From an early age, Norleilawati Hj Abd Rahman had always dreamed of owning her own business, of becoming an entrepreneur and it was a journey that unknowingly took the 43-year-old more than half of her life.
For more than 26 years, Norleilawati has been earning a living through her food business, often seen spending most of her time in the kitchen, trying out new recipes and learning new skills from the community she had grown to love.
The mother of four moved to Kg Bolkiah, after losing her home in Kg Setia Pahlawan to a fire in 1993, a point in time that proved to be difficult, due to the sudden necessity of building a new life, in what was then, a place full of strangers.
Kg Bolkiah however, has become a new home for Norleilawati as most of its residents have shared a similar experience; of losing their original home, and finding a new one in a strange and unfamiliar place.
“The close-knit community of Kg Bolkiah, is where I guess my business started,” she added.
Add to that, Norleilawati, who is a member of the Kg Bolkiah Women’s Association is one among 15 local businesses, who have seen their business taken to new heights, after taking part in the Entrepreneurship Training Programme conducted by local brand, Big BWN Project.
According to the entrepreneur, the three month training programme saw her not only being trained but also working with mentors to expand her business portfolio which included being onboarded into the e-commerce platform Ta-pow! to boost her sales.
She added how the programme has helped promote her business, an essential development, considering her biggest challenge as entrepreneur prior to the training, was the unpredictability of income.
“It was always up and down. Sometimes, I would receive an average of $20 per day from the business and sometimes not at all,” she shared.
Now however, from just selling Nasi Katok around her neighbourhood at the beginning of her entrepreneurial journey, Norleilawati has expanded her operations, growing her menu to include a wider array of dishes, which have gained positive feedback from customers, old and new.
Founder of Big BWN Project Noorhafizah Hj Rashid said that the Entrepreneurship Training Programme reinforces and strengthens entrepreneurial competencies that involve diagnostics.
This, she said, includes an entrepreneurship profile, a self-assessment of key competencies, individual transformation as well as business stimulation activities.
Ultimately, Entrepreneurship Training Programme is part of a grander scheme under the recently established Kg Bolkiah Community Development Centre which was founded by the Big BWN Project under a social development initiative spearheaded by the Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah (YSHHB).
“We have always been working towards establishing a Community Development Centre over the last couple of years, and now we have achieved that,” said Noorhafizah.
Since its opening, the centre has held various events and happenings from Youth Business Talks to the Santai Sunday event where the public are given the opportunity to learn how to weave and make traditional snakcs like penyaram.
“We would be providing various different engaging programs on vocational training, workshops and activities on community capacity building in order to develop their skills and talents (of residents) by implementing high value content with collaborations and partnerships from other organisations and stakeholders,” she explained.
She also shared that since the brand’s establishment of the Kg Bolkiah Women’s Association, the number of members have reached more than 50 members.
“The initial challenge was to change the mindset of the locals from the community and to gain their confidence to do activities with us, or to join our programs as many are still very reserved,” she said.
When asked about the future plans of the project, she said that they plan to host as many community initiatives, workshops and activities at the centre so that they can help foster inclusivity, entrepreneurship and support amongst the local community of Kg Bolkiah as well as the public.
“The project aims to become a hub where the local public can come and do various activities, whilst trying to reignite people’s interests in our culture and heritage and also shed a positive motivation for the people in the community to do more to improve their socio-economic welfare,” she concluded.
The Bruneian | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN