By Muhammad Basir Roslan
Have you ever thought of running and managing your own business? Have you ever thought of generating your own income and dwindling your own financial burdens where you can be less dependent on your study loan or financial support from your parents?
As a student, you might probably be thinking about how pleasing it would be to be able to spend your own hard-earned money on stuff you desire or to fulfil any of your cravings without getting the blabbering from your parents, right?
As most of you have already known, our beloved Prophet Muhammad P.B.U.H was also a very successful businessman himself. His journey to become a great entrepreneur started at the age of 12, when the Prophet first followed his uncle, Abu Talib, to Syria on a business trip. In addition, because of the charm, honesty and entrepreneurship skills, the Prophet had Siti Khadijah fallen in love with him. Later on, the two great entrepreneurs were bound together by a marriage tie-knot, and the rest was history.
Needless to say, as his followers, we ought to look up to the Prophet as the best role model and emulate him in as many aspects of life as possible. That would also include a suggestion to start venturing into any kind of halal business ourselves.
Here in IIUM, we already have our very own tycoon-to-be who has already followed the footstep of the Prophet in entrepreneurship. He is none other than Naeem Zaidi, 24, the founder, manager and proprietor of the beverage and food company called “WowKawKaw”.
This inspiring and much resilient entrepreneur is also famous in the social media by the nickname ‘Aaron Naeem’.
In my recent encounter with him, Naeem shared his experience on how he started his business from scratch, his ups and downs, and the story behind the recipes he has in turning his business “WowKawKaw” into a success story at a very young age.
This fresh graduate who has just finished his study in Business Administration in IIUM, majoring in marketing, started his business career by selling sample examination question papers at the age of 16 to fellow peers. Later on, he improvised his business selling bread toast with his two good friends. Minus the labour cost or al-ujrah of RM5 he paid to each of the two friends per day, he managed to gain a gross profit of RM200 per day.
His effort did not stop there as he spread his wings by getting involved in transport business during his study in IIUM Nilai. He provided a transport service that was less costly than taxis or cabs for students. He was able to generate an income of RM200-300 per day, and that was done only on week-end basis. When he moved to the Main Campus (IIUM Gombak), he started to sell handphone gadgets, cameras and T-shirts, and also worked as a gym assistant.
He worked very hard on his business because he sincerely intended to alleviate his family’s financial burden as he comes from a middle-class family. Apart from that, he gained much satisfaction from making his own “fountain of profits” and being independent out of his very own hard work.
But Naeem also had his bad times as he was badly injured while playing rugby in IIUM and had to be hospitalised for months. He had to undergo a surgery to recuperate his leg, and at that time, it meant that his business had to be put to a halt for a while as he had no business partner.
A few months had passed since he had fully recovered from the injury, and he was adamant to get back on track to start a new business. While struggling to come out with new ideas, he was very lucky that his close relatives offered him a new idea of business by selling green teas that are imported from Thailand. That was how “WowKawKaw” started after all.
He picked “WowKawKaw” as the brand name as he believes that besides the great taste of the food and beverages that it has to offer, a catchy brand name would also help attract the crowds’ attention to stop by at his business area. He was never wrong; many came to buy his food and beverages, and they still do that until today.
When he first started “WowKawKaw”, he joined many small events around the Main Campus to promote the products. The beverages were packed in plastic bottles; and at that time, he was able to sell 20 bottles per day. Eventually, his products were getting more attention and became a sensation around IIUM. Thanks to the IIUM management that was willing to help him penetrate the IIUM market by letting him set up his own booth where he can sell the beverages publicly and legally.
He then came out with another brilliant idea. Knowing that most students have limited time to catch their meals, he then decided to sell nasi WowKawKaw; a kind of mixed Thai and Malay cuisine dish. Praise be to Allah, it also received positive feedbacks from the customers both inside and outside IIUM.
For those who intend to start their own business, Naeem has a few useful tips to share. His advice for newcomers, firstly, before venturing into any kind of business, is that they must have a positive mindset. And this includes good intention or “an-niat”. He emphasised much on good intention because it is indeed an act of worship to Allah. And more importantly, business is not only about profit-making, but also about making other people’s life easier and convenient by offering products or services that can fulfil their needs and suit their likings.
He then referred to one famous hadith by Prophet Muhammad, from Abu Hafs ‘Umar bin Al Khattab radiallaahu’ anhu, he said,
“I heard the Messenger shallahu`alaihi wa sallam said: Verily every action of man is depending on his intention. And there is no one (to reply) based on what he intended” (Bukhari and Muslim).
Secondly, he said they must improve and sharpen their entrepreneurship knowledge and skills. It is very important to attend courses or classes regarding marketing strategies to gain new knowledge and enhance their business potential to a higher level.
Thirdly, they must give their best in whatever they do. He said, “Nothing good will come in our way if we do not strive for the best result in whatever we are doing.” Allah has mentioned about this in His Holy Quran surah Al-ankabut verse 69, “And those who strive in earnest to fulfil the requirements of Us, We will surely guide them to Our paths (which makes them happy and have pleasure) and real (aid and assistance for them)”. A small margin is still better than nothing, because with our exertion Allah will help and ease us in our business.
Every business has its up and down, especially when we only have small capital to start our own business. But what we can learn from this young brave-hearted and very determined man, he always gets back on his feet every time he falls. It is crucial for us to always prepare ourselves to overcome every problem that we are going to encounter in our business. And remember to get advices and mentoring from other experienced businessmen as well.
Naeem cited his mentor in business emphasising four philosophies or guidelines to overcome challenges in business. To be a successful businessman, firstly, there must be courage and always be motivated. Secondly, is how to manage and improvise the company as failure is a kick-start or a prerequisite before you can taste success. And last, but not least, is to have faith in Allah’s will and always put our trust high in Him.
“You must have your own WOW factor, this is because the success of one’s company is because of the good attitude and commitment of the people running that company or business,” said Naeem.
Young entrepreneurs should also strongly cling on WIN philosophies, where“W” is for “work hard”, “I” is for “increase knowledge” and “N” is for “never give up”.
“As stated by the writer of Tafsir Quran Asy-sya’rawy, a provision is whatever that benefits humans and what is more important is how we face the struggles in life and doing our very best to get rid of them with the assistance and blessings from Allah.”***