For many micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), access to finance is a make-it-or-break-it game and can be the difference between a company’s growth or its failure, especially in a saturated market such as the food and beverage industry.
For Nurul Nazla Hafizah Amal Yati Abdullah and Muhd Yazid Hj Yakub, co-owners of Station Ayam Gunting (SAG), vendors specialising in flavoured fried chicken cutlets (ayam gunting), this was definitely the case.
SAG began in August 2019 when both Nazla and Yazid were in their third year of university, as a means to earn a side income.
“At that point in time, we wanted to try something new; try our hand at starting a business, to build ourselves a side hustle,” said Yazid who graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering from Universiti Teknologi Brunei (UTB).
Nazla and Yazid then reflected on the potential markets in the sultanate, landing on the idea of starting a food business, noting the strong food culture in Brunei Darussalam.
“One thing that we noticed is that there weren’t many ayam gunting vendors in Brunei, despite it being a popular street food in our neighbouring countries like Malaysia or Indonesia,” continued the 23-year-old.
“So we thought, considering the popularity of fried chicken among Bruneians, that this, ayam gunting, was something that we can do well,” he went on to say.
The co-owners began their quaint business venture with a mere $75, and they started by setting up a stall every Sunday at Tungku Beach.
“Due to the high traffic of beachgoers, business was good. Back then, due to limited resources, we would only sell about two kilogrammes of chicken a day and we were always sold out,” said Yazid.
“Despite our simple set-up; with folding tables, a deep frier and an umbrella, we actually garnered a decent customer base, with quite a few loyal customers, so we were very grateful for that,” he added.
COVID woes and the wandering station
SAG operated at Tungku Beach once a week until early 2020, when Brunei was hit with the first wave of the pandemic, where they conducted a drive-thru concept to cater to their loyal customers.
Eventually, however, they had to find a new location due to the closure of Tungku Beach.
“When the beach closed, we moved around quite a lot, from Meragang Beach, to the roadsides of Bukit Sibanging and Kg Tanah Jambu, it was a struggle, moving from one location to another, having to set up our stall, in different unfamiliar places,” said Nazla.
The Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) graduate shared that the early months of SAG were a struggle, with the weather being a significant detriment, due to operating in the open air.
“Because we were never always sure where we would be operating next, it slowed down our workflow, we had less prep time due to us having to move often,” said the geology major.
“When the weather would make a sudden turn, we had no choice but to brave it, while trying to maintain the best hygiene. We would have days where the winds would blow away our umbrellas, it was quite a difficult time,” she added.
“We had always wanted to find a more permanent place for our business, but due to a lack of capital, that was a bit difficult to achieve. We thought of getting a shipping container that can be turned into a food kiosk, but the process to save enough funds was a bit slow,” the 25-year-old said.
Eventually, after operating for more than a year, Nazla and Yazid decided to take a year off of Station Ayam Gunting in 2021, in order to focus on their final year of university.
Jana Kapital and the crowdfunded kiosk
Upon the completion of their final year, the co-owners actually moved on from SAG, with each acquiring a part-time job, but despite this and throughout their hiatus, both Nazla and Yazid would receive messages from previous customers about their beloved ayam gunting.
SAG restarted operations this year, now being located at Jalan Kebangsaan Lama, just a few feet away from Nazla’s home, hoping to take advantage of the densely populated thoroughfare to increase their business.
Their set-up remained the same and their aspiration of owning their own food kiosk was still very much intact. Despite a hopeful new beginning, for Nazla and Yazid, the dream felt a little further away than was expected.
This however changed when SAG crossed paths with Jana Kapital, Brunei’s pioneer Syariah-compliant peer-to-peer (P2P) crowdfunding platform which aims to provide alternative financing for MSMEs as well as investment opportunities for the general public.
Through Jana Kapital investors or crowd-funders help purchase acquisition of assets that are then utilised by businesses. The company is currently under the Brunei Darussalam Central Bank (BDCB) FinTech Regulatory Sandbox.
Nazla described the process as being simple, having been in constant communication with Jana Kapital through not only discussions but also business presentations in order for the crowdfunding platform to perform their due diligence and decide on the best path that would help the microbusiness grow.
SAG was listed on the crowdfunding platform around May, and their campaign was able to reach the target of $6,000 allowing Nazla and Yazid to secure the food kiosk that they had always envisioned.
“For a lot of MSMEs like us, the main difficulty is always capital or access to funds, without them we wouldn’t be able to execute our business ideas and to go through regular financial institutions might not work the risk; our loan might as well not be approved,” she said.
According to Nazla, with a more permanent location and a proper food kiosk, the now eatery has already expanded its operations, opening six days a week from 11am until 9pm, earning on average about $4,000 to $5,000 a month.
“Also it is a heartening experience, that our campaign was able to reach its target because it signaled to us a certain level of trust between the public and our product,” she added.
With the comfort and shelter provided by the new kiosk, Station Ayam Gunting already has plans of expanding its business, hoping to become an eatery that will allow customers to enjoy their ayam gunting freshly cooked.
To know more SAG, you can visit their Instagram at @station.ayam.gunting_bn
THE BRUNEIAN | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN