What These Entrepreneurs Can Teach Budding Business Owners, and Practically Anybody About Life

What These Entrepreneurs Can Teach Budding Business Owners, and Practically Anybody About Life

Tomorrow onwards until 15 June, we celebrate Vivid Sydney’s Light, Music and Ideas Festival 2019. Some of you may recall it as ‘the time when Sydney Opera House is, literally, and figuratively, lit’.

This kind of lit. Image: Vivid Sydney

Most know it as a celebration of lights and music, but what they also might not know is that it is also a tribute to creative ideas. The festival also aims to guide budding entrepreneurs who have bright ideas and intend to take it further by launching into entrepreneurship. Through workshops, talks and idea exchanging, those participating will have the chance to speak to experience entrepreneurs, glean ideas and get inspired.

We here in Malaysia didn’t want to miss out on this, so we spoke to some of our very own homegrown entrepreneurs who have happily shared their own stories, experiences, challenges and lessons learned throughout their pursuit of passion.

These entrepreneurs, Hazwan Yazit and Ee-Lyn Tan of The Accidental Bakers; Angie Chin-Tan of HelloHERA Hub; Ivan Eng and Hany Cheng of Havan Clothing, Roshan Ramani of RRS Urban Ventures and Shafiqah Shafie of Pinkboxcereal, have quite the spectacular amount of sage advice to whomsoever intends to learn a thing or two. Read on to find out what they shared!

Hazwan Yazit and Ee-Lyn Tan, The Accidental Bakers

These two are in charge of baking and bringing you the best pastries in town. Image: The Accidental Bakers

“Hello! We are The Accidental Bakers; two foodie friends Hazwan and Ee-Lyn who turned into business partners. We are first and foremost, bakers but we are also business owners with one central kitchen in Sri Hartamas and two retail shops located in Pavilion and the Gardens Mall – where we now sell over 10 flavours of brownies, making us the first brownies specialist store in Malaysia.”

The Story: Both were formerly working in the corporate field, Hazwan a headhunter while Ee-Lyn was in PR. They used to bake after work and weekends fulfilling small orders for friends, family and supplying to one cafe as well. In March 2014, they made the bold decision to give up their corporate jobs to bake full time as orders were increasing. It was not an easy decision and one that was very scary initially at the uncertainty of it all, but they pushed through and made sure they got enough orders to sustain their business.

However, they caught their big break in 2015 and found their dream central kitchen in Sri Hartamas. Their main core business is cafe and wholesale supply while also making custom cakes for events such as birthdays, weddings, and baby showers, hantarans and any occasion really that requires cakes and desserts.

Sweet dreams are made of these. Image: The Accidental Bakers

Key Attitudes To Have:

  1. Resilience, and a we-cannot-fail attitude.
  2. Never give up and always surround yourself with positive people. Whenever you feel down, speak up and hang out with people who lift your spirits.
  3. Be on your toes at all times; running your own business is never easy.
  4. Whenever you feel like giving up, always ask yourself why you started in the first place.
  5. Pick a great business partner(s) that has the same mindset, and one who shares the same goals. Always share with one another, and motivate each other – especially when the business isn’t doing well.

The Biggest Challenge: Not being able to truly switch off, or step away. Morning to night, both Hazwan and Ee-Lyn are overseeing day-to-day operations, so teamwork is an absolute necessity.

Lessons Learned: “Our journey has been studded with trial and error but we wish we had more guidance on money management as we continue to expand,” confess the two. “Managing money is important when cash is flowing into the business and to the owners. We always thought we could handle business accounting and taxes but professional help has been very useful as the books can get complicated. So, getting all the help you can get on bookkeeping can prevent it from becoming a reason not to expand!”

Angie Chin-Tan, CEO & founder of HelloHERA Hub

The woman responsible for Malaysia’s first-ever all-woman Coworking & Event Space. Image: Angie Chin-Tan

“I co-founded Malaysia’s First All Women Co-working & Event Space, HelloHERA Hub located at Q Sentral in KL Sentral early this year. I am currently working on an online platform that helps women fund their projects. Apart from running my own ventures, I am also a mum of a 12-year-old, and 6 adopted stray cats, and have embarked on a coffee table book project initiative chronicling inspiring women in Asia that everyone must know. I was born and bred in Sabah, but based in Kuala Lumpur for the past 25 years now.”

