Following the disruptions caused around the world by the COVID-19 pandemic, the development of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in Brunei Darussalam has continued to move forward. Several local startups have shared insights into how they started their businesses, the impact of the pandemic and how they have persevered, along with their hopes for the future.
Nestled along a scenic alleyway flanked with greenery located at Jalan Pretty in Kuala Belait, Lane Microbakery and Coffee specialises in handmade pastry and brewed coffee. Before starting the business, sole proprietor Eunice took several online courses to practice making latte art while learning about the locals taste in coffee. The taste of coffee can be subjective, with some preferring a fruity, acidic taste while others prefer it to be bitter, so Eunice tried to find something that is in-between. Her experience in pastry-making and coffee-brewing led to setting up Lane Microbakery and Coffee in December 2021, following her graduation that same year. At the height of the pandemic, Lane Microbakery had outdoor takeaways as customers were not allowed to enter the shopfront itself. She said her business was not heavily impacted by the pandemic as they were still baking and selling pastries daily.
Following the shift towards an endemic way of life for the nation and the lifting of restrictions, customers can now enjoy their coffee with their pastry in-house. However, the bakery has had some difficulty getting supplies with the global delays in delivery and transportation in addition to price hikes. This extends to both pastry-making as well as coffee-brewing, though they are able to source coffee beans grown locally which alleviates some of the cost while supporting local farmers. Moving forward, the business aims to expand and cater to more customers from outside the district.
Sip Sip Coffee has been operating via pop-up at Kampong Manggis Dua since February 2022, serving specialty coffee every weekend using specialty beans from all around the world and offering a variety of beverages ranging from coffee based drinks and non-coffee based drinks such as chocolate, matcha and tea. Run and operated by Rosman Lamat as Manager and Head Barista with two part-time assistants, Rosman has been involved in the coffee industry since 2016. They started to become more active in 2020. The home-based café has been receiving more walk-in customers since the 5th Coffee Convention, in addition to having catered to a number of private events ranging from home events to corporate events. Rosman said that one of their success factors is their passion for research and development (R&D), where they constantly come up with new drinks to maintain their competitiveness with other cafes. The most notable drink on their menu is the ‘Summericano’, similar to an Americano but has fresh coconut water. Another signature drink is their chocolate-based ‘Caramel Koko’.
Siblings Rabiatul Nadhirah and Aqilah Balqis understand that the key is to stand out among the sea of new entrepreneurs offering a slew of products. It started with their grandmother who wanted to pass down a family recipe for traditional kueh penyaram to her children. The offer was declined at first because they were not confident they could do it justice, on top of holding full-time jobs while raising children. Eventually, the siblings agreed to learn the age-old way of making the traditional food item. They successfully replicated their grandmother’s penyaram and attracted a horde of loyal customers.
With limited opportunity to go to college, Aqilah decided to start a business with her older sister Rabiatul, who was at the time working in the private sector. With no culinary or business experience, they decided to take it slow and steady, offering various dishes such as shepherd’s pie, begedil daging, baked potatoes and mini chicken pies. They would send freshly prepared food to convenience stores to be displayed for a fee. A few months into the venture, their mother dusted off the family recipe for penyaram and shared it with them. The sisters also used social media to increase exposure of their business, which they named Yan Matahari. To them, the success they are enjoying today can be attributed to the hard work, commitment, sacrifice, perseverance and most important, support from their parents. One of the important lessons they have learnt in their journey is to keep an open mind, accepting both positive and negative feedback to improve themselves.
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