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10 harsh realities of being a young Malaysian entrepreneur

Here at KajoMag, we want you to know these 10 harsh realities of being a young Malaysian entrepreneur before you decide to become one:

Being an entrepreneur can be like going down rabbit hole; you never know what to expect until you make that jump.

1.Not everybody gets startup capital

The number one rule of being a young Malaysian entrepreneur is to get rid of that ‘subsidy-minded’ mindset.

Do not look at these subsidies or grants as source of capital for your business. Just because you have a great business idea, it does not mean that you are entitled for everything.

If you are a determined and resourceful person, you would be surprised how many entrepreneurs (young and old) in Malaysia have a great sense of entitlement.

Even if you are successful enough to have received subsidies or grants; they were meant to boost your business, not fund it.

Make sure you have enough capital before venturing into entrepreneurship. Credits: Pexels.
2. As a young Malaysian entrepreneur, it will be difficult to make ends meet in the beginning

Yes, money will be hard to find. Yes, it will be difficult to pay the bills at every end of the month.

It is okay to sacrifice certain things in life financially to spend more on your business.

You might even need to sacrifice your hobby, take extra classes, or skip some social gatherings because you can no longer afford them.

However, there is such a thing called ‘delayed gratification’, so hang in there.

3.No, not everyone – including your family – will understand what you do

If you have family that is completely supportive of what you are doing as an entrepreneur, then you are one of the lucky ones.

Here in Malaysia, what it means to have a successful career varies. Nonetheless, some believe stability equals success.

And that stability means working in the government sector, big corporate companies or sometimes the oil and gas field.

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Some of the common things that people might say to you are, “When are you going to get a real job?” or “Have you applied for SPA?” or “Don’t you want to work a real job?”

Put aside what others may say in front of you or behind your back – if you truly believe in what you are doing, you just need to persevere.

4.Building your presence is a lot of work

Unless you are a celebrity or have a large capital or are related to someone very important, building your presence in any industry requires a lot of hard work.

Remember the famous saying, “Work hard until you don’t need to introduce yourself.”

Ethically, there is no shortcut to success. In this age of rising entrepreneurship in Malaysia, the best way to build your presence is to focus on branding your business.

As a young Malaysian entrepreneur, do not have that mindset of “It’s okay, the customers will come slowly.”

No. You have to get up and go to your customers.

And once you have customers, you have to perfect your customer service.

According to Sarawakian designer Paul Carling, your returning customers are always the best because they will introduce you to other clients and come back for more.

If you are good at something, never do it for free. Credits: Pexels.
5.Everyone will want to collaborate or partner with you, but not all will want to pay you

Once you started building your presence, you might be approached by different parties, especially those who had been in the business earlier than you.

This happens especially when you are offering services or creative input such as designing, writing or event management. Sometimes even when you have a product to sell, you might be approached to sponsor your service or products in return for something other than money.

It is something that any young Malaysian entrepreneur needs and it is called “exposure”.

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Whether you decide to proceed with the collaboration or partnership is completely up to you. No outside parties can force you to make that decision. Weigh out the pros and cons before you decide.

Decide carefully before deciding venture into any partnership or collaboration. Credits: Pexels.
6.Sometimes it the project or idea is not bringing in the money, maybe it is not a good idea

Be it a project in collaboration with other parties or your own new product/service idea, make sure it brings in the money.

If it doesn’t, you might not want to spend your fund or capital into the idea. Unless you strongly believe it can be beneficial for your business in the long run.

Some young entrepreneurs jump at every opportunity for partnerships or collaborations especially with bigger companies or even government agencies.

Meanwhile, there are some even so eager to create new products or services based on the latest trends.

Plan and decide carefully before making any decision that will not only take up your funds or something that is more valuable than money, which is time.

Furthermore, loss of focus has often been identified as the main reason for startup failure.

Every entrepreneur needs to focus on their dreams. Credits: Pexel
7.There is no such thing as ‘Work Smart, Not Hard’ in entrepreneurship

You have heard it before; work smart, not hard. It might be applicable when working a day job but not when you are an entrepreneur.

First of all, there is no point measuring how many work hours you put in as an entrepreneur. An entrepreneur usually works until they achieve what they needed to do that day, regardless of the hours.

Some entrepreneurs are successful, working only eight hours a day or less while others need to pump in more hours.

However, naturally in any new startups, the first few years will require more work to set up a firm foundation for your business.

Stephen C. Hogan once said, “You can’t have a million-dollar dream with a minimum-wage work ethic.”

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8. Some people will assume you are free because you are your own boss

You might have families and friends giving you errands or making plans assuming that you are available all the time.

The logic behind this assumption is ‘you are your own boss’ and there is no need for you to clock-in or clock-out.

It is frustrating to deal with people who do not understand your work and assume you have all the time in the world.

But be firm and strict with yourself. Do not ever stop being disciplined with yourself especially when it comes to time management.

9.Failures are bound to happen

Winston Churchill had this famous quote about failure, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.”

Failures, no matter what, are bound to happen to anyone. The only thing that makes any successful businessman different from those who failed is they did not give up.

10.Unless you are completely passionate, you might give up

When I was working as a reporter, I interviewed a number of entrepreneurs with great ideas in Kuching. They talked about their business with great enthusiasm and conviction that their entrepreneurial idea would be a game-changer in the industry.

Fast forward to a few years after these interviews, at least half of them were not able to sustain their businesses due to various reasons.

Some experienced burn out while some were not making enough money to carry on with their businesses.

That is the harshest reality that happened not only to Malaysians but to entrepreneurs around the world.

According to an article in Forbes by Neil Patel, nine out of 10 startups will fail. So as a young Malaysian entrepreneur, you need to make sure you belong to the 10%.

Do you know that nine out of 10 startups failed?
Patricia Hului
Patricia Hului is a Kayan who wants to live in a world where you can eat whatever you want and not gain weight. She grew up in Bintulu, Sarawak and graduated from the University Malaysia Sabah with a degree in Marine Science. She worked for The Borneo Post SEEDS, which is now defunct. When she's not writing, you can find her in a studio taking belly dance classes, hiking up a hill or browsing through Pinterest. Follow her on Instagram at @patriciahului, Facebook at Patricia Hului at Kajomag.com or Twitter at @patriciahului.
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