The Story: Angie worked in the corporate sector for 20 years until she realised that all she wanted to do was to pursue her passion as an entrepreneur. With just RM1,500, she started Moms4Projects, a platform connecting mothers with jobs. Over time, it grew to include women who are not mothers yet and rebranded to WonderWomen Asia, focusing on content, learning and entrepreneurship.

Until recently, she realised a need for a hub for women and mothers to work and organise events, hence, HelloHERA was set up – inspired by her own daughter who previously had to be left at a small waiting area of a co-working space because of their no-children policy, and for women needing private places to express milk or simply remove their hijab to cool down.

Image: HelloHERA Hub

Key Attitudes To Have:

  1. To not limit ourselves to only one venture in life. We should open up ourselves to explore opportunities and not be afraid to fail and get up again.
  2. Entrepreneurship is not for everyone, and it’s a lonely journey. You must have a strong mind and heart.
  3. Yes, it is easier to earn a steady income doing a good job at work sans the headache to bring in revenue monthly if you are an entrepreneur, but entrepreneurship helps you discover talents you never knew you had and allows you to explore opportunities without boundaries.
  4. Be consistent, humble and encourage a pay-it-forward attitude. All successful people have experienced challenges before and by paying it forward – it enriches your soul by helping other budding entrepreneurs to be successful too.

How To Overcome Challenges: “I am glad that I have faced hardship and challenges since young as it prepared me to be resilient. I learnt that it is okay to cry if I have to and talk to people that I trust that I need help,” admits Angie. “No one is perfect. I understand that setbacks are there to challenge you to think out of the box and solve the problem. As long as you understand the WHYs of setbacks, you will strive to get back up again.”

Lessons Learned: Life is about learning and making mistakes, as that is how one grows even if we’re in our 20s or 60s. Always have a plan B, C or D in case whatever you pursue doesn’t work out for you. There is nothing to be ashamed of if you were unable to achieve a certain mission knowing that you have tried your best in ways that you know how. But make sure you don’t surrender until you’ve tried everything. It’s always harder at first, but good fortune always favours the bold and those that remain on their spot even when everyone leaves.

Ivan Eng and Hany Cheng, founders of social enterprise Havan Clothing

Partners in life, and business. Image: Havan Clothing

“I’m Ivan, an dadtrepreneur, who spends most of my hours taking care of my 1-year-old boy, while working on my social entreprise, Havan Clothing. Hany, on the other hand, is a professional counsellor and an entrepreneur currently pursuing her PhD, providing counselling services to the public and a few education institutions and serving her time with Havan Clothing on empowering the shelter-home children.”

The Story: Ivan’s feeling of being robotic and unenthusiastic about his routine life wouldn’t go away. One day, during one of his ex-company’s visits to a children’s shelter for their annual CSR activity, Ivan had an epiphany that such a fun and charitable day would never be repeated because of his ‘busy routine’, but he couldn’t stop thinking about the children.

After speaking to his counsellor wife who also specialises in counselling children, they both wanted to do something for the children. And then, an idea came. They realised that the kids’ drawings were really good, and turned them into clothing designs, effectively solving two problems: building up the kids’ confidence level, and then in turn, funds more IQ and EQ lessons for the kids. Thus, Havan Clothing was born.

Havan Clothing turns kids’ drawings into actual designs for apparel.

Key Attitudes To Have:

  1. The concept of ‘try everything’ mentality. There are no absolute answers in real life or business world. There are no perfect formulas of success. So, experiment!
  2. The WHY is important. Havan Clothing’s big why is self-sustaining their social cause, and being consistent in mentoring and guiding the children, and that guides them everyday.
  3. Juggling life, entrepreneurship and personal financing is impossible, but remember this mantra: “Do our best today, give up tomorrow”.  

How To Overcome Challenges: “Working partners is the key. Hany and I both compliment each other. We not only work well together by covering our own shortfall towards each other, we also give emotional support when the other feels down,” says Ivan.

Lessons Learned: Business is a skill that can be learned, and one of the most effective ways is to speak to an experienced entrepreneur, or by seeking mentorship,” advises Ivan. “Mentorship provides you with different insights and perspectives on how you run your business and it will also provide intangible values such as networking and motivation!”

