Meet Min Min

Pastor Min Min resides in North Dagon, Yangon, looking after his two little ones in his family.   He helped make ends meet previously by working on his family’s farm in Magway.  However, after one day seeing the poor in his community traveling “side-cars” (Myanmar’s version of trishaws), he settled on the idea of buying and leasing “side-cars” as a business.

He realized he would be able to generate income by renting them out to would-be side-car drivers, who would operate them as a business service.  He would also be able to give some of the poor in his community jobs by giving them the opportunity to be side-car drivers themselves.  While little investment was needed, he didn’t have the amount of money required to get this business initiated and so his business idea had to be put on the back burner.  

“This was how Opportunities NOW has helped me the most”, Min Min explained.  There would have been nowhere else he could turn to for the loan he needed to get the business going.  With the 1.6 million kyat (about 1650 USD) loan he received, he was able to buy five side-cars.   He rents the side-cars out to the side-car drivers maintains the side-cars.

While he says the major struggle in this business is dealing and communicating with his customers, the side-car drivers, he expressed his determination to continue leasing side-cars in the future as well as launching other business startups.  He explains he has also been coming up with an idea for a pharmacy shop recently.  As Min Min has had a taste of the business world, there is no doubt we will see him continuing to explore and develop more business ideas for the benefit of his community.

Meet U Tin Win

U Tin Win is an entrepreneur with much insight into what it means to multitask.  Along with being a full time father and pastor, he is also running two separate businesses.  Before he joined batch 13A in the SCALE program, he was already familiar with the business field.  He traded rice.  

Looking to embark on another business endeavor, he was introduced to the program by the founders of a nearby school.  By the end of SCALE, his business ideas had narrowed to selling fish and recycling plastic.  He was able to start these two businesses out of the 875,000 Kyat loan (about 900 USD) he received from Opportunities NOW.  

These businesses are not interrelated. He found a way to actually manage the two businesses separately, supervising the employees and operations of each at once. At 2 am every morning, he goes to the fish suppliers, purchases the daily stock of fish and sells them in the local market until 8 am.  He then switches his focus to his plastic business. With employees under him who collect plastic throughout the day, his main task is to wash and sell to customers wanting to utilize recycled plastic.  

He explains that less sleep has been the primary problem with his busy entrepreneurial life.  He plans to part ways with the fish business and concentrate solely on expanding his plastic to other locations as well as where plastic recycling is not being implemented.   He has already repaid his loan to ONOW and has freed up more capital to reinvest into this expansion. When asked what his long term goal is, he says he hopes to open up a mini market.  U Tin Win is not afraid to try new business ideas and we will certainly see his businesses evolve over time as his experience in business management builds.

Meet Zaw Golden Chit

Golden Chit is a young agriculture entrepreneur from batch 14a of the STARTUP program.  Like any rural youngster, he spends his days working on his parents’ farm where they plant rice paddies.  He lives with his large family of 11 in a small village called Outsu where houses are distanced by vast fields, requiring a long journey on foot to see other families.   It was this environment he grew up in which inspired his recent business idea.   His parents were previously involved in a fish breeding business and with his experience looking after the fish farm; he looked to start one of his own.  

He says it’s not at all difficult to tend to the fish.  The chores mostly involve feeding them at night when they are most inclined to eat food.  Fortunately for him, there are ponds on his parents’ land, making it all the more convenient for him to run with this business idea.  

He hadn’t always thought about being an entrepreneur.  He attended a university and studied computer science for more than two years until he dropped out to instead tend to his parents’ fields.  His sister found Opportunities NOW on Facebook and recommended he consider taking the STARTUP course.  The notion of starting his own business excited him and he didn’t want to work for others either so he joined the program.  He said he really benefited from the courses and received invaluable experience during his internship where he interned at a fish farm in Twante, observing and discussing with its owner on how to run an effective fish farm.  

Though his fish are not fully grown yet and no income is being made, he believes his progress is going well so far and has many customers lining up for the first big sale in October.   Not many in Myanmar have the luxury of making important life decisions at such a young age.  At 23, Golden Chit is already getting his career started and choosing his life’s course.  He draws plans for the future and looks to also start a shrimp farm alongside his fish business.   He hopes that his business endeavors will eventually bring him and his family great relief and support.

Meet U Lar Yun

U Lar Yun, the youngest of 14 siblings, is the younger brother of U Lar Roi.  Following his brother’s footsteps, he made a big life decision by moving from Myitkyinar, Kachin State to Yangon.  He worked in a factory there for 11 years before packing his bags again to Bago where he worked in a wood carving factory.  

The father of five was fortunate to be able to put all his children into school, but he often struggled with the bills.  He had sold fried bean curd on the side to supplement his meager income from the factory before deciding that his skills could be best utilized in a lucrative business.  After hearing about the SCALE program from a close business friend, he came to ONOW to expand his wooden toys production.

He has technical expertise due to his years of experience carving wood in the factory, but lacked knowledge when it came to business management. He said the program helped prepare him well from the business side of the small wooden toy enterprise.  He learned suitable accounting practices and effective customer service policies.  

U La Yun described how he had been producing his wooden toys on his own before he came to Opportunities NOW.  He buys raw semi-refined wood from a factory in Hlaing Thar Yar and brings it to his workshop where he cuts pieces of wood, makes them smooth with sandpaper, paints the features, and packs the toys to be sold to suppliers. He barely needs to advertise his products as he always receives orders by phone from interested customers.  

At this point, he faces the obstacle of meeting customer demands and being able to meet their orders on time.  He wants to build a small factory for his business and hire workers to help produce in greater quantity. Therefore, he plans to use the loan from Opportunities NOW to go towards starting the factory he needs.  He is yet to open the factory, but he plans far ahead into the future as he shares with us that his future plan also entails eventually exporting his products overseas. From factory worker to factory owner, U Lar Yun’s life is bound for more remarkable changes as he expands his business.  

Meet U Lar Roi

U Lar Roi joined the SCALE program in the first batch of 2014 to develop his noodle business known by the rather lengthy name “Lucky Shan Noodle House & Foods Restaurant”.  Originally from Myitkyina, the capital city of Kachin State, he is not new to the art of starting businesses.  At one point in time, U Lar Roi started a grocery store in Myitkyina.  When that business failed, he moved to Phakant, one of the country’s mining hubs, and became involved in the precious stone trade before eventually getting married and moving to Yangon in 2001.  

He is indeed a long way from home.  He made his living previously as a taxi driver before giving into his entrepreneurial urges and opening up the noodle restaurant in 2011.  He came to Opportunities NOW seeking business management knowledge.   On a site visit, he explains the daily chores of running his noodle business.  From 5 am to 10 pm, he and his family labor to prepare meals for customers, both dining in and taking out orders.

He is a father of four children who are all in school, with the oldest attending a rather expensive medical school.  He uses the income from running the business to not only put food on the table, but to also pay for his children’s school fees. He says the income has been enough to provide for at least those imperative needs.  

U Lar Roi, however, does not plan to stay put.  He would like to see an expansion of his noodle restaurant to other spots.  The rental rate of his current location is increasing by the month and so, he is research other locations for his business. He plans to use the loan from Opportunities NOW to make the move to a more profitable area. He isn’t considering doing anything else except noodles.  A family man and a seasoned entrepreneur, U Lar Roi has every incentive to succeed in his noodle eatery venture.