Entrepreneurs In Malaysia Share Experiences Of Returning To A 9-5 Job

At Vulcan Post, we’ve seen many Malaysians quit their 9-5 jobs to chase their passion and start a business.

But I asked myself, what about those who have experienced the opposite? Maybe they left their startups and struggled to get rehired. Did they ever want to go back to entrepreneurship?

With that in mind, I interviewed 6 local entrepreneurs from an entrepreneurship Facebook group to find out what their experiences looked like.

Some recurring experiences and … a spiritual call

Common reasons why entrepreneurs would leave their own businesses can range from cash flow problems and misaligned goals between partners at Burnout, to name a few.

Azrina was in her 30s when she disbanded her online beauty institute, VivaQueenBee (VQB), just a year after receiving seed funding. She and her partners had different career goals in mind.

“When they left I continued on my own for a year, but I was exhausted doing everything solo. The business was not growing exponentially and we were making more losses than profits, so I decided to go back to business to replenish my personal cash flow, ”she told Vulcan Post.

When Khairul started Muslim Niaga in 2011, internal conflict caused the team to quit after 4 years. The dropshipping e-commerce platform attracted over 800 agents in Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and New Zealand at its peak.

Muslim Niaga was created to bring together Muslim products in 1 dropship hub / Image credit: Muslim Niaga

However, his team lacked knowledge in the management of shareholders, too stubborn to let investors control the direction of their company. Later, left unemployed with a newborn baby in 2015, Khairul returned to the corporate lifestyle for a stable income.

Charles Model Agency couldn’t compete with bigger players which had more connections and funding, leading to its closure after 2 years. He tried other businesses but eventually decided to find a steady job for a break.

Charles attempted to franchise a virtual reality lab at Publika KL / Image credit: Charles Lee

William developed Uplife, an app that gamifies the job search for college graduates. The startup closed its doors after 8 months because its 9 co-founders lacked the confidence to scale it. As a banking graduate, he felt it made sense to go back to his roots for a career.

In 1997, the market was not ready for Vincent’s digital agency, Millennium Multimedia. In addition, the Asian financial crisis left many dry pockets and Millennium Multimedia in debt.

By the time I finally paid off all the debtors, I was tired and decided it was best to go back to work. I had a mentor who described the opportunity cost that I would miss if I did not take the route of employment. He said you can still pursue your dreams after regaining some financial stability.

Vincent Kok, founder of the former Millennium Multimedia.

On the other hand, Allan left his paintball company, Napshot Paintball Asia, after 2 years for a spiritual reason.

“I left by faith with no plans to land my next job or open my next business. Everyone thought I was crazy because at that time it was the height of my career and the paintball industry, ”he explained.

Napshot Paintball Asia had the support of the Ministry of Youth and Sports during its bounty / Image credit: Allan Phang

The business was sustainable without angel investors or venture capital funding. Backed by political leaders and royalty, Malaysia was seen as the hub of paintball in the region.

3 months after Allan left in August 2013, paintball was declared banned in Malaysia in November. Allan commented, “I guess God had other plans for me as I left before the industry collapsed.”

Despite this, it was still difficult for him to let go. This pain of leaving a company they started was a mutual feeling shared among the other founders.

Life wasn’t any easier with a 9-5

After leaving their startups, ex-employers are now faced with a new problem: the job search as an employee.

Due to their entrepreneurial background, job seekers would find them over qualified or too much stubborn.

Recruiters from web development companies Khairul applied to were worried if he could integrate as an employee after being a boss in the past, a situation that Allan also faced.

The team at one of Charles’ companies, VR Lab / Image Credit: Charles Lee

Charles met employers who didn’t like to hear that he always wanted to start another business when the time came.

“A a career in business is not a safety cushion for you when you went bankrupt ”was what William learned from 1 in 3 interviews he landed. To start with, he had no previous experience as an employee before starting Uplife.

Vincent’s employer had reservations about whether he had the discipline to show up on time at the office and work under supervision.

But he convinced them to the contrary: “On the contrary, the benefits of having been an entrepreneur means that we understand profit and loss. We know the ropes of making tough business decisions better than those who haven’t taken this route. “

Azrina’s professional background was also complemented by her entrepreneurial experience and her first-hand skills in starting a business. This served him well when applying for jobs in branding, sales and marketing.

Azrina was burnt after handling her VQB on her own / Image Credit: Azrina

Multinationals sometimes intimidated by these ex-entrepreneurs, some job seekers like Charles turned to the startup ecosystem instead. But he had to compromise with a salary lower than that of his peers.

After many refusals, Khairul decided to go freelance and offer his web development services to other startups. In doing so, he worked as a Grab and Uber driver for a year. This gave him the chance to network and make connections with passengers.

Allan turned to the connections for a 9-5. Tony Fernandes was a client and participant of Napshot Paintball tournaments. Seeking employment opportunities at AirAsia, he emailed Fernandes and got an aviation job almost instantly.

Once an entrepreneur, always an entrepreneur?

After working on financial stability, 4 of the 6 interviewees left their 9-5 to restart their own businesses, with the exception of Allan and William.

Allan left AirAsia after spending 7 years under him to manage marketing and public relations at EVOS Esports.

Allan was involved with AirAsia’s Esports team during his stay / Image credit: Allan Phang

In addition to his full-time job, William runs a side business, TEEL Digital Consultancy, advising clients on the sustainability and profitability of their digital products.

As Azrina enjoyed the stability of corporate life, moments of frustration erupted when she lacked decision-making powers. So last year, she went solo and started MySportsHijab, an Instagram business selling Muslim sportswear online.

Khairul then started F&B and blockchain projects between 2015 and 2018 with some of his former passengers. He now runs Ofdast Network which develops websites for businesses.

Khairul shared that his chocolate and blockchain businesses were made out of survival / Image credit: Khairul Padli

Spotted by his former employer, Charles became the co-founder of Venturegrab, an online SEO site that allows business owners to sell their businesses and buyers to invest in them.

As a co-founder, it’s back to running a business on my own. That means 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, while multitasking without vacation or bonuses, unless the business is successful. But I love it. The main reason is that I am working at a job that I really love.

Charles Lee, Director of Business Development and Co-Founder of Venturegrab.

Vincent also concluded that passion is at the heart of entrepreneurship and that it’s never too late to start over. At 46, he did exactly that by launching VMO Rocks, an instant booking platform for venues and event services.

“Businesses can fail, but that doesn’t mean the entrepreneur is failing. This is not the end of the road, ”he said.

  • You can learn more about entrepreneurs and startups in Malaysia here.
  • You can read more about other Malaysian startups here.

Featured Image Credit: Allan Phang, Azrina Naimuddin and William Teo

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Jothi Venkat

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