By NASA MARIA ENTABAN, IAN YEE and QISHIN TARIQ
AFTER graduation, many young people figure that their lifelong jobs will consist of long hours at a desk at an office, staring at computer screens all day long and braving traffic at peak hours.
Indeed, it has become almost a certainty that after university, you’ll log on to a job search website, send in your resume and land a job in the field you graduate in. While many choose this path, there are others that opt not to join the corporate rat race and instead, go their own way.
These are young people who have the imagination, and drive to make something happen.
Their businesses may not rake in millions of ringgit yet, but they are passionate about pursuing their ideas and executing them. R.AGE checked in with four youths who are doing their own thing, and loving it.
Orchard at your doorstep
Chan Shan Shan, 27, loves eating fruits, and has always wondered why her friends didn’t consume copious amounts every day like she did.
The most common reasons she was given was that they couldn’t bother with the hassle of cutting fruits or driving out to buy them. It inspired her to send out fruit hampers to friends and family.
“Almost every other month, friends would hold parties and I would send them fruit baskets, and they loved it,” explained Shan Shan. “So I thought, why not open a store and start a delivery business?”
Chan Shan Shan, who runs Dusun, a fruit delivery business, cuts a variety of fruits herself before driving around the Klang Valley area delivering them to customers.
Thanks to that lightbulb moment, she decided to do her own thing and start Dusun, a fruit delivery business.
“When you go to the mamak and you see fruits that are not properly refrigerated and have been sitting there all day, you don’t really feel like eating them. That is why I thought I’d make it easy, and have the fruits delivered, cut and packaged,” explained Shan Shan, who quit her engineering job to start her fruit delivery business.
“Health is something people don’t really think about that often, and having fruits in your daily diet is often low on everyone’s list of priorities, so I decided to make it easy for them,” said Shan Shan, who set up a store in Centrepoint Shopping Centre, Bandar Utama, Selangor, where customers can buy fruits and fruit juices.
Shan delivers a mix of cut fruits in lunch boxes to customers within certain areas in Petaling Jaya. She also sells and delivers fruits, which she handpicks from wholesalers.
Bringing your dreams to life is rewarding, but not always easy.
“The cut fruits sold well, people come in and don’t even think about spending a dollar or two on a package of fruits, but the challenge for me is selling the bulk fruit.
“People always compare my prices with those in the pasar malam, but I try to explain to them that they are getting quality from my store. We go to the wholesalers directly and hand-pick all the fruits we want to sell,” explained Shan Shan, who runs the business with help from her aunt, another employee and a despatch boy.
Even now, Shan Shan admits that she is still waiting for the bulk fruit business to pick up, but is glad that the cut fruits delivery is going great.
“We’ve reached 100 subscribers, and have worked out a good system where we cut the fruits at 8am and try to have everything delivered before 12,” said Shan, who often only gets home around 10pm every night after manning the shop in the afternoon.
She is thrilled at the response to her business so far.
“I’m glad people are responding well to having fruits in their daily diet and I hope to expand my business outside the Klang Valley,” she said.
Check out www.dusun.com.my for details on the fruits Shan Shan delivers, prices and so on.
These days, more and more people are starting to work in “mobile offices” – cafes, restaurants, parks or anywhere at all where you can sit down with your laptop, get free Internet access and be productive.
Ikhwan Nazri, 25, is one of them. He runs a small company based in Cyberjaya made up of just him and his business partner.
When his partner got married and decided to spend more time working from his home in Gombak, Selangor, Ikhwan found it quite pointless travelling to his office every day from his own place in Ampang in Kuala Lumpur.
So, he started to seek out “mobile offices”, meeting his business partner in shopping malls or coffeeshops instead of travelling all the way to Cyberjaya. After a while, he started to become quite familiar with the various office “amenities” available in the different cafes and restaurants they’d go to.
Ikhwan Nazri runs a crowd-sourcing website called OfficeKami (blog.officekami.com) where he and anyone else could post reviews of places suitable to serve as mobile offices.
“I started to notice things, like which places had WiFi, how many power points a place had, whether there were stationery shops around, and even if there was a facsimile service nearby,” said Ikhwan.
Armed with that kind of information, Ikhwan soon had a lightbulb moment – he started a crowd-sourcing website called OfficeKami (blog.officekami.com) in May 2009, where he and anyone else could post reviews of places suitable as mobile offices.
“So far, we have reviewed around 180 places. We have four to five regular ‘reporters’, who submit reviews quite frequently.
“One person who’s quite regular has even posted reviews of mobile offices in Kelantan, and he posted one from a trip to Genting Highlands as well,” said Ikhwan.
OfficeKami has helped Ikhwan win RM2,000 from the Plus 5 project by KLue, which helps to kickstart creative ideas to improve Klang Valley by giving start-up money to the creators.
Ikhwan says his website is most helpful to writers, those working in ICT (information and communications technology), the self-employed and people whose jobs require them to have lots of meetings outside of the office.
“If you have a meeting at a cafe or restaurant that can be a mobile office, you can start working on what you discuss from that meeting immediately, instead of having to waste time driving back to the office,” explained Ikhwan.
According to him, it’s all part of a concept called ROWE – the Results-Only Working Environment.
As long as you show results and you get the job done, it doesn’t matter where, how and how long you work.
