related to the legal framework, which has become a milestone in near future to manage her business establishment papers. "Since November I have been looking for information on the notary deed for the establishment of a business entity next year [2022]," said Flora. In addition, she also hopes that in the future TREC teachers can get English certification.

Flora also has a big dream for TREC. “I hope that TREC will become a foundation – which can become a school and a place of learning for many children, maybe for underprivileged children like me to achieve their dreams. Many children have dreams but are constrained by challenges such as parents or finances. I hope TREC can be a platform for that," she explained.

Flora said that she had doubts about starting a business. In addition, entrepreneurship is still seen as an unstable job compared to other jobs such as company employees or civil servants. However, these doubts were cleared by Flora when she made up her mind to focus to develop her business in 2018.

"Don't be afraid to dream. Entrepreneurship is not easy but be diligent and grateful for what you have achieved. Be a young person who is actively looking for information and opportunities. Believe that good intentions will pave a way," she concluded.


SDG Tags: SDG 4. Quality Education; SDG 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth

Social service 2016