Kicking off our interview series with Malaysian entrepreneurs is Ili Sulaiman, Co-Founder of Agak Agak, cooking host on the Asian Food Channel (AFC) and owner of her own food delivery service Dish By Ili. This food entrepreneur may also be recognised as one of the AFC Food Hero winners in 2015.
Agak Agak is a social enterprise that not only serves quality food, but also aims to make a difference amongst the community with its apprentice program. Underprivileged youths are mentored and groomed with culinary skills to provide them with a career in the F&B industry, think of it like a stepping stone for greater things to come.
With her co-founder Basira Yusoff, Agak Agak first opened its doors in October 2016 and is now a hip establishment located at APW Bangsar. Their tale is inspiring for many entrepreneurs out there as they used money from their own pockets, crowdfunding and sheer passion to turn this vision into a brick & mortar reality.
Sharing her insights on personal finance, here's what Ili had to share when asked about her thoughts on saving, spending and debt management.
What kind of spender would you say you are?
Previously when I was much younger and working for an employer, I would spend every sen I had and go mental on my credit card because I had a fixed salary which I knew would come in every month. But running my own business has thought me to manage my expenses when you don’t have a fixed income every month. So, it has become a habit for me to keep 30% of my earnings aside (as reserves) just in case there are no earnings the next month. That way you can sustain yourself or in some cases, you get to pay back your loans or credit card debt a lot faster.
How important is saving money to you, and why?
It is very important and I have a few ways I save. I save a portion of my earnings into a savings account, I have insurance and, I have a classic coin piggie bank that helps me pay for my Touch 'n Go. When your broke and you find a RM5 banknote, it really helps so I try and stash RM5/RM10 notes everywhere. I guess saving gives you a sense of security for a rainy day and also if you have a lot of debt you are able to pay this off quickly.
What rules do you live by when managing money?
I have a new mantra which I decided in 2017, to live the same way I do even though my pay cheque gets bigger. Meaning; have the same amount of expenses and lifestyle habits when your salary is at RM3k as you would when your salary is at RM10k.
What is the best personal finance advice you have ever received?
Cook more at home. You save so much more if you cook/prep 2 meals a day at home than when you do eating out. Think about it: RM16 for a sandwich and I bet you can make 4 sandwiches if you buy the ingredients at RM16 and make it yourself.
Do you own a (or many) credit card(s)? What do you use them for?
Yes, I still own a credit card which I now only use to fill my petrol and for my travels. It gives me points and rewards! #win. I am trying to pay it off though, so I avoid using it for anything else.
Top 3 financial goals for the year?
- Pay back my car loan I only have 2 years left.
- Pay off my credit card debt this year.
- Start investing in something. Not sure what yet
Fill in the blanks:
_____ is a complete waste of money.
Ili: Buying a RM12 cup of coffee is a complete waste of money (if only all of you knew how much it really cost...)
If money grew on trees, I would _____
Ili: If money grew on trees, I would cook a meal and have everyone picnic below it to enjoy its earnings!
The biggest money lesson I learnt from running my own business is _____
Ili: The biggest money lesson I learnt from running my own business is to always save some earnings as reserves for a rainy day and to stagger your debt so you can pay it more efficiently
To be financially free means to be _____
Ili: To be financially free means to have a roof over your head, food on the table, clothes on your back and be able to pay for it all without being out of pocket and having some extra for the piggy bank.