Roshan Ramani, Group CEO of RRS Urban Ventures

“I am the Group CEO of RRS Urban Ventures, which I founded and own. It has four arms of businesses – corporate training, digital marketing, digital automation and event management. Under the corporate training arm, I am partnered with Learning MatchMaker and GKK Consultants.”

The Story: After being disenchanted with pursuing full-time jobs and having a fixed income which never seemed enough, Roshan delved into other jobs that gave him valuable experience in managing businesses – despite having to take pay cuts.

After juggling many titles and responsibilities, he gained experience in building rapport and expanding his network and eventually decided to pursue his passion for Learning & Development, considering he always loved sharing knowledge with people. Hence, after two years at Leaderonomics, he finally founded his own consultancy firm.

Realising the fact he is a people’s person drove him to pursue his passion. Image: Roshan Ramani

Key Attitudes To Have:

  1. To always think positively and look at the bright side, regardless of the situation.
  2. Maintain a mindset that every proposal sent will be a successful deal (Law of Attraction).
  3. Refrain from worrying about debts, instead fill your mind and time with ideas and means of generating more income.
  4. To always express gratitude for life itself, as you wake up daily. Life is a blessing indeed!
  5. Always get HELP when it is needed. In other words, refrain from being egoistic in any situation or circumstance.

How To Overcome Challenges: “Although I was out of my comfort zone as financial security was not guaranteed,  I was nevertheless, happy,” admits Roshan, “Happiness in doing what you like actually keeps you going to a point beyond imagination.”

Lessons Learned: “Fear is the foundation of failures. Do not underestimate the power of listening, as it goes a long way – once you have listened and then delivered people’s expectations, people will begin to listen to you,” advises Roshan. “Plus, don’t chase money, because money will never be enough! Instead, choose to upscale and do what you love, because then, the money will start chasing YOU! Last but not least, respond in any given situation, and never react.”

Shafiqah Shafiq, founder of Pinkboxcereal

Shafiqah, or Shaf, for short, started her own e-commerce beauty platform. Image: Pinkboxcereal

“I go by the name of Pinkboxcereal on my social media platforms, where I currently run a beauty ecommerce business with my husband and a happy team of five. My only interest outside of work right now is to spend as much time with my 6-month-old baby boy, Julian Rafail.”

The Story: Previously a copywriter and flight attendant for AirAsia, Shafiqah had always thought of owning a company and getting her first one million before she hit 30. Having been interested in the beauty industry for so long, she went back to beauty school and took on make-up service jobs to pay for the tuition fees.

Following that, she started her Youtube, Instagram and Facebook pages under the random name of Pinkboxcereal. Her followers, which she called ‘dolls’ wanted to use the products she did, so that’s how Shoppinkboxcereal started, and it eventually became its own e-commerce, shoppinkboxcereal.com.

As her fans used to ask her about the products she used often, this gave Shaf the idea to create shoppinkboxcereal.com. Image: Pinkboxcereal

Key Attitudes To Have:

  1. Take pride in seeing everything in life as a glass half-full.
  2. Any challenges or complaints should be seen as ‘feedback’ that can surely benefit the future, if taken positively.
  3. Manage time wisely, and value it.
  4. Always listen to your customers, especially when they mean well and ACT accordingly.
  5. Lower your ego, no matter how small the feedback is.

How To Overcome Challenges: Keep steady and maintain a positive mindset, just because you have to! Life is short. “I have no one to blame but myself if I’m not happy,” says Shafiqah. “Only I can control how I feel and react in all situations.” In fact, she says she would rather waste her time being happy than feel miserable all the time.

Lessons Learned: Always keep yourself grounded, and you must always persevere. Sometimes, one fails because they fail to listen. As Shafiqah mentions, “Shoppinkboxcereal is not my first business. My husband and I have tried creating over 10 businesses before and all failed because we didn’t listen enough to the feedback that could have actually helped us grow.” After that, she did listen, act accordingly and is now successfully juggling life as an entrepreneur and mother.

AirAsia flies to Sydney, Australia. Book your tickets and plan your trip to catch Vivid Sydney 2019 at airasia.com now.

Professionally a journalist, personally a lover of all things fried chicken, Gogorn (her big black German Shepherd) and ice cream.

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