Growing up in an Indian community, Neekita shared that it was common to see wives abused or abused by their own husbands. “It was almost as if it was acceptable for a man to control and beat his wife, even when sometimes he was not to blame. It’s as if women accept it the way their husbands do, ”she told Vulcan Post.
Studying psychology in college, Neekita began to understand the complexity of domestic abuse and learned that there are several reasons why this occurs. While behavior can be derived from learning and allowing oneself culturally, it could also be related to the outcome of one dealing with addiction or a mental health disorder.
Neekita thought, “In my experience talking to people about domestic abuse, it is often seen as a family affair that others should not get into. But my question has always been why not ?! ”
So he tied up three friends to throw himself The Spread Project (TSP), a business that spreads awareness about domestic abuse with homemade homemade jams as a medium.
Use spreads to spread awareness
The goal of TSP is simple: to raise awareness about domestic abuse as you hand out jams to your toasts. The product has a label that highlights the information on the topic, which causes the reader to talk about it.
Neekita’s idea of using product packaging as a vehicle arose during grocery shopping; I often went through the ingredients that appear on the labels when choosing items. He postulated that probably most Malaysians did the same.
If you post a message to a product that consumers are likely to use and buy often, the exposure is high, so discussions are expected to come out.
“I have always thought that having conversations on difficult topics is important for society to evolve. That’s how the idea of provoking conversations, breaking taboos and empowering people to position themselves through education came about, ”Neekita explained.
“While a book can take a long time and involve a lot of commitment for some, a label can be easily seen and read, either at the grocery store, while having breakfast or passing the jar to someone else at the table.”
But in order to really impact the issue of domestic abuse, just talking about it won’t reduce it. Neekita and his team also needed a way to reach the real survivors.
That’s why TSP donates 20% of its profits to the Penang Women’s Change Center (WCC). With these funds, the WCC will take initiatives to get the survivors of the abuse back on their feet to lead meaningful lives after recovering from the trauma.
The rope in like-minded people
Although TSP was officially launched in April 2021 by a team of four, Neekita actually started as a solo project in 2017. The only product it manufactured at the time was Cookies & Cream Spread .
But with a full-time job and limited kitchen appliances at home, producing more than 10 pots at a time was a challenge, so the business stopped.
Still believing in her mission, Neekita spent the following years looking for suitable partners who could help her expand. Nothing materialized until she was finally connected to a chef friend, Fred. He is the owner of St Honoré Pastry Institute and TTDI.
Then came Imee, a friend from her gym who was interested in collaborating on TSP’s business model and with the goal of working with Malaysian charities. Finally, the brand needed a creative, someone who could work on the company’s visual and branding materials.
Neekita got Ben, a graphic designer he knew from the gym himself, who got excited about his initiative and also wanted a piece of cake.
Making an impact, batch by batch
In addition to working their individual jobs full time, the 4-person team dedicates most of their free time to TSP operations.
“The main challenge is that there is much more that can be done. We have had impressive collaborative conversations, but there is only so much time on our hands, ”Neekita shared.
“I think we’ve been incredibly grounded in what we can achieve in the time we have, so so far we’ve been pretty good. We’ll definitely have to rethink that when we think about expanding the project.”
TSP’s best sellers so far are its Strawberry Balsamic (RM30) and Cocoa Hazelnut (RM45) cakes, the cheapest and most expensive of its variants.
Since the recovery of TSP, the team has exhausted its first and second batch within 5 days, although it only produces 100 and 80 pots at a time respectively. From the sales, they have managed to raise approximately 1,500 RM in donations to the CMI.
With a third batch to be released soon, they have kept logistics costs low by personally delivering orders to customers over the weekends. Now the team has partnered with a logistics company that has agreed to deliver its spreads for RM5 per trip from Fred’s kitchen to Cyberjaya. This will help increase equipment production.
In the short term, the TSP team aims to increase its revenue by producing more volume, with the hope that it will also be sold in mini-supermarkets or grocery stores. In addition, they will refine TSP’s social media to include more educational material on domestic abuse and collaborate with advisors to organize talks.
While it is a premature plan, Neekita also wants to partner with organizations and universities that can help survivors of domestic abuse with the right skills to achieve them.
Many of Malaysia’s charities do a great job of hosting these people, providing emotional support and counseling, but at The Spread Project we believe that a very powerful way to break the cycle of abuse is through access to financial means.
Neekita Patel, founder of The Spread Project.
- You can find out more about The Spread Project here.
- You can read about other Malaysian startups we’ve written about here.
Featured Image Credit: The Spread Project