How mumpreneurs are surviving the MCO

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No one could have predicted the impact of the Covid-19 virus. It has not only affected our health but completely changed the way we live and has brought the global economy to a near halt.

In Malaysia, the enforcement of the Movement Control Order (MCO) to slow the spread of the virus has cost us an estimated RM2.4 billion daily. According to Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM), this pandemic will cause Malaysia’s economic growth to be in the -2.0 percent to +0.5 percent range and an estimated 951,000 people will be unemployed. It is also estimated that 40% of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) might force to shut down.

To lessen the effects of Covid-19 on our economy, the government has given individuals cash handouts and special incentives to businesses. Banking institutions have also offered a six-month automatic deferment of all loans. However, this can only go so far. We asked several mumpreneurs to share how the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted them and how they are weathering the storm.

“It is important to collaborate with your fellow entrepreneurs” – Iman Kamarudin, Petit Moi

Being a predominantly online-operated business, Iman Kamarudin of Petit Moi already had a framework in place to operate during the MCO. They just needed to make adjustments for everyone to work remotely and to find alternatives to selling at their usual pop-up stores during the Ramadan period. 

On tips to survive the MCO, Iman shared that it is imperative to adapt to the situation and reassess business strategies continually. “This cannot be said enough and we’ve seen it time and time again, businesses that thrive are the ones that are dynamic.”

“I also think it is important to collaborate with your fellow entrepreneurs – this could be by information-sharing or even working on projects together. This pandemic has shown that we are all interrelated and we all need to help and work together for everyone to survive.”

“When the MCO was announced, all my bookings were cancelled” – Ummi Nasir, MakeupbyUmmiNasir

Makeup artist Ummi Nasir‘s job requires her to glam up her clients for events and special occasions.  Which is why once the MCO was announced all her bookings were cancelled. 

With the uncertainties on when the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) will be lifted, Ummi must think of ways to sustain her business.

“Currently, I am creating more online content and conducting makeup classes online. I hope that after all this ends, people will not be worried about hiring us makeup artists (due to the close proximity required). However, I know that rezeki is in God’s hands and I hope we can all bounce back and get back to work soon.”

“The biggest challenge for us is strategising our cash management” – Qistina Taff, Serai Group

Being in the Food & Beverage (F&B) business, Serai Group operates 363 days a year. Although they had anticipated the MCO and having to close all the their outlets, it still left them in disarray, according to Qistina Taff of Serai Group.

The biggest challenge for us is strategising our cash management. With zero income, we still had to pay wages, outstanding payments to suppliers, high utility bills and maintain our central kitchen. We had to quickly restructure our entire financial system to cope. The six-month loan moratorium offered by financial institutions as well as the Employment Retention Programme (ERP) by PERKESO has helped lighten the load for us.”

With the easing of the lockdown, all their outlets are back in operations, however things are far from normal. “We are trying our best to positively embrace this ‘new normal.’ We have to rethink the concept of a conventional dining experience and innovate to adapt to our current situation.” 

“Learn to rest, but never quit” – Zaznuriah Zahir, Nuria

For Zaznuriah Zahir of Nuria, the MCO does have its silver linings. “At times, it can be pretty overwhelming and stressful as I try to keep up with motherhood – parenting, school work, allowing my kids rest time by watching tv or playing while ensuring the house is in spick and span condition. However, I revel in the fact that I get to spend more time with my kids – doing everything and nothing at the same time.”

When this pandemic is over, Zaznuriah hopes that “we will all bounce back healthier – our country, our businesses, our general wellbeing. The MCO had given us ample time to reflect on what is truly essential, by having less and doing more.” 

On how to overcome challenges, Zaznuriah’s advice is straightforward, yet crucial – never give up. “Have faith, and truly, grit and resilience will get you a long way. If you believe in something, put your mind to it and find ways to achieve it. And if exhaustion comes knocking, learn to rest but never quit.” 

“I hope that small homegrown brands such as ours continue to get the love and support from the community and society” – Zubaidah Eusoff, The Manja Co.

