JOHOR BAHARU – At the tender age of 13, Muhammad Safiuddin Ahmad Khir had to witness how his fatherâ€™s professional life was ruined, that affected the livelihood of their family.
Having only his mother, a lawyer turned takaful agent, to support the family, Safiuddin or Efi to family and friends, felt that it was his duty to help his mother to keep the family together.
“When I saw what happened to my father, I just stopped asking for money, from him or my mother,” the 22-year-old unassuming young man opened up to Bernamaâ€™s Lifestyle and Youth in an interview recently.
The eldest son from three siblings who witnessed how hard his mother was working to keep the family afloat, yearned to do something to ease her burden.
When he turned 19, Efi stumbled on a small business that could bring him a handsome profit.
Efi started out as a user of the Knockaround Sunglasses when one of his friends wanted to buy off his imported eyewear.
Knockaround was founded in 2005 by Adam Moyer, during his time as a graduate art student at University of California, San Diego. The company centres around practical yet stylish sunglasses line.
“I was surprised that he thought I was selling the brand. On a whim I told him I would sell it to him at RM150, of which he agreed,” Efi said.
Encouraged by the RM50 profit that he made selling his imported Knockaround sunglasses, a cool business idea crossed his mind.
Having a cousin who was studying overseas, made it all easier, for his cousin acted as his supplier for the original sunglasses.
Started With What He Had
Having set his mind, Efi decided to find work as a cashier at a supermarket to save up money to start the business.
“I wanted to get my own money, my mother was already working so hard to keep the family afloat, so I didnâ€™t want to trouble her anymore. Besides, if I were to borrow from her, I would have to return it,” Efi said.
For four months, he toiled at the supermarket, saving most of his RM600 monthly salary, skipping lunch and only eating at home.
The businessman in the making managed to save up RM2,000, which he used to buy his first stock, ten pairs of Knockaround Sunglasses with the help of his cousin who was studying in Finland at that time.
To his amazement, Efi managed to sell all ten pairs within a week. Asked how, he said : “I talked to many people even before the sunglasses arrived from the US. I talked about it to friends and friends of friends.”
As business picked up, Efi discovered that there were many things that he had to unlearn, learn and re-learn, especially in terms of packaging and customer service and relations.
“I was 19, and I treated my potential customers as I treated my friends. I could be rude sometimes in the way I replied their messages and when some of them took a long time to decide to buy, I turned hostile,” Efi said.
As he did not receive guidance from anyone, Efi said he turned to other online sellers to solve his packaging issue.
Immaturity and ignorance, according to him, cost him several of his earliest customers.
The restaurant management student can also communicate in decent English as a result of having to deal with the American friend who acts as his supplier now after his cousin had completed his studies and returned home for good.
“I have no choice but to use English to communicate with him on the phone and email. So, I forced myself to learn,” said Efi.
Charting Bigger Dreams
Efi who is still studying to get his diploma from KFCH International College in Bandar Dato Onn, Johor Baharu, plans to open up his first store at Pekan Rabu, Tampoi.
Pekan Rabu, Johor, is a trading and business centre modeling on the concept of the original Pekan Rabu in Alor Setar, Kedah.
“Iâ€™ve been doing this online business for almost three years now, itâ€™s time that I go to the next level,” said Efi.
On the average, Original Sunglassesâ€™ sales can reach up to RM5,000 a month and after paying for new stocks and postage costs, it is more than enough to pay for his second hand Saga and daily expenses.
Efi also plans to sell original Nike and Adidas shoes as well as original watches at the Pekan Rabu store.
Education And Business Go Together
“Through the years, Iâ€™ve accumulated quite a number of loyal customers and followers. I think itâ€™s about time for me to have a physical shop and drive more sales,” said Efi.
Asked why he chose to study restaurant management, the articulate young entrepreneur said: “It was my motherâ€™s suggestion. She owns a Marrybrown chain restaurant. Since Iâ€™m the eldest, she wants me to take over when the time comes.”
When he was 18, Efi had to turn down two offers to further his studies due to his familyâ€™s financial constraint and that really affected him.
The student, who maintains a good academic standing every semester, said that he was determined to graduate with flying colours, before going at full throttle with his business.
“Education is important, not because of the certificate, but because of the knowledge one gets. I will make sure I finish my diploma, then I can go all out in my business,” Efi said. – Bernama