Struggle Between Personal Beliefs And Business – Azurah From Lokalfeed [OES S01E03]

Sometimes, the biggest obstacle you face is yourself. That was what prompted Azurah to close down her wildly successful cafe Wilder, a cafe that was deemed super successful by many. In this raw episode of Our Entrepreneurshit Show by The Financial Coconut, Azurah bares her soul on how a seemingly small change in her mindset that was in direct contradiction with her cafe business resulted in its end and how she redirected her focus to another passion of hers.

Azurah’s strength, passion and perseverance could be felt as she shares the inner struggles and revelations she had to acknowledge and process before she decided to close down Wilder. While others may not understand her decision, she being honest with herself is perhaps the biggest win. 

Currently, Azurah is the founder of Lokalfeed, a platform that empowers and inspires women to share their unique stories. She explains why female representation among entrepreneurs is so important and her reasons for being one: her beliefs in being a problem-solver and living a purposeful life. As a bonus, Azurah also shares some really good advice for aspiring entrepreneurs towards the end of the episode, one of which includes her very own version of the 5 second rule.
Her inspiring story is proof that if you can overcome your own doubts, you can overcome anything. Tune in to this beautiful episode to find out exactly how she stayed true to herself in her entrepreneurship journey.

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podcast Transcript

Azurah: My craziest entrepreneur shit, is one day, like, literally no one turned up to work, like, I know it’s funny. So, I guess, yeah, so, literally no one turned up to work. So, I had to take orders, I had to cook the meal, I had to serve the food and then I had to clear out until, you know.

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Reggie: Have you thought of running a cafe? You probably have, don’t lie. While I am against running a cafe, I have a great guest for you today, she’s a founder of one of the earliest halal cafes in Singapore, that actually serves awesome tasting food. Not the kind of chain store that, you know, struggle to enjoy. But hasn’t been an easy journey. Introducing, Azurah, chef owner of Wilder, one of Singapore’s top halal cafe. She eventually closed the business, not because business wasn’t great, yeah, but for things that are deeper, more vulnerable, and closer to her. So, I’m very happy to have her on, and we had such a special time. This is probably the most special episode, across the whole season that we had together, very vulnerable. So, I welcome you into our conversations and welcome you back to our entrepreneur shit show.

Azurah: It’s crazy, and you know, that moment made me realize that, you know, as an entrepreneur, as a leader, or even as being your own boss, you need to a certain extent, be able to do all the roles because shit like this happens, you know. And I was so grateful in that sense that I made sure that I know to a certain extent. Like, this is of course, because I run the space, so, I should be the one that knows everything. So, yeah, it’s insane, Reggie. Yeah, I’m not even kidding, I still, that day it’s like imprinted in my mind. Wow. 

Reggie: That’s how you will never go back.

Azurah: One day, no, I better not say that. No. Yeah. 

Reggie: If not, after this is out, somebody will call you, “I heard, one day you can start again. I’m ready, waiting for you.”

Azurah: Yeah. It’s really hard, but okay. 

Reggie: Yeah, so, at the end of that day, right, because while you’re hectic and running around, right, you, you will not think about it. You would just be getting it done, flow, everything. At the end of the day, when you close to the register, sit down there, how did you feel?

Azurah: At that moment, okay, it is not even me kidding, I literally went to back alley, because my area was, like, a shop house, right, to the back alley and just like, collapsed because it was so tiring. And I felt that like, in the verge of like, you know, there are days when you just want to give up, right. I mean, have you had that? Those days? That was a very silly question. Yes. I know you had those days. 

Reggie: Yeah, I think entrepreneurs just have it more, because every day is not the same. So, sometimes you’ll be, like that also can, right? Like, the experience is amazing, is jarring. 

Azurah: Yeah, it is. 

Reggie: And then how do you revisit that day with your team?

Azurah: I kind of sat down with, like, I called, because the thing is, right, you can’t blame them, if they have, last minute, they are sick and all that. These are things that we cannot put blame on, you know? And I kind of sat down with them, so, and kind of, like, communicate it with them that, hey look, at the end of the day, this is your space too. I mean, I’ve always believed in that kind of, like, environment where there’s no point for you to be scolding, like, adults, you know what I mean? They will do what they want to do, but the thing is, I just want to kind of, like, yeah, so, technically I just sit down with them. I revisit that feeling that I had, and I told myself, that is probably going to happen again, and you just got to deal with it. Because there’s no, yeah, I just went on. I guess, in that period of three years, right, Reggie, I never, to be honest with you, there was hardly a time where I actually sat down to think about myself. I don’t know, when, I mean, I think, when we first started, right, there wasn’t, like, a big influx of cafes, about 5 years ago. They were still, 4 years, 5, I think, 5, you know, they were still, like, this. But now, I tell you, it’s like, everywhere, right. So, when we first started,

Reggie:  I mean, not in Woodlands, I was at Woodlands the other day, there were no cafes. But, yes, please continue.

Azurah: Maybe you want to start there?  

Reggie: No. No cafes in my life. I can go and enjoy. 

