Trio triumph on trust

Syazwani Hj Rosli

Friendship can start many great things, but for this trio, it led them to start a successful business.

Ahmad Wa’ie Zulfadli bin Haji Waliuddin, Haji Mohammad Farkhan bin Haji Johan and Awang Mohamad Alizam bin Zainal two years ago started ‘Teluk Belanga Begawan’, a made-to-measure men’s fashion with bold and vibrant pattern.

‘Teluk Belanga’ reflects the design of the neckline, which has now become the main signature of their shirt style and ‘Begawan’ is to promote to the local and international market, proudly proclaiming the name of Brunei’s capital city, Bandar Seri Begawan.

The story that led to the start of the business is truly inspirational.

It was when Wa’ie was diagnosed with an illness and had to undergo surgery in 2017, forcing him to be attached to a suprapubic catheter. It was life affecting for him. He had to quit his job and was not able to work out. “When I found out of my illness, I was angry. I always took care of my own health, so it all felt like it was for nothing,” said Wa’ie.

Printed fabrics by Teluk Belanga Begawan. PHOTO: RAHWANI ZAHARI

“After I was attached to the suprapubic catheter, it was difficult for me to adjust to the changes. I struggled with acceptance and fell into depression,” he said.

Haji Mohammad Farkhan, also known as Aci, said that he and Alizam were worried about Wa’ie. “It was around that time when Wa’ie made a short-sleeved shirt with the classic Teluk Belanga style to match the kain sarong he had to wear after the surgery.

“It looked good on him, so we decided to make for ourselves as well,” said Aci.

Friends and family complimented their style, and asked where they bought the shirt.

They were amazed when they learnt the trio designed and tailored it themselves. This led them to start the business. At the end of 2017, with only BND300, they started their own clothing line and named it ‘Teluk Belanga Begawan’.

Pushing bold patterns and colours to the market, they were surprised by the amazing response from the customers, receiving orders both from locals and overseas. “Our clothes are usually made-to-order so exclusivity was our major selling point. Our customers like the idea of selecting their own fabric and tailoring to their own body measurement,” said Aci.

The trio slowly expanded their services for young boys so that they could have father-and-son matching clothes. Since lately, there have been demands for women’s and girls’ clothes as well.

“For female clients, we will ask them to deliver their clothes to us as a sample or ask them to bring their husband or a friend to help us with the measuring.” They also offer different types of necklines.

After the success of Teluk Belanga Begawan business, they decided to work on their existing small business, previously known as Cheesecake by Wae, now known as The Baking Brother.

According to Aci, their baking business started 10 years ago when they were still living in the United Kingdom. They were craving for cheesecake and decided to bake on their own. They worked on the recipes and created the perfect cheesecakes. “When we returned to Brunei, we decided to sell our cakes for Raya celebration only. We had to decline request at times due to our commitments except for pregnancy cravings. We tried our best to cater to the expecting moms,” Wa’ie laughed.

“But it was not long after we started Teluk Belanga Begawan that we decided that we should continue The Baking Brothers,” he added, noting that they managed to expand their menu from three flavours to five.

Asked how the three managed the businesses, they responded that their skills and capabilities complement one another while how they professionally work as a team. “We have our own roles and responsibilities and when we work together, the results are better than what either of us could do individually,” Wa’ie explained. They agree that some of the important rules in establishing a business with friends is to have respect, commitment, passion and communication with each other.

“We appreciate each other’s opinions and ideas. We will try to work out if there are problems, conflicts or issues together.”

For Wa’ie, upon starting their business, he managed to accept the condition that he is in.

“Deep down, I knew I should not give up. With everybody’s support, I had to try and not give up having a good life. It was not easy and I relapsed into depression many times throughout the process but I realised that I had the choice to make the changes.

“Although I’m still in pain, the negative feelings I had before are in control. I am in a much better place than I was when it all first started,” he said.

“I am grateful to have what I have now, a loving family who care for me, the circle of friends who understand my mood swings and the help and advice from my doctors and nurses. They have been keeping me up and running, to manage and keep the business going,” he said. For Wa’ie, good company means good distraction from difficulties which, after the years, have been part of his new normality. He added that Aci and Alizam have helped him get back on his feet, and together they managed to build their business.

“This will only make me stronger to face new challenges life has in store for me. With all the support, Insya Allah, I can do anything, and we will be able to gain success together. We are friends and also business partners.”