You risk being successful
By : CHOK SUAT LING
Failure to land a conventional job is not the end of the road, or the world. Young people should consider the alternatives and turn that idea into something tangible.
It's that time of the year when young people compete for that one thing they feel will guarantee them wealth, security and happiness.
Some may jokingly say that thing is reality show Akademi Fantasia’s top spot, but others would argue that this issue is not one to be taken flippantly.
What everyone is fighting over is a place in university. In the past, when top scorers failed to secure courses of their choice, they raised a hue and cry.
Things are expected to be more or less the same this year. Even though efforts have been made to create more places, especially for sought-after courses like medi-cine, there will never be enough.
Many youths tend to take the "safe" route: Study, secure a place in university, graduate, then land a respectable and stable job. Everyone wants to be a doctor, engineer, architect or accountant. In fact, it has been said that some prefer to be unemployed if they fail to get a "proper" job.
This attitude needed to change, said experts in the Higher Education Ministry. Young people must be made aware that there are alternatives to conventional jobs, and opportunities for them to seize, if they dared take that leap of faith.
All it takes is a good idea, and some help to turn that bud of a concept into something tangible.
Jerad Solomon, 32, was willing to take the risk. He had a unique idea and with a little help from friends and family, he launched his business last year. He offers lingerie for sale over Internet site chicwear.com.my and is enjoying brisk sales, not just from customers in Malaysia but also from abroad.
"I knew nothing about web programming and design before this. I picked everything up from the self-help Dummy series."
Solomon left his job in an investment firm, raised capital with the help of friends, started his website and has not looked back since.
"I enjoy the freedom," he said. "In a corporate setting, there are many rules. You may have ideas but can’t execute them.
"My biggest challenge was overcoming my fears. I wondered whether I was doing the right thing. I can say with conviction now that I certainly did."
He hopes to expand his range of lingerie and may introduce sexier items, as such designs are more popular.
Gerard Teoh is another young man who acted on an innovative idea. He set up his company, Crave Capital Sdn Bhd, with a friend two years ago. His business? Helping others do theirs.
Crave Capital stands for "create" and "avant garde".
Teoh said it helped companies structure business strategies. It also assists entrepreneurs to source funds.
In the past, he said, "companies had time to make mistakes. Now, they cannot afford to do so. If they hesitate or falter, someone else will grab the idea. That is why businesses need a good execution plan".
His legal qualification and his partner’s background in accountancy proved useful but this did not mean they had things easy in the beginning.
"We had to prove ourselves. For a while, people were uncertain about what we were doing. But when what we did was validated by others, things got easier," said Teoh, the company’s executive director.
Crave Capital has clients not just in the country but also from South Korea and China. It recently moved from Plaza Damas to Bangunan Angkasa Raya in the heart of Kuala Lumpur to accommodate increasing staff.
Other youths should be encouraged to go the same way. Things may be much easier for fledgling entrepreneurs now as there are many organisations offering support. These organisations, which offer funding and mentoring, have tips for young people eager to step out on their own.
For Junior Chamber International Malaysia (JCI) national business director Kevin Loh, those with good ideas needed to come up with a business plan.
"A business plan will help you put your thoughts in order, determine whether your idea is viable, capable of making a profit, hit targets within a time frame, and if it can be expanded. Many people just execute their ideas without a plan. That is not the right way.
"But, Loh added, coming up with a business plan was not all. There is also need for a good mentor, help with funding and resources, and forging a network.
JCI, a federation of young leaders and entrepreneurs, gives that support.
The organisation, which is affiliated to JCI Inc, has members of all races between the ages of 18 and 40. With more than 3,000 members in Malaysia, it provides those starting out in business with a ready network. There are also more than 6,000 chapters located around the world.
One JCI programme to encourage young people to develop entrepreneurship skills is its Best Business Plan Competition.
JCI Kuala Lumpur West chapter president Shannon Lim said the competition, held for the first time this year, would enable young entrepreneurs to convert their idea into a business.
Four finalists will be selected to represent Malaysia to compete in the World’s Best Business Plan Competition in Antalya, Turkey, in November. The winner, the one with the most innovative and viable idea, will be awarded US$5,000 (RM17,000) as start-up funding.
For Cradle Investment Programme vice-president Kasmawati Sulong, the main challenge for young entrepreneurs was funding. "They lack experience, but then, the ability to get funds also depends on other factors, which even seasoned entrepreneurs may lack.
"Ideas that can secure funds are usually those of quality, with strong commercial viability. There is more funding now from the government. All that is needed is for us to be convinced with an idea."
The Cradle programme, initiated by the Finance Ministry and administered by Malaysia Venture Capital Management Bhd or MAVCAP, provides grants of up to RM50,000 for the development of a prototype, proof of concept or business plan.
Kasmawati said: "Cradle provides the opportunity for people to see if they can make it as an entrepreneur. We provide people with the opportunity to dream and the funds to develop their ideas further."She said 217 ideas had been approved for Cradle grants since the programme started in September 2003. Most applicants are between 25 and 35 years old.
Cradle funds technology ideas. The majority of applications received are in ICT such as the development of Internet and software products, telecommunications, and game and software engines.
Kasmawati said 25 Cradle projects had been commercialised. Among them are an animal feed using worms called Hapi Meal; Intelliset, a software system for after-sales service; and a unified messaging system that is an all-in-one communications software.
Cradle holds training for those keen to become entrepreneurs. They are told the benefits and pitfalls and how to source for funds. Speakers for the session on April 14 include company chief executive officers.
Teoh said a lot of risk was involved. "Not many people can also stop taking that monthly pay cheque. It takes a certain fearlessness to be able to do that. But if one is brave enough, they should just go for it and take that road less travelled."
Ex-student now a teacher at Chinese alma mater
A Malay ex-student of Foon Yew High School in Kluang is giving something back to his alma mater by becoming a teacher there after graduating from Jinan University in China.
Hylmi Mahat, whose story was featured by Sin Chew Daily, is from the predominantly Chinese village of Bukit Batu in Kulai.
“I am glad to be given the opportunity to teach and I hope to contribute something back to the Chinese community as I had received a lot of help from the community when I was a student,” he said.
Hylmi went to a Chinese primary school in Kulai with his elder sister and two younger brothers. He continued his studies at Foon Yew after recommendation by some neighbours.
“My sister and I managed to study at Foon Yew but one of my brothers opted to study at a national school because he could not get used to the environment,” he said, adding that the other brother did not pass the school's entrance examination.
Hylmi then grabbed an opportunity to study history at Jinan University. He started teaching in Foon Yew in 1998 when he returned to Malaysia.
However, Hylmi said his ultimate goal was to work in China and that he would like to play a part in enhancing the diplomatic ties between that country and Malaysia.
He said that although some Malays tended to look at their family differently as all his siblings went to Chinese schools, he was grateful that his father decided to send them to Chinese schools.