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Innospark Kick-Off: Reconnecting For Innovation

by Jazlyn Khoo

Sometimes, life-changing innovations are born from reconnecting with your heart.

This was the heart of the kick-off session in the Innospark series, held in collaboration with Library@Orchard, for the months of June and July.

Three speakers – DirectGreen founder Serve Sondeijker, eco-designer Agatha Lee and Urbane Nomads founder Hajar Ali – shared what sparked their flourishing start-ups at Library@Orchard’s M A K E Space on 14 June, a Sunday afternoon.

A simple question about environmental health – “what can I do?” – led Mr. Sondeijker from practicing law to founding DirectGreen, an award-winning customer sustainability program that helps sellers and shoppers to go green.

For eco-designer Agatha Lee, her 15-year-mountain of obsolete clothing sparked her upcycling movement. Now, she holds workshops that teach interested parties how to upcycle their own “waste”, and runs a blog chronicling her designs.

Hajar Ali’s luxury travel firm, Urbane Nomads, was born from her desire for adventure. The firm quenches the thirst of travellers looking for the best of both worlds: luxury and adventure.

The trio shared about their individual journeys to turn a mere belief into a healthy start-up.


Mr. Sondeijker shared how design “turned ideas into reality”, and reminded the enraptured audience that such entrepreneurship was

a “joint effort”.  A business has to be sustainable, he said, and remain “ahead of the competition”.

Agatha Lee took the stage as Mr. Sondeijker ended his talk.

The listeners, both young and old, gawked at the upcycled garments that Ms. Lee showcased during her talk. She explained how one could refashion old clothing into pillow covers and more, “reconnecting with your possessions” and giving old products more value.

“  The more creative you get, the more things you can create,” she said.

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Finally, the audience were whisked away into the exciting world of Hajar Ali’s travels. Ms. Ali, the first woman to cross the Empty Quarter, livened up the mood with anecdotes of her experiences in Lebanon, Lake Titicaca and Syria.

She shared how her personal travel style evolved: after visiting many luxury resorts all over the world, Ms. Ali found it stale and boring.

“No matter how luxurious, it (luxury resorts) is the same,” she explained.

She wanted adventure, and she found it in remote areas like Ethiopia. After establishing Urbane Nomads and seeing how some traditional practices were becoming obsolete in today’s world, Ms. Ali began to question: “how can we give back to the community?”

This sparked off Travel Like A Humanitarian (Travellah), an online platform for Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) to put up their travel-related products. It is dedicated to supporting traditional practices around the world that would “otherwise be economically unfeasible”.


The three talks were concluded with an intriguing Q&A session with Hajar Ali, moderated by innovation and creativity advocate, MD Indera of 98 Ft.

Members of the audience chipped in with questions such as what started her interest in travel and whether she was covered by travel insurance.

Much to their amusement, Ms. Ali shared how she lied to her par­­ents about her very first solo trip to Lebanon. Now, though, they do not mind as much.

By reconnecting with their inner purposes, Hajar Ali, Agatha Lee and Serve Sondeijker triumphed odds and started up successful, flourishing businesses.

As the talk came to a close, the listeners connected with the presenters over refreshments. The speakers certainly brought us on an enjoyable journey from environmental concerns to adventuring across the world. Many of us left with the gift of new knowledge, and that is a precious commodity indeed.

Innospark is a curatorial series by 98 Ft., conducted in partnership with Library@Orchard to bridge communities through innovations, creativity and entrepreneurship.