Laurien Meuter's Journey Towards Building Commercially Successful Social Impact Organization, Tiny Miracles

By: Laurien Meuter, Director-Digital Marketing, Interra Information Technologies | Monday, 20 May 2024

They say, the universe gives you signs before life’s true purpose is revealed to you. For social entrepreneur Laurien Meuter, the first sign came to her on one of her work visits to Bombay, India. Then a 29-year-old banker with ABN Amro, Amsterdam, Laurien would volunteer at a shelter for underprivileged children in Bombay on weekends. She befriended one particular boy at the shelter and developed a deep bond with him. But one day, the boy was gone. Foregoing her own safety, Laurien searched for the boy frantically; she combed the streets, even going to places that are considered dangerous. She never saw him again. “That moment will stay with me forever,” she says. “It made me realize that I needed to do something more meaningful with my life other than being a banker”.

The realization laid the foundation for ‘Tiny Miracles’, a social enterprise that aims to take people out of poverty and empower them to stay out of poverty.

Arriving At A Holistic Approach

Rome was not built in a day and neither was Tiny Miracles. it took Laurien a few years to device the perfect approach the challenge posed by poverty. “When you visit India for the first time as a foreigner, the stark realities hit you in the face. But in our naivety, we believe that sending children to school can solved all their problems.”

Laurien began her journey in the Indian social development sector by convincing schools in Bombay to enroll young girls from the streets of Bombay’s infamous red-light area. Within a year she was able to get 40 girls enrolled in schools. However, parents soon began taking their children out of school. “That’s when it all clicked!” says Laurien. “The key was to take a holistic approach to solving the problem of poverty. We needed to remove all obstacles around the child going to school. This could only be done by educating and empowering the entire community”.

Laurien then began tackling challenges as they emerged. Soon she started seeing positive outcomes. “Children were going to school, their mothers were working with us, kids were being sent to good tuition classes. Although these were small wins, yet they created a larger impact on their quality of life”.

The next important step was to replicate the same model across more communities to impact more lives. “That’s when we started defining what we did and the outcome was the ‘Get Out’ program,” says Laurien. Run by Tiny Miracles Foundation, ‘Get Out’ of poverty program does exactly as its namesake; It aims to break the poverty cycle and equip people with the tools to be able to do it themselves. Tackling the second problem is the ‘Stay Out’ of poverty program which is run by Tiny Miracles B Corp. It gives people the tools to become self-dependent.

Laurien meuter's journey towards building commercially successful social impact organization, tiny miracles

Awareness & Social Cohesion At The Center Of It All

Essentially, the Get Out program focus a few crucial areas; healthcare and education being the primary ones. The other important pillar for the program is creating awareness. The next is skills training for parents and the fifth pillar is focusing on harnessing the power of community.

“Awareness Is Key,” Says Laurien.

“When every day is a struggle, it is hard to believe that better opportunities exist. Growing people’s awareness about the life that they can live, is at the core of our approach. An empowered mindset is a capable mindset.”

Tiny Miracles’ awareness sessions make that happen. “We cover over 150 topics during our awareness sessions, ranging from financial literacy, how to open a bank account, budgeting and saving money, confidence to speak up to, domestic abuse to hygiene and human rights,” she adds.

The Tiny Miracles team also emphasizes on creating community cohesion. A positive change in social fabric means people coming together, interacting with each other and feeling part of a community. They connect with each other, inside and also outside of their communities; creating a common purpose. One of their initiatives is a communication session between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. “We make sure that women sit in groups and speak to each other about their problems which helps them understand each other better”.

Upskilling & Empowering Individuals

“We believe that good employment is key to living a life in dignity. Besides being able to pay daily expenses, it also raises self-esteem.”

As part of Tiny Miracles’ 'Get Out' program skills-training classes are offered that cover skills such as sewing, folding, product manufacturing, and the basics of quality control. “We ensure all these skills are valuable and relevant for future endeavours. All classes happen within the communities, making participating in them more accessible and practical,” adds Laurien. Upon passing the skills exam, participants get the opportunity to work with Tiny Miracles’ social enterprise. The jobs range from stitching and folding to quality control depending on their acquired skill.

Tiny Miracle’s social enterprise employs these people while also tracking their personal lives, especially the education of their children.

Commercially Viable Social Impact Program

Laurien’s foresight made her realize that depending on donor capital alone would not be empowering nor sustainable in the long run. Hence, Tiny Miracles works for various reputed client organizations such as Rituals Cosmetics, KLM Airlines, Rijks Museum, Van Gogh Musem and Heineken among others.

The beneficiaries of Tiny Miracles’ programs are employed to build products for client organizations.

“We believe in crafting the highest quality durable products that people actually want to buy because of the attractive design. We have very high standards. Many of our design products have been featured in publications including New York Times, Vouge Living, Elle Decoration and Fast Company,” says a proud Laurien.

She believes that companies in the West want their products to tell a story and do not mind paying more for ethically made products. This way employees receive higher renumerations, making it a ‘win-win’ situation for all stakeholders.

Today Tiny Miracles is a profitable entity. Over the years the production has scaled up tremendously.

“We have scaled to the extent where we make 2 million products per year. We are exporting to many European brands and we're now also starting to partner up with Indian brands to create more opportunities for communities,” informs Laurien.

Tiny Miracles’ workshop in Andheri employs over 150 women. This space has continued to grow over the past months and has provided Tiny Miracles with a space to host people and companies to see how and what the organization does.

Eye On Impacting More Communities

One would assume that having cracked profitability, Tiny Miracles would be on its way of becoming a large lucrative company. But Laurien’s objectives are different. “I do not wish to turn Tiny Miracles’ into a large company. But I aim to showcase what we do and what we have achieved so far. This way we can show others the way to achieve similar success as well.”

Currently Tiny Miracles works with eight communities. Going forward they intend to reach out to eight more communities and mark a presence beyond the state of Maharashtra.

Laurien concludes by stating her true objective, “We are here to lead by example and to prove that it is possible to build a commercially viable social enterprise. And not only for money, but also for purpose”.

Laurien Meuter, Director-Digital Marketing, Interra Information Technologies

Laurien Meuter believes that she could make a difference in the world and work for realisation of this dream though her organisation Tiny Miracles. This Stanford alumni has deeply analyzed the poverty roadblocks in India for 12 years and has came with some simple solution to help people get out of poverty.