Thursday, September 14, 2017

Living in Malaysia ... A Reflection on Our 11th Year

As anniversaries arise, one cannot help but reflect back on the journey. December 2016 when we moved to Kuala Lumpur, I had no idea what to expect. People told me their own views about the country and what limitations I would face in finding a job. Fast forward 11 years later, I could not have imagined that it would be this ... good. I didn't say perfect, but I said good because of the following...

1. As an expatriate, it was easy to get around, most people spoke English or would smile to me politely even if they didn't understand me.

2. Buying property is not impossible. You can own a piece of Kuala Lumpur if you intend to invest and stay here for a while. The banking system here is also amazing with the lending schemes they have as compared to back home in Manila.

3. Cost of living has gone higher since that fateful year 2006 when we arrived, but even as things have gone up, it's still better than most South East Asian neighboring countries -- especially if I compare it back home to Manila. Electricity, water, petrol, energy and infrastructure is way better... at this point in time of my writing.

4. Foreigners have equal opportunity to own and run a business.

5. I arrived Malaysia newly married. I had two kids here in Kuala Lumpur and the experience was great. I am grateful that there are opportunities here -- the chance to have good health coverage, the infrastructure of good hospitals and the friendly staff and people which makes it a wonderful country.

6. Competitiveness & aiming to be better and better - I learned many great things from working alongside Malaysians and that is to STRIVE TO BE BETTER every day. They have this spirit of wanting to be better and achieve great heights, and I appreciate that rubbing off on me. They try to achieve better infrastructure, which is the backbone for efficiency and businesses to flourish. The new MRT was recently completed with the forward thinking of the growing population. The roads are widened and increased, to accommodate more cars of the future. I appreciate these especially when I am STUCK IN TRAFFIC in Manila, which can be in a standstill for hours, due to the lack of planning, the lack of will of the past governments to grow or simply the lack of focus.

7. In my 11 years here in Kuala Lumpur, I look back and not a single typhoon... I was born in Manila and witnessed yearly calamities especially how typhoons destroy lives. 11 years here has been peaceful, yes with some incidences (e.g. flooding due to heavy rains) but never like the devastating things that have happened back home. I pray that it continues.

8. Growing number of expatriates and Filipino community -- it makes me feel darn right at home! Throughout the years in KL, I have never seen this much FILIPINOS around! They are everywhere, mostly in the service sectors. And it feels like home hearing their Tag-lish and Tagalog.

9. The government of Malaysia grants Resident Passes to people who are qualified. I am glad that they made it easier for expatriates, as compared to when I just arrived in 2006.

10. Highly connected, good internet and mobile infrastructure. I appreciate it even more after suffering through the snail-paced internet back home in Manila during my visits. Malaysia feels like heaven with the connectivity infrastructure. This allows individuals to discover the world out there, discover brands and what's new... it drives new businesses and faster adoption. This helps the economy and the people move forward.

I'm ending here with just 10 reasons, despite that I have a bagful of other things. I haven't posted for a long while due to a myriad of things that have sprung up since 2016. Meanwhile, as we celebrate 11 years soon ... there is only that feeling of content and happiness -- having left Manila, moved to Singapore and now Kuala Lumpur. Our city, our home.

Leap. Dare to Dream. You only live once.

Four years ago in my small apartment kitchen, heavily pregnant, I dared to dream. I created a few juice flavors, pondered on several names for the brand, lost sleep over the logo design and told myself "I'm going to do it. I don't know how, but I will do it." The unknown was major scary, yet exciting at the same time. I just had to find out if I could make it out there, just being me, Anabelle, without the fancy corporate brands that used to back me up when I worked for the big boys of the tech world.

Today, September 2017 marks the fourth year of La Juiceria. And looking back at my journey, it brings a mix of emotions all at the same time : gratitude, disbelief, awe, happiness, and fear. Sometimes I wake up wondering if I really did what I did. Most days, extremely happy when we achieve new heights or simply seeing customers supporting our brand. Fearful days, when uncertainties arise. Then excitement follows because every day is different.

Entrepreneurship is a roller coaster ride, and you better have the stomach for it, or at least get ready for it, else you will 'throw up' along the way. I knew in my mind what kind of hard work was coming my way when I started. The beauty of entrepreneurship is that if you LOVE what you do, it barely feels heavy or burdensome.

I write this entry with only one purpose in mind. To remind everyone that we have one life to live. Don't be stuck in a job that doesn't fulfill your passion or if doesn't bring you closer to what you achieve to be. Working as a marketing employee for different companies, I cherished everyday because I knew it's what I wanted to do. I didn't feel burdened nor bored. I just knew in my guts that it's part of where I want to go. The hardest part was leaving. Leaving a comfortable job that provided security and some sort of contentment. Letting go was DIFFICULT. Because I feared the unknown. But the I did it anyway, because the bigger fear was NOT KNOWING AT ALL. Not knowing if I can make it as an entrepreneur in a foreign land. I had to know. So I left.

Begin with the end in mind. Have a meaningful purpose. Dare to dream. I wanted to make Malaysians healthy. That was the simple fact why I started. From producing bottled cold-pressed juices to opening cafes, the journey has been exhilarating. A chain of coincidences and happenstance came my way ... and I embraced it all, with positivity and the naive belief that I have an equal chance at it.

I still have a long, long journey ahead, full of uncertainties and challenges. The contentment I have in my heart is that at least I tried it, I gave it my all. Whatever happens along the way is part of the journey. As Steve Jobs had said, "the journey is the reward". I often share with people that if I, a non-Malaysian could create something in Kuala Lumpur, what more Malaysians. You have every opportunity to make it. Take the chance. Leap.
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