The Manja Company is a Malaysian brand of baby diapers with the mission to reduce the cost of living of fellow Malaysians. With many losing incomes due to the MCO, Zubaidah and her team has risen to the occasion to help those in need.

“My co-founders and I started an initiative called Let’s Help! Charity by The Manja Company. This involves the public donating funds to this cause. In turn, we will help provide our baby diapers to children of underprivileged parents, single mothers, and refugees. Most of this work is done in collaboration with existing charities and NGOs such as Darul Mujtaba, Yellow House KL, and The Hope Branch. So far, we have facilitated donations of almost 200 packs of Nappies to families all over Malaysia, and we are very honoured and happy to be able to contribute towards helping others in need, especially in these uncertain and challenging times.”

Moving forward, Zubaidah hopes that small, homegrown brands such as theirs will continue to get the love and support from the community and society at large. “It has not been easy trying to maintain or even grow our business due to the many restrictions during the MCO, and the ‘new norm’ that we all need to adapt too. However, I believe that my team and I will be able to do so by continuing to be perseverant, dedicated, flexible, creative and conscientious people.”

“Instagram lets you pin other small businesses to show your support – please use it!” – Amanda Sura, Suravont

For Amanda Sura of Suravont, makers of natural artisan soaks, soaps and scrubs, their biggest challenge was the disruption to their process flow due to the MCO. “It is frustrating for us when we can’t control it. We had occasions when parcels arrive late or have gotten lost in the mail, and our labels and stickers aren’t printed on time. We are also getting fewer bulk orders since there are no weddings or corporate events running at the moment.” 

“We’ve looked into doing micro-campaigns to keep our brand awareness going and tried using third party delivery to send our products to our customers. As for bulk orders, we opened it up to no minimum orders. A sale is a sale!”

Despite the adversity, Amanda remains calm and grateful. She urges the community to continue supporting each other through social media. “I love the new feature on Instagram which lets you pin other small businesses to show your support – please use it!”

“My priority is making sure that the business can sustain to pay my staff” – Wendy Foo, Summer and Peach

Rethinking business strategies and eventually expanding their range of products has helped Wendy and her team weather the MCO. Fortunately, as an online-based business, they are not hit as bad as other sectors.

“We’re beyond grateful and know that it’s only right to extend our helping hands to others. My priority is making sure that the business can sustain to pay my staff. Thereafter, contributing what we can to help people who are really in need, like donating to #Mums4Mums to support the single and vulnerable mums.”

Post the coronavirus pandemic, Wendy hopes that communities will continue supporting each other. “It’s so heart-warming seeing people from all walks of life working together to combat this crisis. No groups of people should be left behind.” For businesses to survive, Wendy believes it is essential to get connected with other entrepreneurs as there is so much wisdom we can learn that’ll help us make better business decisions. “Be flexible, be bold in making the change that needs to happen, there will be solutions.”

“There’s always good in each day, and being positive doesn’t mean that everything is perfect” – Jenn Low, Wanderlust + Co

As the founder of Wanderlust + Co, leading the team through this Covid-19 period has been a real challenge for Jenn Low. No two days are the same and there are always unexpected situations that pop up on daily. “Along the way, I’ve come to realise that the only thing we’re in control of is our reaction to situations, and the importance of staying grateful and grounded. There’s always good in each day, and being positive doesn’t mean that everything is perfect – it’s trusting that things can and will be better with collective direction and effort.

“My team has been taking it all in stride, and the stress of changes aside, I dare say we have surprised ourselves on how
creative we can be, and how much change we can drive when we come together, committed as one.The fashion industry has had a huge wake-up call with this pandemic – having to slow down and reevaluate its methods, and rethink how it engages the global community and its audience in general.”

“My advice for other entrepreneurs is that we tend to be so hard on ourselves, and take so much upon ourselves. The line between home and work can be blurred with the work-from-home setup, so it’s crucial to be able to call it a day. Honour the work you’ve done, and allow yourself rest before coming back at it again tomorrow.”

All images belong to the respective mumprenuers.

Diana is a stay-at-home mum to a young storyteller who has delusions of becoming a pro snowboarder.