As a Bornean (Sarawakian, in particular) myself, I am always proud to learn and write about Bornean entrepreneurship.
But I’ve lived in Selangor for almost a decade now, and a lot of my work is focused on West Malaysia. So, I have very little knowledge about what the ecosystem of Sarawakian and Sabahan startups looks like, or who the players are even.
However, through the fifth edition of the annual Sarawak Shell LiveWIRE program, I spoke to 5 award winners made up of local startups who are new to me, and I would also like to introduce them to our readers.
EdaBeran is an e-commerce marketplace that allows local brands (mainly Sarawakan) to market their cultural products to a global audience. Many times you would be hard pressed to find these microtags in urban areas, even more so in rural areas.
On EdaBeran, there are clothing brands, accessories, and even beauty products from budding artisans and entrepreneurs, and the startup claims to reinvest the majority of its profits in the brands it serves.
Moses co-founded the business with his sister, Christal, just a week before the first AGC in 2020. Coming from the Kenyah and Kayan community in rural Baram, Sarawak gives Moses the will to prove that an indigenous man like he can succeed in the world and make a difference in rural communities.
He believes that there are 3 ways to develop communities in rural areas: through education, good governance and entrepreneurship, the latter with which he assumes and has an impact on others in the community.
“Our goal at the moment is to inspire more people, especially in Borneo, to get into entrepreneurship. We believe we are capable of being the best storytellers in Borneo, ”said Moses.
When the pandemic began, Mohammad Hajib bin Ali saw many supermarkets empty. It was then that he learned about food security and realized that modern agriculture could be used to support our food supply.
With small farms not implementing high technology, which leaves them behind in terms of food production, he therefore founded Farm4All to introduce modern farming methods such as smart fertigation and hydroponics.
“Our initiatives include introducing agricultural business models to budding young entrepreneurs, providing detailed knowledge to the public about modern agriculture and using landfills as farmland,” Hajib told Vulcan Post. The first initiative he mentioned reminded me of CocoJack, a startup that brings agritech and education to young B40s.
For the moment, Farm4All has not yet launched, and Hajib has joined Shell LiveWIRE 2020 in order to validate his idea and receive mentorship.
The current hurdle he faces is the funding needed to implement smart agriculture, which he manages by applying for a grant from the Ministry of Agriculture and other agencies.
In 2010, Fitriah ran a small part-time business where she marketed other people’s products, and next door she was selling fruit by the road.
8 years later, she was producing dried fruit from terung asam (sour eggplant) under the Kun Product brand, which she claims her company is a pioneer in Sarawak.
Moving from being an agent to owning and manufacturing her own products is a source of pride for her, alongside setting up joint ventures with farmers in remote areas through long-term cultivation contracts.
“Over the next 9 months, I plan to start marketing from Sarawak, as so far we have only focused on the Sarawak market. All these plans I had made in 2019, but had to be postponed because of COVID-19, ”Fitriah said.
If all goes according to plan, she will be able to increase farmers’ incomes, create more employment opportunities and introduce a unique Malaysian product through a fruit associated with the indigenous Dayak people.
Maradria Beauty is a startup developing beauty care products from local natural resources, launched in mid-2018.
“I was captivated by the capabilities of our talented young inventors. Sarawak is also known as one of the richest biodiversity centers in the world. I tried to put the two together [and thought], “Why aren’t we standardizing our beauty products with international brands yet?” Sara Nadia told Vulcan Post.
Under Maradria Beauty, she manages two lines: Margueritte, a fragrance brand made from local flowers and plants, and Aludra, a skin care brand made from Borneo swan nest extract and other ingredients. found mainly in Sarawak. She shared that Aludra has since won several awards and received national and international recognition.
Prior to the first AGC, Sara was looking to partner with potential businesses outside of Malaysia. She still wants to collaborate, but said they need to be patient for now.
Now that Maradria Beauty has won Shell LiveWIRE 2020, she has learned more practical ways to strategy, market and manage their resources. With that, she shared: “Our main goal to achieve in 9 months is to be among the most popular brands in Malaysia, and I hope further than that too!”
“It’s considered an accidental departure where one thing led to another,” Mohammad Hisham Khairul Nasir said. In 2016, back in his hometown of Sibu with an Australian master’s degree, he frequently ran errands for his mother to buy groceries or random food.
He thought he could do so much more and so he hired his first 2 riders. He only picked up from there. He recalled, “It was supposed to be a ‘fun’ business or a small kampung business to generate secondary income. But it really took off when an influencer shared our service and we gained popularity. “
It was officially incorporated as BeliBeli24 in 2017 and was recognized by the Ministry of Finance, but it quickly went from being a product and food reservation platform to food delivery, collection. packages and even housekeeping on demand.
Hisham put their foot down and decided they needed to define their direction well, and put BeliBeli24 on hold in 2019 while developing WeGÖ.
Today, WeGÖ is a super hyperlocal app with 4 offers:
- The deliveries
- Services (mobile spas, mobile mechanics, homestay reservations, etc.)
The only thing he struggled with was tech, as the company relied on Google Sheets, WhatsApp, and email to function. When GrabFood and foodpanda arrived in their hometown in 2020, WeGÖ was technologically overwhelmed.
Fortunately, Hisham said they have raised more than enough funds across AGC to develop their own platform to stay competitive.
“We have just completed a majority of the platform and are live testing deliveries, electronic calls and the marketplace with the services section coming out later. We plan to complete all of this before July 2021. ”
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Through Shell LiveWIRE, the 5 entrepreneurs will each receive a start-up grant of RM6,000 as well as mentoring and support from the Shell LiveWIRE facilitators for the next 9 months.
The program identifies entrepreneurs with the potential to innovate and meet the real needs of businesses that meet the socio-economic needs of today. Since the creation of the Sarawakan edition in 2016, it has hosted a total of 356 participants and awarded 20 entrepreneurs with seed grants.
I wish this year’s winners the very best in their journey to highlight Sarawakan stories and products, and I will certainly keep an eye out for all of the local entrepreneurs next year.
- You can read more about Sarawak Shell LiveWIRE here.
Featured Image Credit: Sarawak Shell LiveWIRE 2020
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