When three 19-year-olds set up a business that adds artistic pockets to clothes, they were not only hoping to generate a profit.

They also intended to help the community by employing intellectually disabled people to sew these "unique" features onto the garments, which will then be sold.

For full-time national servicemen Looi Qin En, Oswald Yeo and Seah Ying Cong, this was a good way to channel their entrepreneurial instincts into a good cause and get other young people involved.

The trio - whose enterprise is called Arts and Sew - are far from the only young people interested in combining business with social good.

During the Budget debate last month, Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong noted that rising numbers of young people are setting up social enterprises. There are more than 200 youth sector organisations today, compared with a mere 70 a decade ago.

This positive trend was affirmed by the $100 million National Youth Fund announced last month, which will provide an annual budget of about $5 million for ground-up initiatives by young people - more than eight times the current annual funding.

Social enterprises are not required to register under any body. But a check by The Straits Times with various organisations in the scene revealed that they have observed an increased interest in social entrepreneurship among young people across the board.

For example, the Young Social Entrepreneurs programme run by the Singapore International Foundation has expanded from a five-day workshop with 25 participants in 2010 to a seven-month-long mentorship programme that saw 110 applicants this year.

The HUB, an incubator for entrepreneurs of sustainable businesses, said its tally of youth members has increased from 60 last October to 123 today.

The Halogen Foundation, which runs youth leadership development programmes, has also observed an increase in youth social enterprises.

The range of causes supported by these young people has increased, said Halogen Foundation Singapore chief executive Sean Kong.

"But those aged below 25 tend to gravitate towards humanitarian causes and groups promoting the arts and culture," he added.

Those taking part in the Young Social Entrepreneurs programme have shown "an awareness of the potential in harnessing partnerships and collaborations to do good", said Singapore International Foundation executive director Jean Tan.

The young founders of Arts and Sew hope to amplify their impact by providing mentorship and logistics to students, who could get involved in their business. So far, Hwa Chong Institution has agreed to work with them.

According to the Social Enterprise Association, social start-ups run by young people are no less sustainable than regular ones, which can suffer attrition rates of up to 80 per cent in the first three years.

It seems it is their sense of conviction and passion for their cause that keep these youngsters going despite the difficulties of entrepreneurship.

Mr Yeo said: "I hope to harness my creative instincts to use business as a force for good, and a social enterprise is the best vehicle for me to achieve that."