MIRI has seen many young people venturing into small businesses over the last two years.
Having just left school, most have set up stalls by the roadside to serve students or done home catering, while some are into selling second-hand goods.
Indeed, the nature of businesses these days has changed a lot.
Small bazaars are popping up in Miri – some organised by enterprising young people, others by charitable bodies.
Miri has seen many young people hopping on the bandwagon of artisan markets or bazaars to sell what they can produce. Many are skilled in making new products such as organic peanut butter, face creams, soaps, candles, and innovative crafts such as beads, special dresses, and paintings – all trying their best to find a niche in the local market.
Cindy, who has been fashioning special made-to-order necklaces in Miri, told thesundaypost, “My mother taught me to make Sarawak necklaces. I have been sending most of them to some shops in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. They have sold quite well and I feel very encouraged.”
She said she would also go into batik designs for scarves and blouses.
“My business is small but I’m hopeful with a lot of help from friends who are into e-marketing.
“I need to keep my capital small (by not having to rent a shop space) and my profit margin bigger. So I hope the new government will encourage young entrepreneurs like me.”
Gawai and Ramadan bazaars
Seasonal bazaars like the May Gawai Bazaar and the Ramadan Bazaar are very popular in Miri and people from all walks of life enjoy going to them, even as a good family outing.
Some local and foreign tourists also visit them, thus making these bazaars very charming and happy places to be seen at.
Halim (name has been changed) said like him, many young people were taking their chances by venturing into businessesto help their families.
He has just finished secondary education and is very interested in the catering business and he doesn’t mind the extra hours, standing to serve customers.
“I’m glad there is this Ramadan Bazaar for us to earn extra and help the family. In fact, my mother and I welcome any opportunity to market our food in Miri. I also get introduced to my mother’s customers, which is a bonus,” he added.
According to Halim, more than the previous years, 2018 has seen many young people setting up business stalls.
The two stalls next to his were operated by young men in their 20s.
He said the removal of GST had encouraged more people to do business, adding, “We can now buy more stuff from the supermarkets with RM100. We feel less burdened by the expenditure.”
Many young people are also selling fish in Miri. One of them said he was more hopeful after the May election as the GST removal in June had brought more people to their stalls.
“They buy more – and more often, actually. My better income can also buy more things,” he said.
Hassan (name has been changed) said he had just completed secondary school and was waiting for a response to his applications for jobs.
“I’m hopeful about the new federal government. Without GST now, my mother and I have been able to make more kuih, cook, and sell more fresh food,” he said.
“Catering is a fast business and we have to work very hard every day. We can’t afford full-time foreign workers, so my mother starts work from 4am till late at night.
“Apart from tending the stall, she also has to prepare the ingredients – onions, garlic and ginger – slice all the meat and do all the cooking.”
Hassan said he helped his mother in the food preparation but most importantly, he pointed out, he helped her to sell.
“When school reopens, we will be selling nasi lemak, mee, and kuih. By 11 o’clock every morning, I can rest.”
Hassan said he was also helping a friend and fellow fish seller and would go out to sea with him when the latter needed help.
“I like my afternoons when I can go shopping for my mother or help my friend sell fish,” he added.
Alfred Song, who just returned from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, is happy serving kopi O to senior citizens.
He said he was on a three-month holiday and had returned to help his father in Miri.
He also said he had come back to vote in May and although quite surprised by the PH victory, he felt a change in government was welcome, noting that Malaysians were now seeing more democratic practices in play.
“For us young professionals, this is something new, refreshing and promising. I was in Kota Kinabalu for mountain climbing and even the mountain guides were very positive and happy to express their views, sincerely hoping the best for Sabah under the new government.
“They also told me they had never been so positive or so hopeful. It was like a burden had been lifted from their shoulders.”
S Chua, a young professional working in the telecoms sector, noted that while many people had previously used their BR1M money to buy new mobile phones, most had become more spending-savvy in the past few months.
“They look at prices and ask about GST. They compare prices. When they see lower prices, they make the decision to buy.
“In the past, most people did not really bother about prices of hand phones. If they had the money, they just bought. People are getting wiser, more careful and very conscious about savings. Yes, it’s very important for the country to have more savings and more careful spending.”
Women in business
Generally, in Miri, most young women traders are happy with the election results.
Alina Musa, who works in a tailoring shop, said post-polling business was as usual with people making new clothing and couples placing orders for new suits and wedding gowns for their big day.
“We continue to charge the same price this year. My boss used to get a lot of orders from politicians, their wives and relatives, and walk-in customers in the past four to five years.
“So far, I don’t see any decline in business. I feel quite positive about spending in Sarawak. We also have many West Malaysians coming to our shop, bringing nice materials from the peninsula to make clothing. Tailor-made attire is still popular in Miri, especially for special occasions,” she said.
R Lim, who believes firmly in democratic values, said post-election business was as usual and in no way declining.
She felt young people nowadays were much more aware of democratic practices, adding that in Miri, they were urbane, cosmopolitan, and open-minded.
“Most of my colleagues, whatever their race, really care about the economy and social development of the country.
“It’s only in Malaysia you find Chinese, Malays and Indians sitting down at a mamak stall and enjoying roti canai for breakfast. This kind of openness and harmonious living is very meaningful to us. That’s why a party which champions and practises multi-racialism wins the hearts and minds of the people,” she said.
Sharon Julian, a home-based baker, said she could now buy more with RM100.
Expressing her delight, she added, “Today, I managed to get four cartons of UHT milk for less money.
“Many products are cheaper as there is no GST. I find that overall, I’m already saving quite a bit every month. I’m sure many people are also happy they can now purchase more with the ringgit. This means my business will see a slight increase in profit as well.”
A young woman, operating a braised pork rice stall with her partner, said although they spent RM750 in rental, they were still able to tide over their business.
“Our Taiwanese style braised pork rice is very popular here. Miri is a lively place, especially in the new suburbs where the population is concentrated.
“Riam and Permyjaya are good places to start a business. But what is most important is that most people in the new residential areas are willing to spend on food, and commercial goods,” she said.
Alfred Song’s father chimed in the last words with this very frank observation, “For business to take off, a good and sincere government is a must. I would like young people given licences to run their businesses without fear.
“No one should pay under the table money to get a simple licence. We also do not wish to have people who only want to issue licences to cronies. This is not good business ethic. Our political leaders must be people whom we can trust to bring about a fair and just society.”