By CHRISTIE CHUA
“How can we stop the sharks from eating us up?”
The young entrepreneur, who was concerned about the survival of smaller enterprises in the market, was referring to the way big corporations can easily wipe out the competition because they have access to much more resources.
In response to the question, Entrepreneur Development Ministry (MED) secretary-general Datuk Wan Suraya Wan Mohd Radzi advised him to not jump on the bandwagon, but to find his own niche instead. “That’s the beauty of entrepreneurship – you never know what’s going to be popular. You have to explore and see what’s available,” she said.
Wan Suraya added that in the past, people would look at financial aid options and then decide on what type of business to pursue. However, she stressed that it does not work that way – potential entrepreneurs must already know what they want to do, which should be in line with their own interests and abilities.
“Don’t change it based on what the government can offer you,” she advised. “That’s how successful entrepreneurs did it, for example, Jack Ma. They all started with their own vision.”
The entrepreneur is one of 35 participants under the Professional Training and Education for Growing Entrepreneurs (PROTÉGÉ) Business Accelerator Programme (BAP) that was recently launched in collaboration with the National Entrepreneurship Institute (INSKEN) to help budding entrepreneurs expand their business and increase the efficiency of their operations. This is done using coaching and mentoring methods over a period of four months beginning from Aug 3, 2019.
Khairul Amirin Khairudin, the 21-year-old owner of Kaorin Resources, has a vision to transform the way farming is viewed in urban areas. His business is focused on urban farming as he wants to enable others to grow their own food – in his own words, “so they can easily plant and pluck”.
“I hope that by joining this programme I will get guidance and a platform that will help me to bring my ideas further and also [give me an opportunity to] network,” he said.
“When I first started out, I didn’t know anything or have anyone who could help me, but with programmes such as this, I’m now clear [about what to do] and I’m confident that this will help me accelerate my business.”
Commitment is key
Each participant is assigned a business coach (or Biz Kaunselor as they are known). These individuals – who are entrepreneurs themselves – will coach the participants and follow up on their progress each month.
This focus on coaching is in line with MED’s current stance on providing financial aid to entrepreneurs – Wan Suraya said that the ministry is moving away from giving out grants and taking on the role as a facilitator that creates a supportive environment for entrepreneurs instead.
She added that while there may not be as many grants and financial incentives for entrepreneurs as before, what they have now are incentives that require commitment from entrepreneurs.
“This is because we see that only when there is commitment from entrepreneurs can the business move forward – and that commitment and discipline must come from entrepreneurs themselves.”
Nurul Hanisah Md Badrul Hisham, who sells telur pindang (braised eggs) and runs Telur Pindang Raja Hawa with her sister, is an example of a young entrepreneur who is dedicated to doing her best to take her business further.
In a bid to upskill herself with a limited budget, she painstakingly searched the Internet for programmes that could equip her with crucial entrepreneurial skills at no cost – and this was how she stumbled upon the BAP by PROTÉGÉ.
“This programme teaches us how to manage our business, how to know if the market is really there and if our product is still relevant, and how to package our products,” said the 28-year-old. “Eggs are our main product – which are very fragile – so we need to know how to keep it intact till it reaches the customer.”
“This is one of the good programmes by the government – they provide it to all young entrepreneurs for free. Most of the time, when we want to acquire knowledge we have to pay, so this is a very good initiative,” she added.
Wan Suraya (centre, in white), Norashikin (on Wan Suraya’s right) and Dr Izham (second row centre, in blue) pose with the PROTÉGÉ-BAP participants after a dialogue session at the Maybank Academy in Bangi on Aug 3. They were joined by participants from the PROTÉGÉ-Maybank programme.
Taking the first step
Ahmad Hakimi Ahmad Sa’ahiry shared that he joined the programme to learn more about financial strategy so that he can expand Mecha Trading, his business that deals with phone repairs.
The 24-year-old said: “I’m freelancing at the moment and want to learn more about marketing. Once my financials are stable, I hope to open a store – for now I want to get knowledge and coaching from experienced people.”
Nor Hidayah Azmi, 32, who runs an F&B outlet called D’ Gelanggi Kitchen by herself in Bangi, Selangor, shared that she had never expected to have her own business. “In the beginning, I didn’t like the idea of being an entrepreneur – but when you don’t like something, it tends to come towards you,” she said.
“So, I just had to face it, go through with it, and learn from my experiences. Now, God willing, I have my own business. That’s why I say that sometimes it’s the very things we don’t like that we somehow end up doing and liking – that’s just life,” said Nor Hidayah.
At the end of the day, Wan Suraya’s advice for young entrepreneurs was this:
“You can go for all the training in the world, but you need to be producing – because no one can take the knowledge and experience from you. Get your hands dirty and go back to producing – but it must be what the market needs.”
“What makes an entrepreneur successful will change with the trends, and the validation will come from the community – but you must do business with integrity,” she advised.