PETALING JAYA: When she was 26, Fatin Afeeqa thought of setting up her own business – a bakery, as she had always had a passion for baking.
At the time, though, she faced financial restraints and needed to support her family.
“I did not come from a wealthy family. My dad is a teacher and my mum is a housewife. They had four children to raise, including me.
“I could not use my savings to invest because I had other priorities to look after,” she told FMT.
Today, five years later, she has fulfilled her dream and is finally running her own bakery. But even so, she says it is difficult to keep the business afloat as there are always ups and downs.
“Not everyone has a financial cushion to fall back on if their business venture fails,” she said. It is especially difficult for those who come from the B40 or bottom 40 income group.
Entrepreneur Development Minister Redzuan Yusof recently cited lack of confidence as one reason those from the B40 group are reluctant to become entrepreneurs.
He said they are often worried about failing in competition with other entrepreneurs during the early stages of business.
But Fatin said many of her friends are reluctant to become entrepreneurs because of financial concerns.
“Of course people are not confident of becoming entrepreneurs, especially those from the B40 group,” she said. “Even I am scared of what I’m doing now.”
Nurul Diyana, who set up her own business four years ago, agreed that the main problem, especially for the B40, is forking out enough money to begin operations.
The 27-year-old said it also took a while to build her customer base and expand her business.
But the early stages are not necessarily the hardest anymore thanks to social media, which entrepreneurs can use to promote their businesses, she said.
She herself promotes her baked goods through social media.
“Of course, we have a lot to consider,” she added. “It is a risk, and bankruptcy is real for some people.”
Shahid Rosli, 23, also disagreed that the problem for aspiring entrepreneurs from the B40 group is a lack of confidence.
He said many do not earn much and often lack the funds to begin their own businesses.
“Maybe they are the breadwinners of their families, that’s why they can’t afford to take the risk,” he added.
“If they fail, the whole family will be affected.
“There are many risks to consider, such as competition with others from the upper class who already have a strong foundation in business and a wide network.”
While the government helps individuals begin their businesses, he said, not all of the information about such aid is readily available to the public.
“The government should prepare a platform that is accessible to all, and create a module specifically targeting the B40 class,” he said.
“Then those from the upper class won’t take advantage of that platform.”
Sulochana Nair, the founding director of the Centre for Poverty and Development Studies at Universiti Malaya, said it must be understood that the B40 are not a homogenous group.
She said not everyone in the B40 group can become an entrepreneur as many have no means or inclination to do so.
“Ministries and agencies trying to promote and create entrepreneurs among the B40 must determine who among them can become entrepreneurs.”
She also asked which sub-group within the B40 community would be targeted for this.
“The top, middle or bottom? This is important as each of these sub-groups has different needs and requires different approaches.”
She said the heterogeneity of the B40 must be acknowledged, and advised dividing them into different groups based on factors such as geographical location, income status and education level.
“It is important to identify those who have the aptitude and potential to become entrepreneurs.
“Once they have been identified, there is a need to create awareness among them, that they can succeed as entrepreneurs and take advantage of existing and new opportunities available out there.”
Sulochana also suggested “some element of hand-holding” for new entrepreneurs in the early stages.
“It is important to link new entrepreneurs with markets and successful entrepreneurs in the same industry,” she said.