Sabah winners laud Shell LiveWIRE for success

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Rositinah receiving her award from Datuk Ewon Benedick, Minister of Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives of Malaysia during the LiveWIRE 2023 national finals.

KOTA KINABALU (Dec 17): Two winners from Sabah emerged victorious in the national level finale of the Shell LiveWIRE Malaysia 2023 at Wisma Shell.

The five winning enterprises were among 15 finalist enterprises that emerged state winners of Sabah, Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia, earlier this year.

One of the Sabah winners is Southeast Asia Treasure, founded by Radziah Matarsad and her daughter Siti Aishah Syazwani Sairin. It is an innovation of a seaweed “smart culture” tool that can reduce the death of turtles and fishes that attack seaweed farms.

This tool is an environmentally friendly system that helps to improve farmers’ income in Semporna and all the areas that culture seaweed including Indonesia, Philippine, India and other seaweed countries.

“I am very grateful and thankful because the ZieaH Integrated Culture System (ZICS) is being recognised by Shell LiveWIRE programme,” Radziah said to The Borneo Post.

“This is also a gift to my seaweed community in Sabah because this is a solution that they have been hoping for, for a very long time.”

Radziah from Southeast Asia Treasure receiving her award from Ewon during the LiveWIRE 2023 national finals.

The 41 year old widow with seven children hails from Kampung Likas, Kota Kinabalu.

Her journey began in 2009 when she joined a graduate programme under the Department of Fisheries Sabah, helping graduates to gain more income in agriculture.

“After a year into this programme, we found out that our farm did not produce much seaweed. After investigation, we discovered that a group of turtles ate almost all of the seaweed in the farm,” she said, adding that other farms also suffered a similar fate.

“After a couple of months, we heard that the turtles were killed. They also bombed the fishes in the sea to save the farms. I feel that this cannot happen in my area. I tried to solve this issue but failed.

“Every year, our seaweed cultivation becomes insufficient because of this issue. A lot of systems were built but failed to resolve our issue.”

Radziah says joining Shell LiveWIRE opened her eyes to make her realise that there was more to learn other than earning money.

Finally, after a decade, Radziah came up with the best solution that is ZICS, a combination of seaweed farm, fish cage and seagrapes pond.

“The system is a win-win situation because we don’t have to kill turtles and bomb fish,” she enthused, adding that the sea creatures also cannot ruin the farms because ZICS will block them from accessing it.

“It is also a mobile farm in the sea and easy to maintain. The income for using ZICS is triple that of a traditional system that has a single income with high cost and high maintenance.”

‘Not for the faint of heart’

Radziah affirmed that seaweed farming is not for the faint of hearts, partly due to the fact that traditional farming systems were difficult to maintain.

“We have to be at sea for about 8 hours a day under the heat. If the temperature is high, we get headaches, dehydration and fever.

Other challenges include the lack of infrastructure, such as electricity and water supply.

“We have to use generators or solar power. We also have to collect rainwater in a tank. If it is the dry season, we have to look for water from town or search a well at the nearest island.

“To reach our current level is difficult. It requires a lot of patience.

“Because of the high demand in this industry, I survived. My patience is worth the victory in this Shell LiveWIRE 2023 competition. The victory is not just for me but for over 3,000 culturists in Sabah.”

Beyond that, Radziah said joining Shell LiveWIRE opened her eyes to make her realise that there was more to learn other than earning money.

“After we were announced as a state winner, Shell LiveWIRE gave us a mentor to help us look at our business and potentially scale. My mentor, Dr Hafiz Ibrahim is the senior general manager from Pendinginan Megajana Sdn Bhd. I am thankful for all his guidance and coaching.

“He shared with me a lot of knowledge and gave guidance to improve my business skills. He always challenged my knowledge with a question that made me think deeper and further. This makes me more alert with my future decisions.”

When asked on her future plans, Radziah aims to get her ZICS idea patented with MyIPO before marketing all across Malaysia.

“This is to ensure that the standard operating protocols of the product are standardised. I will approach all culturists to use ZICS to ensure their income is higher and are sustainable in the seaweed industry.

“I will also train youths and villagers to build ZICS to grow and introduce the business as a social enterprise. This will open huge opportunities to them to gain more income besides having a good, stable job.”

