by BERNAMA / pic by TMR FILE
KUCHING – As a child, she and her siblings would toil under the hot sun tending their parents’ black pepper plants.
Today, Awaeang Kwasin, 44, has made it big as an entrepreneur dealing in black pepper through her company Syarikat Nang Ori. Besides owning and operating two pepper processing factories, she also exports the commodity and has ventured into producing downstream products as well.
This mother-of-five, whose father used to cultivate black pepper in Kampung Bratan – about 24 kilometres from here – said her interest in business began during her childhood when she used to assist her mother to sell vegetables from house-to-house and also at the Satok weekend market.
After completing her studies at Sarawak Polytechnic in 1999, Awaeang “migrated” to the peninsula in search of greener pastures. She ventured into business but met with failure after failure. Undaunted by the difficulties she faced, she kept going until she tasted success.
Speaking to Bernama, Awaeang said 2005 was unforgettable as that was the year she lost her source of income and her marriage collapsed, leaving her to care for her two children, aged five and two, single-handedly.
“The same year, I managed to build a successful business… as a single mother, I worked hard day and night,” she said.
She said throughout her stay in Peninsular Malaysia, whenever she returned to Sarawak her friends in the peninsula would request her to bring back some black pepper for them.
“Based on their requests, I decided to market the pepper from my family’s farm in Sarawak instead of selling it to a wholesaler or middleman in the state,” she said.
Beginning 2016, Awaeang has been transporting the spice to the peninsula and having it packed at her office premises in Puchong, Selangor, under her own brand name Nang Ori which means pure in Bahasa Melayu.
In the meantime, she also registered her pepper marketing business in Sarawak and applied for a permit to export the spice.
“I was surprised when I was informed by the staff at the Malaysian Pepper Board that I was the first Bidayuh, and even first Dayak, woman to obtain a licence to sell and export Sarawak pepper. For a long time, this industry has been monopolised by men, other races and large companies,” she added.
Awaeang has since been buying pepper at reasonable prices from other small farmers in Sarawak to help uplift their economic status.
She also took the initiative to improve her entrepreneurial and product knowledge by attending courses organised by agencies such as the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs, Majlis Amanah Rakyat (MARA) and National Entrepreneurship Institute.
PENETRATING OVERSEAS MARKETS
Awaeang’s Nang Ori brand black pepper is now processed at her two factories in Kota Samarahan and Demak Laut in Sarawak. Both factories have been granted Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) certification by the Ministry of Health’s Food Safety and Quality Division.
The Nang Ori pepper is currently available at many supermarkets and hypermarkets in Malaysia. Besides Puchong and Kuching, Awaeang has also set up a marketing office in Singapore as she has been exporting her Nang Ori pepper to the republic since last year. Her product has also penetrated the Brunei market.
The enterprising woman has also ventured into the downstream industry by producing black pepper-based massage oil, gel and spray to treat body aches and pain. Last year, her company launched a range of pepper tea and coffee products.
Awaeng’s success in building the Nang Ori brand has won her several awards including Malaysia Top Achiever 2019 in Excellence in Spice Manufacturing Industry and Malaysia Good Design Award.