They Prove You're Never Too Old To Be An Entrepreneur
The founders of I'm Soul Inc believe that age doesn't matter as long as you have a passion for making the world a better place.
The Reader's Choice Award winner of the DBS-NUS Social Venture Challenge Asia 2016, is a Singaporean social enterprise that wants to make the healing benefits of music accessible to everyone. And they mean everyone – whatever their age, ability or disability.
I'm Soul Inc was founded in 2013 but it was only a year later that founder Michelle Lee, 59, had the resources and staff needed to finally kick off her programmes.
This social enterprise uses music technology to enable everyone and anyone to create music, so forget expensive lessons, needing to read notes or requiring the dexterity to work the instruments.
Think of music technology as intuitive, easy-to-activate devices that take the place of regular instruments. One of the technologies that I'm Soul Inc uses is called the Soundbeam. It consists of very sensitive movement sensors, and plates that act as sound switches. A client can make music, controlling pitch and sounds produced just by moving their hands, legs, head or body, around, closer to or further away from the sensors. This gives them an uninhibited outlet for creative expression and allows them to feel empowered through the composing of their own song. I'm Soul Inc currently works with a few organisations, including St. John's Home for Elderly Persons, Parkinson Society Singapore and Singapore Cancer Society.
Check out our interview with Michelle below.
Why did you decide to start I’m Soul Inc?
I was in the UK for a consultant training conference and met a music technologist. I thought of my late father. He used to play the erhu until he had a stroke that left him paralysed, and he could no longer hold the instrument. Angry and frustrated, his spirit gave up. I believe many, many people, abled and disabled, of any age, can benefit from the healing power of music but cannot make music the conventional way. So when I returned to Singapore and found that there wasn't music technology accessible to all types of people, I decided to start I'm Soul Inc.
How do you feel about starting a company at 56?
Most of the time, we hear about how the future belongs to the youth. If people are living longer, the elderly are going to be part of the future. So I hope that doing this shows that anyone can do anything at any age. Older entrepreneurs have had a longer life experience – we bring a lot of expertise and mindful thinking to the table. The white hair must count for something!
What's a concern for you running I'm Soul Inc?
Sustainability is super important to us – we want to leave a legacy. As you can imagine, myself and my Board Chairman, Carmee Lim, who is 76 years old, are no longer able to do without enough hours of sleep at night (laughs). So, staffing is important and we hope to continue finding the right people to take on this work.
Have you seen the healing benefits of music in person?
Absolutely! I met an 88-year-old man in an elderly home, who used to play the piano but had not done so for the last 40 years because of Parkinson’s and other health issues. When enabled to “play the piano” on the Soundbeam equipment by just waving his hands, he was so overjoyed, he teared. There was another lady in her 60's who was unable to sit or stand without assistance. When enabled to make music on the Soundbeam, her deep engagement made her stand up by herself. On the final day of the programme, she even danced!
“I am more and more convinced that we are addressing a real social and economic need that is often neglected. We need to help people be happy, recover early, connect with others and enhance the quality of life. Music is universal, drug-free and has no side effects. Through technology, we can put the power of music in the hands of the masses – affordable, accessible, anytime and anywhere,” says Michelle.
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