Commentary Local

Let women entrepreneurs thrive 

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TheMole
Written by TheMole

April 20, 2018

By Pearl Lee

NORASIAH JAMIL was once an electrical engineer serving a giant telecommunication company in Glenmarie, Shah Alam. 

 While her career was fulfilling, she decided to give it all up two years ago upon realising her true calling revolved around flowers and plants. 

 Apart from managing her nursery Exotic Matahari, she participates in trade fairs and provides advice to other enthusiasts through her Facebook page Exotic Matahari Nursery Green Mates. The page has nearly 32,000 members. 

“I sell my plants at exhibitions and fairs but I also have 50 agents nationwide, 90 per cent of whom are women. They include a university student and a disabled person (OKU),” she shared when met at Karnival Usahawanita in Pantai Kuala Kerteh, Kemaman recently. 

The 48-year-old patiently answered my questions while tending to her plants. She spoke enthusiastically about her career switch, only pausing momentarily to water her plants.

Norasiah, speaking in fluent English, admitted she never expected her business to bloom to this extent as she only started on a part-time basis in 2001. 

“I planted frangipani at my family home in Kuantan and travelled there every weekend from Kuala Lumpur. Business grew slowly and soon I was selling the flowers through eBay and my customers were mostly from the UK, “said Norasiah who also does landscaping work for major events including the Malaysia Agriculture, Horticulture and Agrotourism Fair. 

“A job under the sun is not for everyone but I would say it’s a lucrative trade as I make three times more than what I used to earn,” Norasiah added. 

Marsitah Ahmad, who helps Norasiah, echoed similar sentiments, saying while the job may not be for everyone, it all boils down to a change in mindset. 

The 38-year-old former accountant said: “My new job allows me to dictate my own time and schedule and it also accords me the luxury to spend time with my family, especially my children. I am also glad my kids know what plants are.”

Fruit juice entrepreneur Amyra Syahidah Hussin, 31, has seen her business grow over the last 10 years – from selling juices at Ramadan bazaars, to using Facebook to promote her products.

She said her business partner and she are also in the midst of negotiating a deal for the product called ‘Pior’ (pure) to be sold on a cruise ship. 

“I have been selling fruit juice for the past 10 years and it was only two years ago that we thought it was time to bottle our products. I have a steady stream of customers even from other states buying my products regularly. 

“Our products are also sold in a cruise centre in Port Klang and we hope to grow even bigger in the future,” said Amyra, from Kuala Terengganu who runs her business with the help of family members and three workers.

It’s a different tale for Ziella Harun, the managing operator for Zierich Resources. The 32-year-old former auxiliary policewoman resigned only a year ago to start her own stationery and photocopy business. 

“My business was slowly growing but I felt I wanted to do more and I ventured into producing Roselle-based drinks, jam and tea.”

“I make my own products and I sell them at my store. But to be a successful entrepreneur, you have to be bold and go out there to market your product directly to customers.”

“I participate in fairs whenever there are opportunities as I believe the best person to market a product is the maker herself,” she said.

Starting small from markets and bazaars, women entrepreneurs are a force to be reckoned with. Diligent and hardworking, they don’t give up easily.

And while financial support and training facilities from relevant agencies go a long way, one essential element which will produce more women entrepreneurs is to have more women-friendly business sites.

The women I spoke to welcomed the move by the Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry ministry to make Pantai Kuala Kerteh a permanent site for women entrepreneurs, adding it was a good location to trade.
 
This is among the very many initiatives by the ministry to empower women. Other efforts include introducing a ‘Segalanya Wanita’ theme for this year’s MAHA event and setting aside 50 per cent of the RM500 million provision under the National Entrepreneurial Group Economic Fund (Tekun). 
 

But some shared that it would be encouraging for women if they are able to trade in a safe and secure venue with women-friendly facilities.

While office workers say daycare facilities at the workplace are essential, small and medium scale entrepreneurs said it would help if there was a safe space for their children while they go about their trade.

“If we had a choice, we wouldn’t want to drag our kids along when we are out. They have to put up with the heat and rain, and some of these spots are not conducive for a child,” lamented another women entrepreneur.

Local councils should play a bigger role in ensuring trading spots are more women-friendly. Basic necessities like a female shower room, a room to nurse or express milk are facilities that are often unheard of or ignored.

Women are investing in becoming entrepreneurs. Many are giving up their full time jobs to be in an industry that gives them the freedom to dictate terms.  

Providing the right opportunities and women-friendly facilities will go a long way in spurring more women entrepreneurs to play a role in stimulating the growth and economy of our nation.

 

CAPTION: Ziella participates in trade fairs whenever there are opportunities. 

 

Pearl is an award winning journalist. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @pearllee22

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