PETALING JAYA: Picture yourself sitting down for a classic breakfast of toast and jam. Today, you notice a quote written on your jam jar: “From every wound there is a scar, and every scar tells a story. A story that says, ‘I survived’.”
This unique method is how The Spread Project (TSP), a local social enterprise, hopes to encourage discussion on difficult issues at the breakfast table.
Domestic violence has been on the rise in Malaysia, especially during the various movement control orders enforced because of the pandemic. In the first four months of this year alone, 900 cases were reported.
For 29-year-old Neekita Patel, it is a subject she knows far too well, having observed it happening around her.
“Even through my teenage years, I knew I wanted to address the issue of domestic violence,” she tells FMT.
She embarked on TSP in 2017 with a homemade cookies-and-cream spread but quickly learnt it was difficult to produce more than 10 jars by herself. It took her up to seven hours, something that was not feasible with her full-time job as a consultant.
Consequently, business ground to a halt.
“I needed someone who could come up with the spreads because that is the most laborious part of the process,” Neekita says.
She managed to rope in three friends – Fred, a chef and owner of the Pastry Institute of St Honoré in Cyberjaya; Imee, a close friend who shared TSP’s vision; and Ben, a graphic designer who runs his own studio. And TSP was off and running again.
“In January, we had these Sunday sessions where we would nail down the flavours of the spreads. Fred came up with seven jam flavours but we decided to table it with something familiar that we know our customers would enjoy, as well as exotic flavours for those on the hunt for a new type of spread to add to their breakfast routine.”
Thus, four TSP varieties were introduced – strawberry balsamic for those who enjoy the traditional flavour; cacao hazelnut, a vegan version of Nutella; and, for those who are more adventurous, salted caramel, and winter tea pear.
TSP successfully sold out their first two batches within five days of the relaunch, and currently sell about 100 jars a month.
“Through the spreads, we want to encourage table talk on domestic violence but in a manner that is a lot less threatening,” Neekita explains, adding that 20% of TSP’s profits go to the Women’s Change Centre (WCC) in Penang.
With these funds, WCC will conduct initiatives to get abuse survivors on their feet again after recovering from trauma.
“Our strategic partnership with WCC will expose their amazing work to more people, and we plan to collaborate with lesser-known organisations who work on the same issues.”
Neekita reveals that they are waiting for the ongoing lockdown to be lifted to have in-person events, guided by psychologists and counsellors, on what people can do if they witness domestic abuse.
“We also wish to partner with organisations that are able to buy our spreads for their employees, and potentially use it as a vehicle to raise awareness on the issue,” she adds.
In the meantime, TSP is creating campaigns via social media to educate consumers, and are continuing to add new flavours to their line-up. Two varieties, cashew nut butter and sunflower butter, will be available soon.
Neekita admits that, for now, their customers are mostly purchasing their products because they are delicious. But the team continues to fine-tune their outreach process, to achieve their goal of bolstering discussion on heavy topics like domestic violence over something light like strawberry jam.