Furniture entrepreneur Deana Majigoh, and Pamella Chua, founder of her own fashion label, were selected to receive an exclusive mentoring session with the Shell Chairman following their involvement in LiveWIRE’s Become a Successful Owner Manager (BSOM) enterprise development training programme, which provides participants with the key skills to research and develop their business model, and produce a viable business plan.

Following the mentoring session, which took place in Deana’s furniture showroom, Datuk Ian Lo, said, “I found the level of commitment that these entrepreneurs bring to their businesses truly inspiring.

“Of course they run into challenges which lead them to question their business models. I see my role as a mentor to listen to their challenges and offer some advice on the solutions that they are thinking of. Essentially to help build their confidence so that they can run a successful business.”

The two young women experienced very different challenges in the early part of their respective entrepreneurial journeys. Pamella says that she was never fully confident in the handmade accessories that she produced until she attended the Shell LiveWIRE BSOM programme. It was only through the continuous revisions of her business model and explanation of her concepts that her level of confidence in her business began to rise. Deena, on the other hand, had started her business in 2014, but says she approached Shell LiveWIRE because it did not have the makings of a sustainable business.

Both entrepreneurs found their mentoring session to be extremely valuable, with Deana saying, “Iain’s advice was insightful and really helped me see a different perspective to my business and the challenges that I am facing. He is also incredibly humble and it was very easy to speak to him.”

Pamella really appreciated the confidence that Datuk Iain instilled in her, saying, “He really hit the nail on the head with my current business challenges. With his useful insight, I’m now more confident to tackle the challenges that I am facing.

“It is truly a privilege to be able to have this time with him and I have learned a lot from him, even though it was a short session.”

Commenting on the mentoring session, and the reciprocal benefits for both the young entrepreneurs and for Shell, Ayisha Arshad, Social Performance Manager, Shell Malaysia, said, “Datuk Iain Lo’s personal involvement in this mentoring opportunity goes a long way in demonstrating Shell’s commitment to the LiveWIRE programme and the entrepreneurial community of Malaysia. In just a short span of time, the Shell Malaysia Chairman was able to give advice that would help the entrepreneurs overcome specific challenges, inspire them to achieve greater heights, whilst building their confidence knowing that the entire organisation is rooting for them to succeed.

“This is by no means a one-way relationship. Shell mentors gain the external perspective that identifies the challenges faced by local business startups. This adds value to Shell’s current drive to include more local vendors into our contracting and procurement processes. By giving the Shell mentors this perspective, we will be able to improve how small local businesses can contribute to the larger Shell supply chain.”

Deana Majigoh started her furniture business Kazu in 2014, outsourcing the manufacturing abroad. Following her decision to transfer production to a local vocational training institution within Malaysia, Deana approached LiveWIRE to enable her to scale up the business.

Through her participation in the Shell LiveWIRE workshops, Deana developed a better grasp on how best to develop the concept and marketing of her business.

Deana said, “LiveWIRE helped me take my business to the next level. Even though Kazu had opened in 2014, it was only operating as a small business and didn’t seem very sustainable. After attending the workshops, my mind was open to more possibilities and it was the facilitators’ confidence in my business idea that gives me the courage to believe in Kazu.”

Deana has just completed a revised value proposition and business model for Kazu and is continuing to run her business under the guidance of the Shell LiveWIRE facilitators.

Pamella Chua, a financial planner by profession, decided to approach Shell LiveWIRE to turn her passion for couture fashion into a business. Pamella had made numerous handbags and fashion accessories for family and friends, and wanted to see whether there was a wider market for her products.

Pamella said, “Through the BSOM workshop, I had to explain my business plans to develop my handmade pieces as a business. Not only did it instil the discipline within me to finalise these plans, but the more I talked about it, the more confident in the idea I became.

“The pivotal moment was during the customer segmentation and market validation modules where, with the help of the Shell LiveWIRE facilitators, clear success points for my business were identified. With a clear understanding of what my customers would want, I feel more confident to transform my passion into a career.”

Pamella’s hopes that her business, Pamella Chua Collections, which uses discarded materials to create handmade fashion accessories including bags and jewellery, will launch in December 2016.