In the spotlight: Women entrepreneurs from Brunei Darussalam
Brunei Darussalam is a Southeast Asian, oil-rich Sultanate on the northern coast of Borneo and is significantly a low-tax regime; and its stable political environment extends a welcoming climate for potential investors. Moreover, Brunei Darussalam is one of the richest countries not only in Southeast Asia, but in the whole world.
The economy of Brunei is a mixture of foreign and domestic entrepreneurship, government regulation and welfare measures. Here, per capita GDP is among the highest in the world. Brunei’s trade increased too, following its regional economic integration in the ASEAN Economic Community.
Many women started their own businesses to supplement their income, which became a full-time commitment too. The country has demonstrated its support for the achievement of women entrepreneurs and business owners. And, the increasing number of female business leaders showcases the ministry’s commitment towards promoting women empowerment and equity, which is in line with the country’s economic and social development agenda under Brunei Vision 2035.
Meet some inspiring women entrepreneurs from Brunei Darussalam.
> Aimi Ramlee, Co-founder, Tyne Solutions
Aimi Ramlee is the Co-founder and Director of Digital Innovation & Growth at Tyne Solutions, which is an award-winning tech consultancy specializing in bridging gaps in organizations. She is currently also a Memberships consultant with Fund Boards Council, UK that uses technology to support regional networks. She also co-founded www.southeastasiawomen.org
An active advocate of gender equality as well as cultural and natural heritage conservation, she speaks often on women-related issues in Brunei and mentors female entrepreneurs, through local and international mentoring programs.
She is a Co-chair of the US-ASEAN Women’s Leadership Academy Alumni Network; and she bagged ASEAN Young Women Entrepreneurs Awards 2022 too.
> Shinny Chia, Co-Founder, Blue Raincoat Collective & Community For Brunei
Shinny Chia is the Co-founder of the Collective Arts Events (now Blue Raincoat Collective), Brunei’s first creative industries social enterprise. The collective supports the local creative industry and various social causes, putting special focus on freedom of speech through art culture, gender equality, animal rights and environmentalism.
She is also the Co-founder of digital platform – Community For Brunei, the first national digital CSR platform backed by Brunei’s National Bank (BIBD). This is aimed at providing a crisis platform for NGOs and small businesses, and it also works at uniting social causes across the nation. Besides raising the funds for various social causes and supporting over 130 small businesses digitalize during the pandemic, they have bagged many international awards too.
The awards are – the ASEAN Business Awards in 2021 Winner for Brunei Special Award: Emerging Social Enterprise and the Global Finance & Review Award 2020 Winner for Best CSR Bank project. Plus they were nominated for Shell LiveWIRE Top Ten Innovators (TTI) Awards as a Top 21 Global Finalist 2020. She is also the recipient of the 2018 RiceBowl Awards’ Founder of the Year, and she was recognized as a Top 20 Social Entrepreneur in Australia and ASEAN by the Australian Government in 2020 as part of the ASEAN COLAB program.
> Eunice Lo, Founder, Lane Microbakery & Coffee
It can be a real challenge baking and brewing coffee, and also adapting to everyone’s taste. Eunice Lo took this challenge expertly, and turned it into an art and a profession. Point to be noted is that she established her foothold as an entrepreneur, especially during the height of the global pandemic.
Situated a scenic alleyway flanked with greenery located at Jalan Pretty, Kuala Belait, Lane Microbakery and Coffee specializes in handmade pastry and brewed coffee. It is a unique food & beverage (F&B) company specializing in French pastries & bread.
This story started after she graduated from Leicester, United Kingdom (UK) during the peak of the global pandemic. In UK she was exposed to the culture of drinking coffee; she visited a lot of cafes and tried different types of coffee. And, as the culture of drinking specialty coffee grew in Brunei, she decided to open the micro-bakery. Before starting her business, she took several online courses – to practice making latte art as well as learning about the locals taste in coffee.
> Nathea Salleh, Founder, Thea Seera Enterprise
Sustainable fashion brand Thea Seera was among the top three of Brunei’s first Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) in July 2022.
For fashion designer Nathea Salleh, AWE was the actual opportunity that kickstarted her brand – Thea Seera. They develop sustainable ready-to-wear fashion wear.
When they first started they didn’t prepare a business plan, but the business was set up step-by-step, and they were able to suitably solidify the new direction they took. She launched her first line under Thea in 2013. Today, she aspires to produce new ready-to- wear lines for women, focusing on sustainability with more timeless designs.
> Yee Kuan Cheong, Founder, YKS Crafts
Best-known for organizing creative pop-up event Craftworks Kitani, Yee Kuan Cheong, Founder is also a skilled artisan in her own right, making handmade jewelry from her home in Lumut. This business is all about handcrafted jewellery.
After attending the New York Institute of Art and Design, this former oil and gas executive took the skills and techniques that she learned from her course and fused it with her ideas and designs, which were indeed, inspired by nature – to create intricate beaded jewelry, such as anklets, rings, earrings and necklaces.
> Nabilah Jeffries, Founder, Upsykl
Upsykl is all about “upcycled fashion” and is a social enterprise initiated in 2017 by Nabilah Jeffries, Founder. Upsykl’s aim is a noble one – to reduce the amount of garment waste that goes into landfills by upcycling old, donated garments into new clothes of different styles.
With a clear objective of further reducing waste, they have also rolled out a range of
animal toys and mats for pets.