“I think it’s already quite common overseas, but it’s still a relatively new concept here. They even have what they call ‘co-working spaces’ in other countries. These are places that cater specifically to people who work in mobile offices,” he said.
Though there are plenty of benefits to working mobile which most young people are more than willing to shout about, Ikhwan prefers to give a more honest assessment.
He said: “If you’re in an office environment, you won’t have people coming to you going ‘Eh, Manchester United kalah lagi la!’
“And it’s definitely more comfortable and relaxing at a mobile office, although you could easily fall asleep too!”
Three Bangi boys never imagined that what started as a coffeeshop griping session about the state of recycling in Malaysia could grow into a full time business.
“It’s very difficult to recycle in Malaysia. First you have to pack and bring your stuff to a centre. There, the unhelpful staff will usually only take the newspapers and plastic bottles, leaving you to throw away the rest,” said Muhammad Iqbal Baharum.
Green enterprenuer Muhammad Iqbal Baharum navigating through knee deep “garbage” that’s soon to be sorted and turned into valuable recyclable goods, inside the Recycle And Reward’s collection centre in Equine Park, Seri Kembangan.
In an effort to create a more convenient way to recycle, Iqbal and his partners Mohd Sharulnazli and Dhouse Shah El Hyatt founded Recycle and Reward (RAR).
Unlike most centres, RAR collects recyclables straight from their customers’ doorstep. Customers need only to place a booking via RAR’s website (www.recycleandreward.my) and the company would dispatch a pickup truck to collect their items. In return for their recyclables, customers earn points that can be traded for cash or prizes ranging from rice cookers to iPods and PlayStations.
There’s a one-off RM50 joining fee but Sharulnazli, or Nazli for short, said that’s just to ensure customers are commited to the cause.
“Customers usually make up their innitial investment within two to three months anyway,” he said.
The trick was to get people started. From their experience, RAR found that most people don’t recycle because they were clueless about what could or could not be recycled.
“On our first visit to a customer’s house, we take the time to teach them what is recyclable and how to get the most points from it,” explained Iqbal.
Recycle and Reward (RAR) co-founders Muhammad Iqbal and Mohd Sharulnazli demonstrating how to use the bags provided to customers and what kind of garbage counts as recyclable. Picture taken in their office, in Taipan USJ.
When the trio, who are all 26 years old, started RAR with an initial capital of RM10,000 pooled from their life savings, they could only afford to operate out of Iqbal’s back yard. They had to collect, sort and sell the recyclables themselves, while handling the finances and marketing too.
In fact, they found managing the company’s finances to be the hardest part. “None of us are from business backgrounds. Dhouse and I studied engineering while Iqbal was in programming,” explained Nazli.
Another challenge they faced was a lack of guidance. It turned out that it’s hard to ask for advice when you’re trailblazing into unchartered territories. “No one else had done what we had in Malaysia, so we had to figure it out ourselves,” said Iqbal.
Despite all that, within five months RAR had opened its first collection centre in Seri Kembangan and an office in Subang Jaya in Selangor, and had hired five staff to ease their workload. RAR now serves over 1,500 customers in the Klang Valley, with plans to expand to Penang and Johor.
“We’re even considering Sarawak as we’ve gotten a lot of requests from there,” said Iqbal.
For now, the three have their noses to the grindstone, but they hoped that with a little more fine tuning RAR would be able to run without their constant supervision.
“It’s a trade off: we have to work a lot now for our freedom later, but with a 9-5 job you’ll never break free,” said Nazli. He jokingly added that the team hoped their message of recycling would spread to a point that in the future people would literally fight over garbage.
Isabelle Wong(left) and Ng Jo-Han run berryberryeasy.com, an STPM and SPM exam tips website which also provides study notes.
School teacher Isabelle Wong and PhD student/researcher Ng Jo-Han have their day jobs, but they enjoy working on their passion “Berry Berry Easy” at night and during weekends.
Isabelle, 30, and Ng Jo-Han, 27, run SPM and STPM exam tips website berryberryeasy.com, which gives useful exam tips, predictions and reference notes to students.
“We realised years ago that there are many students who can’t afford to go for extra tuition, or purchase extra reference books, but they do have Internet access at their school, so we decided to give them another option for studying,” explained Jo-Han.
“There are a lot of sites out there that attract students’ attention with taglines like ‘soalan bocor’ (leaked exam questions) but they require payment,” said Jo-Han. “Our site is a free online resource for students to level the playing field.”
On the site, which is just over a year old, students can access notes put together by Isabelle (a Chemistry teacher) for chemistry, biology and physics, as well as exam tips.
“Of course, you should do your own studying with notes you wrote yourself,” said Isabelle.
“Our site is meant to be an extra tool, and ideally, you should never wait until the last minute to revise your studies. But if you really can’t help it, or just need a few last minute tips and notes, you can check out our website.”
The duo keep the site afloat by putting in a few extra hours after work.
“Isabelle is the content provider, being the teacher. My job is on the technical aspect of maintaining the website,” explained Jo-Han. “We have a clear distinction on our duties, but sometimes we take over each other’s work when one of us is busy.”
Thanks to some advertising on the site, Jo-Han and Isabelle are making a little profit. But instead of keeping it for themselves, Isabelle rewards her students at school (with permission from the school).
“I give cash incentives to the top scorer in each exam, and the student who has improved the most,” she explained. “Just to motivate them to work harder.”