Entreprenueral Blood

My parents were entreprenuers. I didn't realise this until I mulled about starting Twentyfivecents.

My dad was a pioneer in the real estate sector in Malaysia. Having started Nightingale Allied Services Real Estate Agency - he was one of the few agencies who made waves. With a vast array of clientelle, and a growing portfolio of land and residential listings, he picked up the trade quite rapidly. In fact, he sat on the board of real estate agents (MAREA) interviewing newbies like the SK Brothers, etc.

Nightingale had an earlier history. It was started by my mom. She ran a nursery that took care of babies. Nightingale Nursing sparked off in the mid 70s before my parents got married. My dad, eventually adopted the name for his new business. Together he and mom did real estate.

When the family expanded, mom decided to take a breather from the workforce. She devoted her life to raising the three of us.

In the mid-eighties, mom opened a bookshop in Jalan Gasing. Pustaka Psalms wasn't just a bookshop - it sold stickers and ice cream. The main seller was Christian literature. When John was born, she decided to close the shop down. Our home inherited over 500 Christian books. (I had a secret goal to read every single one. Don't tell anyone).

Dad's real estate picked up really fast. He was now the manager of an office space, several clerks, phones with intercoms and negotiators. Soon after his business expansion, he was struck with a stroke which prohibitted him from climbing 2 flights of staircases daily.

He moved his office to our home.

The office at home assumed an open-office concept. His office table faced the living room with a 29 inch TV. His office message book were donned with Ninja Turtle stickers, courtesy of Quinton and me. The pages of his message book were filled with recent client calls and mom's shopping list. She used the opportunity to remind dad what errands needed to be run daily. After all, it was the message book.

All of us were trained to answer the phone when clients called in. We knew how to jot down basic real estate details.

Clients who dropped by his 'office' had to excuse the mess and clutter caused by us and our 3 dogs. They eventually had to learn how to cope with children in executive meetings. We were of course told to behave in their presence. Eventually, dad started meeting clients at other children-free venues.

The entreprenueral spirit in mom manifested in other smaller projects. At age seven, I took orders from classmates for jam tarts. Mom makes really good jam tarts. The ones that melt in your mouth and not crumble in your hand, and when eaten hot can burn the roof of your mouth. The tart project lasted briefly. Seven year olds were concerned with other things.

When I was 15, I marketed fake 'crap' on April fools day. I belonged to a crazy school. My class in particular were populated with pranksters who found prankster-paraphernalia valuable buys. So I sold shit made out of cement, coloured to look authentic. It sold like hot cakes.

Dad's real estate license died with him. The week before he passed on, I shared interest in helping him develop his business. I asked him to teach me the tricks of his trade. He agreed. Sadly, the end of the week proved fatal. All hopes of perpetuating the business came to a dead end.

Shortly after his demise, mom jumped back into action. We started a little cafe in Jalan Gasing called "Hot Cross Buns". Mom sold curry laksa, nasi lemak, ice kacang, ice cream and more. Our reasonable prices attracted school kids. The lunch crowds were stolen by Raju's and Pandii's banana leaf rice. Due to our small space, we couldn't take in more than 15 eat-in customers at any one time. So the business was limited in more than one way. After almost a year (or more) we gave the business up. Overheads were increasing and it wasn't moving us in a positive direction.

Looking back, I wonder if entreprenuership is a family thing for me. Lots of people have advised me against starting my own business because the risks are high and my personality doesn't help. I'm a people person. I'm better for people-related areas - teaching, counseling, pastoral, etc.

As much as I respect their views and wisdom, I'm discerning my decisions in the light of my early exposure to business management (or lack of it) and an inward motivation to give it my best shot. Determination. I tend to take risks quite easily. If you don't give me cash and throw me in Kelantan, I can still feel secure. I don't believe in getting physically lost. Only spiritually.

So, here's to me wading in this new business ocean.


andrea said…
Here's me supporting your determination and your decision to do what you do best...
Jer said…
Interesting sharing there. "Enterprenualship" has always being a topic i wondered; does it really run in the blood. Myself being a people oriented too but definitely not a risks taker would find this idea far and beyond. Still as Andrea said it...my prayer and support goes to u your endeavours.

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