Radziah reiterated the fact that being an entrepreneur was no easy feat.

“Before we step into the entrepreneurial world, we have to learn a lot about business and entrepreneurship.

“Only when we are knowledgeable, then can we survive and sustain. I am also taking a lot of time to deepen my knowledge about my industry.

“The key to success in entrepreneurship is to keep trying our best and never admit defeat.”

Combining the love for culture and beadwork

Away from the seas and closer to the jungle is Grace Creation, founded by Rositinah Andahang and Mainah Himbulan. The second Sabah winner from this year’s Shell LiveWIRE 2023 is a social enterprise that produces Sabah ethnic handicrafts, specifically originating from the Murut ethnic group.

The company impacts the community surrounding various areas, providing jobs for the women within the area.

“I am very happy to get the opportunity to participate in Shell LiveWIRE this year, and to win this was a bonus for me,” said Rositinah to The Borneo Post.

“My aim for this competition is to learn more about business and to promote my product because Shell LiveWIRE is a good platform to showcase my business to potential clients.”

Grace Creation with the community at Kg Labang, Sepulut.

Prior to starting Grace Creations, Rositinah said she previously collaborated with non government organisations to help communities in Pensiangan increase their livelihood.

“Our focus was mainly on women that do not have income and education. Our objective is to help them get extra income.

“Around 2019, we started with one community to do the beadcraft handicraft and produce souvenir products.

“After the pandemic in 2022 until now, we continued to give training to six more communities in Pensiangan with around 131 women participating.

Products from Grace Creation.

The idea started after the communities’ encountered a problem to market their products as the majority of them did not have marketing skill to sell their product to the outside market.

“My husband, Benny Franklin Hartheman and I through Grace Creations decided to pursue this business to help the community to market their products throughout Malaysia and internationally.”

Rositinah credited her prior background as a school counsellor in Kota Kinabalu towards her understanding the need to help the community. Since then, her passion in business began after graduating in 2015.

“During my unemployment, I started doing small businesses like t-shirt printing and catering to earn income. That was the time when my entrepreneurial journey began.”

Her foresight allowed her to see the potential and opportunity of the community in Pensiangan which has a culture very intricately linked to beadcraft as ornaments and accessories of the Murut culture.

However, the issue with the community is that they buy beadcraft and get it from the outside market.

“I saw this as an opportunity that not only solves the issue but also helps generate regular income for the community,” she explained.

“My motivation for doing this social enterprise business is not only for profit, but also to help women in Pensiangan to earn income through beadcraft.

Overcoming obstacles in distance, training

Meanwhile, Rositinah said there were a plentitude of challenges in chasing her dreams.

“There are indeed challenges faced, for example the distance of my location which is in Kota Kinabalu and while the community is in Sepulut area which takes about a four hour drive from Kota Kinabalu. Meanwhile, Pagalungan takes about six hours from Kota Kinabalu, depending on the condition of the road through land and river.

“However, this challenge is faced with an understanding of the culture and way of life, so it is very helpful for us to communicate and even empower the community itself in facing challenges so that all the situations can be faced well.”

Another challenge faced by Rositinah included training women in Pensiangan.

During the training, we will go over to their place where transportation is very challenging due the nature of the road with the location being so far away from Kota Kinabalu.

“To overcome this, we planned our trip one month ahead, and discussed with our community to overcome any problem because we do it as a team and with support from the communities.”

Support also came in the form of the Shell LiveWIRE platform that provided courses, boot camps, mentoring and pitching programmes for Grace Creation.

“We have had the opportunities to improve our public speaking skills, learn business models and marketing strategies, in addition to focusing on customised services and tourism products.

Through Shell LiveWIRE as well, Grace Creation is recognised by potential clients and attracts the interest of the community to venture into the field of beadwork.

Meanwhile, our existing community became increasingly motivated after seeing their results being recognised on a national level. On this occasion, we express our appreciation and thanks to Shell LiveWIRE.

Beyond this milestone, Rositinah said for the year 2024, she plans to arrange more courses focused on increasing skill sets so that their crafters can increase their production and accommodate high demand, especially for tourism products.

On her advice to budding entrepreneurs, Rositinah had this to say, “The price of success is hard work, dedication to the task at hand, and the determination that whether we win or not, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”