Royal heritage … no, really!
By Renuka Sena August 8, 2016
- Inherited traditional herbal formula used by Malay royalty
- Funding remains a challenge for oversea expansion
TENGKU Nurimazon (pic above), affectionately known as Tengku Emma, worked very hard to get to where she is today as the capable and talented chief executive officer of her own company, Ku Em Global Sdn Bhd.
Tengku Emma started her career as an administrative clerk in a large corporation. To earn extra income, she dabbled in multilevel marketing and was an insurance agent for a while.
Although she had no entrepreneurial experience at the time, Tengku Emma always believed that she had the strength and smarts to start her own business.
Deep down, she wished she had flexible working hours that would allow her to be more available to her children during their growing years.
She did not know it then but this impetus would drive her all the way to entrepreneurial success.
Tengku Emma decided to tap into her own royal ancestry when she started her business. Her family had inherited a traditional herbal formula that had been used for generations by Malay royalty, and feeling that it should be turned into a product to be enjoyed by all, she established Ku Em Wellness Care in 2011.
Like many other solo entrepreneurs, she started off being her only employee and worked from her living room.
However, an unforeseen sequence of events led to big changes.
The first shift happened when she met Khairul Anuar Mohd Shariff at a programme he was running for business owners. After a few brainstorming sessions, Tengku Emma knew that she had found someone who could help her grow her business.
Khairul signed on as her new business partner and together they revamped the company to become Ku Em Global in 2013.
Mohd Shokri Haji Mohamad also joined them as the company's director. The trio patented the herbal formula and developed scientifically-measured and effective post-natal care products for women.
A worthy sacrifice
Although Tengku Emma had wanted to enjoy flexible working hours, it soon became clear that as an entrepreneur, she had to put in very long hours to run her business.
However, she knew that the sweat, tears and sacrifice were part and parcel of her entrepreneurial journey.
To become more familiar with the business world, she joined several women’s organisations, such as the Women Entrepreneur Network Association (WENA) and Peniagawati.
In the beginning, she acted as a distributor for products by other women entrepreneurs, but she soon realised that she did not get much satisfaction from this.
The turning point came when she received a Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Mara) grant which enabled her to conduct product research and development in collaboration with Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM).
Today, Tengku Emma has an incredible array of herbal products with global appeal, and though the products were initially geared towards Asian post-natal care, Ku Em Global has gone far beyond the region to reach clients all over the world.
Since its inception, Ku Em Global has garnered great success. In 2012, the company was selected to represent Malaysia in the 10,000 Women Entrepreneurship Partnership Global Cohort Programme by the US State Department and Goldman Sachs.
Ku Em Global’s product, Herbal Ginger, has also won the coveted Silver and Bronze awards at FRIM's Innovation Day.
The proudest moment occurred when Ku Em Global participated in its first exhibition in China. While at the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road International Expo 2014 in Guangdong, its products received rave reviews and were sold out despite a mistranslation in Mandarin on its banner and leaflets!
The benefits of adversity
Though her company has enjoyed much success in a short period of time, Tengku Emma says there are many challenges that she grapples with, including self-doubt, lack of funding, building a great team, and adhering to very strict industry regulations.
However, her biggest challenge, at present, is the need for more funding as this stands in the way of her plans for overseas expansion.
Nevertheless, to Tengku Emma, every adversity carries within it the seed of an equal or greater benefit. In fact, she believes adversity has only made her stronger and more innovative.
To constantly grow alongside her business, Tengku Emma enrolled in the Coach and Grow Programme (CGP), where she learned to think in a different way using innovative methods such as the Dream Conversion Process and Mind Mapping.
It was also at the CGP that Tengku Emma learned how to welcome challenges into her life and business and to turn them into positive steps toward understanding others’ needs and solving their problems.
In addition to showing her how to plan for new strategies and business transformation, the CGP also opened new doors, allowing her to tap into a wider network.
“The CGP has given me access to information and knowledge that would otherwise be hard to come by, such as sources for customers, collaborations and capital,” says Tengku Emma.
“I learned that, as an entrepreneur, you should leverage any programme and event, with purpose, in order to learn and experience from another’s failure or success.”
All the way to Forbes
As one who firmly believes in learning through experience, as well as from those around her, Tengku Emma looks up to renowned English businessman Richard Branson.
Both she and Branson share the same disability, as they are both dyslexic, and they both have created their vision through personal difficulty.
Another similarity between the two? The ability to dream big.
Tengku Emma plans to become a world leader in herbal biotechnology, using various exotic herbs as a main ingredient. She hopes to establish her brand by capturing the European, Middle Asian and Central Asian markets.
As a keen entrepreneur, Tengku Emma wants to make it into the hallowed inner circle of highly respected business mavens.
Her dream is to see her name on the Forbes Top 10 list of the most successful women in the world.
Fail and believe
Tengku Emma says that somehow, she always knew she was destined to become an entrepreneur.
Her advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is, “Dream big and don’t worry about failing, because you need to lose first in order to win.”
Most importantly, she says that entrepreneurship is a chance for career development and personal growth for those who are willing to fail and believe despite the uncertainty of the future.
However, “effort and courage would not be enough without purpose and direction,” she cautions.
“Don’t work alone. Find a team of people you trust and dare to share your vision with them,” she adds.
Discover Ku Em Global at www.kuemroyalheritage.com.
The above is an excerpt from the book Startups to Scaleups published in October 2015 by Cradle Fund and Proficeo Consultants, the programme manager for Cradle’s Coach and Grow Programme. DNA will be featuring every entrepreneurial story from the book in a special commercial arrangement.