Just before setting up BloomBack in 2017, Hazel Kweh had, in her own words, “hit rock bottom”. No one could have known, though; as a financial adviser, she was rising through the ranks after achieving the industry’s most coveted Million Dollar Round Table membership.
“Deep down, I felt incomplete,” she says. “I’d spent a lot of time building my career and I’d drifted apart from my family.”
Kweh’s drive for success stemmed from growing up under challenging circumstances. Her mother not only had to provide for three young children but also pay off debts left by her father. To make ends meets, her mother took on multiple jobs, including helping out at a hawker stall and a provision shop.
Meanwhile, Kweh’s elder sister, Faith, who struggled with hearing and partial visual impairment and couldn’t find a job due to her disabilities, suffered from depression. To escape the difficulties at home, her elder brother, Alan, got into bad company and was arrested for substance abuse.
As Kweh says: “It affected my ability to trust people and to show them love without reservation. I thought wealth would make me happy but I became a workaholic and suffered burnout instead.”
The turning point came when Kweh and her sister attended a friend’s wedding, after which they repurposed flowers from the event into bouquets and gifted them to the lonely and needy elderly. The happy faces of the recipients made the siblings realise, despite their own difficulties, that they could help make a difference in others’ lives.
That passion project birthed BloomBack, which has over the last three years distributed repurposed flowers to patients at Thye Hua Kwan Moral Society, National Centre for Infectious Diseases, and Banyan Home@Pelangi Village, among other non-profits.
BloomBack uses beautifully preserved flowers in the crafting of gifts such as glass domes, jewellery boxes, and bag charms. By training and employing those from marginalised communities, including single mothers and persons with disabilities, and restoring their confidence and emotional well-being, Kweh hopes to help them feel more empowered.
And when Covid-19 struck, the company initiated a Bloom It Forward movement, whereby customers donated preserved flower buckets and rose soaps to more than 300 frontline healthcare workers, to cheer their spirits. Kweh shares: “During a crisis, everyone feels lost, fearful, and uncertain of what the future holds. It was heartwarming to see like-minded people from the community coming together to join us to share and give.”
“Running BloomBack made me stronger and trained my patience. It’s essential to work on what’s inside of me before I can take on bigger things in life. That’s why my favourite flower is the wildflower — it isn’t deliberately seeded but simply grows in the wild — because it symbolises resilience amid rest. And that reflects my attitude these days.”
This is part of our series on Rising Above Adversity. For the full story, click here.
The story first appeared in the October issue of A Magazine.