We recently ran a story on ten finalists for Alliance Bank's BizSmart Academy SME Innovation Challenge 2015
Today, we'll meet the remaining ten finalists - who they are, where they come from, and what their companies stand for. But first... What’s the SME Innovation Challenge again?
20 young Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are going to be coached by business leaders for a few months. At the end of this period, a panel of executives will choose the top three SMEs - for prizes worth a grand total of RM1 million! The program first started in 2013, and is now into its biggest and best edition yet.
1. Ash Be Nimble
Ash Be Nimble is a homegrown Malaysian brand that designs and manufactures sports apparel. They aim to make a difference in fitness in the ASEAN region with affordable and quality wear.
Ash Be Nimble started out with women's apparel, but have now expanded to include men as well. They also have a newly-launched sports hijab and modest active wear range.
Founder Hui Mathews was previously a consultant for seven years in various companies like PwC Sydney, E&Y Kuala Lumpur, AirAsia and The Boston Consulting Group KL. She was inspired to start her own clothing brand at her first road race in 2013. Today, she's an ultra-trail race runner and enthusiastic yogi. She has done 50km and 70km trail races around South East Asia, finishing in the top ten.
Kooshboo is a Boho-chic, children's premium fashion label. All clothes are fully designed and made by Malaysians. It was started to address a gap in the children's wear market: for simple and well-designed clothes, made of natural materials and not mass-produced.
Besides clothes, they also offer accessories for girls, boys and babies. Kooshboo strongly believes in social responsibility - all production is done in accordance to ethical and fair trade practices.
Sisters Natasha Navin and Natalia Navin are the founders of this startup. Natasha was a design architect in her previous job while Natalia is a qualified lawyer and ex-model.
3. Simply K
Simply K is a collection of hand-crafted accessories using finest-quality materials, like genuine Swarovski crystals. Their online store directly ships products ranging from bracelets to hair clips to turbans. They also have retail outlets in The Gardens and Suria KLCC.
Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, founder Kamae Lee worked as a medical representative. Her journey to Simply K started with making her own accessories more elaborate so they look more attractive. Soon, her family and friends' interest in her products made her decide to take the plunge and open her business.
4. Rent A Dress
Why buy when you can rent? Rent A Dress is Malaysia’s first one-stop rental portal of authentic designer dresses, accessories and bags where women can get designer clothes at a fraction of normal prices.
Think RM3,000 dresses that you can rent for as low as RM300. The innovative company will even deliver the rented dress to your doorstep, and pick it up once you're done.
Founder Chiu Hui Shuen was a management consultant before she decided to venture into business. She started Rent A Dress out of her own frustrations in finding quality evening dresses at affordable prices.
Rounding off our fashion finalists is Twenty3 Fashion - a female fashion company with global aspirations. The company has rapidly grown to become one of the largest, most recognisable single-brand online stores, serving tens of thousands of customers in over twenty countries.
Sherlyn Tan founded Twenty 3 two years ago when she was just twenty-three. The name was chosen as a reminder to Sherlyn - to never give up on her dreams of building a fashion brand to empower dreamers everywhere. She graduated with a first class honours degree in finance and multimedia, and was previously a sales director in Groupon Malaysia.
6. The Alphabet Press
The Alphabet Press (TAP) is a bespoke letterpress stationery company that is pioneering the letterpress print renaissance in Malaysia. They offer beautifully-designed paper products such as calendars, cards and notebooks, which are printed using 1960 German vintage presses.
They also offer bespoke services – such as printing corporate stationery, business cards, wedding invitations, and consultation services prior to printing to ensure the best designs.
TAP was founded by Cliff Leong and Zeejay Wong. Cliff is the Brand Strategist at TAP. Driven by the notion of pursuit and people that administer energy into motion, he wants TAP to be the bespoke letterpress stationery company that Malaysia enjoys. Zeejay is the Printmaker at TAP. He formulated The Alphabet Press’ blueprint.
BloomThis is an e-commerce service that delivers luxury flowers. They guarantee delivery of premium luxury flowers directly from the farm. You can choose one-off deliveries or subscribe - for weekly or fortnightly flowers.
The flowers come delivered in bespoke flower boxes with a twist – you won’t know what flowers you’ll be getting until you unbox them. Why? Because BloomThis believes that life should be full of beautiful surprises.
BloomThis is founded by duo Giden Lim and Penny Choo. Giden who used to work in pharmaceutical sales as well as his family’s florist business, graduated from 1337 Venture’s Alpha Startup program and [email protected] Program by MaGIC. Penny also started her career in a pharmaceutical company, where she gained most of her sales and marketing experience by managing different therapeutic areas and key accounts.
Just like Giden, Penny is also a graduate of Stanford Go2 Market Program by MaGIC. BloomThis was among the top 50 start-ups accepted in this year’s MaGIC Accelerator Program (MAP).
SnapSell is a mobile app that provides a one-stop solution for mobile commerce. Users can easily snap a picture and start selling through their mobile phone. On the other side of the table, buyers can easily search and purchase listed items.
For the convenience of users, there are a variety of secure payment options through multiple Malaysian banks. Buyers and sellers can also chat directly with each other to sort out any questions prior to transactions. SnapSell is available for free on both iPhone and Android.
Prior to SnapSell, founder Swee Wai Hoow founded an app development company that has developed apps for multiple corporate clients.
Katsana is a GPS-enabled technology provider with a utilitarian mission: to bring modern vehicle technology tracking to everyone. The technology can be used in a multitude of applications, ranging from tracking personal vehicles, to managing hundreds and thousands of vehicles in a company fleet.
Tracking is not limited to cars. Trucks, superbikes, valuable items and even small children can be fitted with the European-made GPS tracking device. The intended end-result? Security, convenience, and peace of mind.
Founder Syed Ahmad Fuqaha Sd. Agil is an Architecture graduate from Stevens Institute of Technology. Previously, he was involved in the development of the award-winning social networking platform JomSocial.
10. LYL Technology
Last but not least is a startup that plans to service an oft-forgotten segment of Malaysian society: foreign workers. LYL Technology plans to provide Malaysia’s massive pool of foreign workers with content-streaming apps.
Currently, content is focused on the Bangladeshi market, but they will soon start streaming content for Indonesian, Nepalese and Burmese audiences. Empathy is the name of the game here: every app is built according to the language, culture and traditions of the target audience.
The company was founded by husband-and-wife team Mehedi Hassan and Looi Yin Lin. Mehedi holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Computing from the University of Greenwich and is currently pursuing his Masters at Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS. He has more than eight years of experience in developing web and mobile applications.
Lin has a degree in business administration and finance from PGSM Business School. She has more than six years of experience working in various finance and accounting positions.
Stay tuned to find out how the finalists are doing at www.BizSmart.com.my, and who the eventual winner will be!