She can so she did. Asna Nabihah shines a spotlight for all youth taking on the world of entrepreneurship in Malaysia.
In an entrepreneurial sense, Malaysia is proudly taking lead even to western countries, especially when it comes to women.
More and more women are starting up their own companies, with research done by United Nations (UN) reveal that the number of women in Malaysia who went into business over the past decade rose by 45% compared to a 27% rise among men.
Women are coming up with ideas for startups every day, but often they don’t have an arena to share these ideas and gather interest in their business.
This is where Asna Nabila, the 28-year-old founder of Nature Renascent (NR), a social enterprise that transforms agricultural waste into sustainable products champions.
To find out more, I sat down with Asna at very pleasant and contemporary workspace cafe in Bangsar, called Faux Space to know more about her company, her inspiration behind the company, her goals and aspiration and her advice for the youth.
Sound interesting doesn’t it. Here’s the full interview:
Can you tell me about your company?
Nature Renascent (NR) is a small and self-funded social initiative of mine that started off as a college project in 2016. As a company, we are a group of individuals who have a passion for protecting nature and the environment.
We make functional and ethical products such as papers, bags and souvenirs using agricultural wastes such as pineapple leaves, bamboo leaves, banana leaves and such.
We hold pride for making a variety range of handmade materials and textiles that are not only made from disposal plant wastes but are also 100% eco-friendly and cruelty-free which means they are safe to use, not tested on animals and not harmful to the environment.
Apart from that, I buy the leaves from our local farmers hence I proudly say that we are also providing business and income opportunity for our local farmers in Malaysia especially in Johor as that’s where my company is based for now.
What made you to start Nature Renascent (NR)?
I’ve always wanted to run my own business, it is my passion. But just presumed it would be something I did when I was older or at least once I graduated from college.
However, the entrepreneurial field pulled me to it much earlier, 3 months after graduation to be exact. It all started as I said earlier as a college project.
For my final year project in UniKL, we had to come up with a business prototype and I was curious to work on a project that would identify the real potential of agricultural waste in Malaysia.
My project was very well received and applauded by my lecturers. Though, obviously, it is but many especially youth fail to see the potential in the agricultural industry but growing up in a family that loved nature I decided to go through with it right out of university.
So, I started Nature Renascent 3 months later. Initially, we started producing tourist merchandise using pineapple waste and slowly progress to now producing our own textiles.
Why green entrepreneurship as your career choice?
Nothing but the love for nature and environment. That is my business motto actually, ‘For the People, For the Planet’.
Many young people today, do not even see the agricultural industry as a lucrative career path nor as a prospective future, and that is really saddening.
Our country is blessed with prolific natural resources and the best and practical use of it is green entrepreneurship.
Also for those that do not know our country has an economy that is majorly dependent on agriculture either in a small or big way.
From keeping the nation fed to contributing to national income, agriculture is important for
In Johor for example, 70% of the land is used for agriculture and pineapples are the popular plants farmed.
So, by using a resourceful product that was already available and is never likely to run out of stock, I was able to save the initial investment cost and generate more profit in return.
I am also helping the environment by reducing the amount of waste produced. It is a win-win situation for all.
So, before jumping to the conclusion that agriculture offers no job scope, remember to see a demand and opportunity in what most people see as an oversupply or waste.
Was or is there any struggles you face as a woman in this field?
As a woman no. The industry is very fair. There’s no bais.
Generally the biggest struggle is creating public awareness of the importance of reducing waste and how it affects the quality of life.
Most often people look down on our product as ‘second-hand’ item and because that is how people view reusing waste materials to make new products.
Also though, our products are made for waste which is often cheap but all our product are handmade so the production cost is high since most of the manufacturing processes are manual.
Sometimes I feel like I want to give up but then again I am a tough girl that doesn’t give up and so been just fighting.
Who is your inspiration in life?
My family especially my mom. It is her love for travelling, art and especially nature that got me into it as well.
When I was kid we travelled a lot around Malaysia and travelling places also included buying unique, local souvenirs as my mom loves gifting it to her family and friends.
That’s when I realized most products that we buy in Malaysia isn’t actually made in Malaysia.
That what sparked joy in me like what Marie Kondo said, Asna giggled.
Also, I’ve grown up with an understanding of how much heart and soul goes into running small businesses as my parents did it.
So, I understand the pressures that come with the job and the hard work that goes in.
Running your own business as cool as it sound is a real test of mental strength, grit and stamina too.
So, what’s next for you?
To build a bigger audience base for my brand.
That has always been my priority and focus more on sustainability, Malaysian-made products, and the environment playing a huge role in the business.
My other brand, Pal-My (Passion, Art, Love—Malaysia) are mainly focusing on making notebooks and handbag that are made from pineapple agricultural waste.
I hope that this will serve as a stepping stone before we expand into even more products.
I am also planning to open an office in Kuala Lumpur because for now we are based in Johor.
The reception is KL is picking up, I’ve met with few local designers who were interested in my textiles.
My main goal is to help our local farmers generate income, create more awareness of agriculture as a necessity and mostly reduce the deforestation rate in Malaysia and open burning of waste in Malaysia.
I will always work towards that and for that.
Lastly, what’s advise for a fellow woman in this field?
Read, keep reading. Always keep yourself equipped with the right set of knowledge and skill needed for your chosen field.
I believe one can be too knowledgable hence reading always help.
Another thing I would say is to set yourself a goal. Know what is that you want to achieve and work that. Do not get distracted by the obstacles or pressure.
The important ingredient to success is hard work. You have to be hardworking to sustain.
I am always pushing myself forward to be better every day. I observe the market, my audience, I take feedback and constructive criticism and try to improve myself from that.
If you put in the right effort, success will find its way to you.
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