Azurah: Yeah, it was, like, okay so, when we first opened, right, you know, all this, like, the food bloggers or influencers, you know, like to go in and cafe hop and take pictures, right. And then, there’s this one Instagram post that said, I don’t know why, we suddenly became the hype, you know, it’s so strange. It’s like, I didn’t even know. Someone said or because. Okay, I read somewhere this statement, that says, good or bad publicity is still publicity, right. So, I guess, we got the bad publicity, because, okay so, I can’t remember what happened, but I know that someone actually put on Instagram, right, the food or what is so so, or something like that, right. So, then another,

Reggie: Yeah. The food is so so. 

Azurah: The food is so so and stuff like that, right. So then, this influencer, this food blogger, I don’t know what they call themselves. So, they actually came down, he actually came down and, you know, had our food and drinks and all that, and then he said, it’s actually, the food is actually nice. I don’t know why people are so like blah blah blah. And then we got, like, there, I cannot remember, but all I knew was at that moment, someone actually said that we were, like, a hype or trending. I can’t remember, I think it was the word hype. So then, like, more people came, you see, but there was, like, that was. Oh, another thing is to deal with all these, like, reviews and you know, like, this publicity that we never asked for. 

Reggie: Yes, yes. That is a real challenge. 

Azurah: Yeah, that is a challenge because everyone has their own, like, they prefer certain things certain way, you know, and stuff. 

Reggie: And you guys are more fusion forward, right, with your food. So, it’s very tough for the locals to understand at that point in time. 

Azurah: It’s, yeah, a fusion and stuff, so, people don’t really, oh, what’s that? But eventually, yeah, we picked up and stuff, so it’s good, it’s all good. But it’s so, there’s different kinds of elements, and now tougher, I feel, I was in the era where, you know, women are supposed to get married, I’m not that old, by the way, but it’s always reminded, like, that is the way for us to go, to get married, you know, to have kids, to have your own family and maybe perhaps, you know,  yeah, I guess that, you know, your, whoever you marry or whatever, right, will kind of, like, support you, on what you are doing, you know, that kind of like, so, I guess, to a certain extent, I felt that, you know, we need to be a bit more braver. I feel, because when I first started, right, it’s like, there are so. And the people that you surround yourself with is very important. 

Reggie: Yes. 

Azurah: Yeah, I mean, because, I mean, I grew up my aunt, I had, like, I have, sorry, not had I have, like, 7 aunties, you know, and there was very strong and there’s very a strong woman presence, you know, like, every each one of them, kind of like, taught me different things. Yeah, but I guess, I’m lucky, in that sense, to kind of like, grow in that kind of environment, even though the outside environment, keeps telling me that, you know, no, you can’t do that, you know, why do you want to stay on business? You know? Yeah, it’s like list that goes on.

Reggie: And that’s why, ultimately, you closed it? 

Azurah: No. The reason why I decided not to kind of continue because, okay, something happened throughout the three years that I ran the space, there was a change in mindset, I guess, and who I am as a person. I was missing something, something was missing. Okay, at that point, I didn’t know what it really, what was missing. I just felt that, you know, it’s like, every day in and out [the, the, the, the, the], then I realize that I’ve lost myself. Yeah, and I feel that, it was the hardest bit for me.  And I didn’t realize it until, you know, someone actually said that, you know, you got to take care of yourself first, and I was like, how do I take care of myself? I have like a, you know, I have to think about so many other things, and I lost my creativity because I had to manage the place, right. Were you in that position, where, that you kind of get lost? You know, like, what am I doing? Yeah, like, I don’t know why I am here. And I feel that, I’m that kind of person that needs to know why I’m here. I actually decided not to cook meat anymore. 

Reggie: Okay. Tell me more, I love tempeh (soy food) by the way, just saying, tell me more.

Azurah: Okay, so, one day, I, 

Reggie: Wait, I just want to put it out there that, you know, for you guys, you may not think it’s a big thing, but for a restaurant to suddenly say that, okay, we are turning vegetarian, that is a whole idea revamped, whole thing has changed. Okay.  

Azurah: Yes. Thank you, Reggie. You clarified it all.

Reggie: My palette changed; I want to go vegetarian. Okay, that’s you, it’s fine, right. But from a restaurant viewpoint, that it’s a whole shakeup of the brand identity. Everything is changed. 

Azurah: Yeah, it’s very true. I struggled with that thought because I’m the one that is behind the kitchen, I mean, I am the chef, so, one day I just felt very, how do I say this, reluctant to cook meat, to work with me anymore. So, that changed a lot, and yeah, and then I decided to, I thought I could push it back, that feeling of, you know, of not wanting to cook meat anymore, but then, as I, you know, work with meat, like, and stuff like that, I just, I couldn’t anymore. And I know, I have a business point of view, it’s bad because, and the switching is, right. You know, chicken wings, right, since the day we started, right. I never cooked chicken wings because I believe in a holistic, that means, if I were to cook chicken, I’ll use every single bit of it, not just the wing. But that is who I am as a person, you know, from the start you know. So, I refuse, to kind of like, and people always say buffalo wings would make you a lot of money because people sit down and just eat and munch and stuff, with your whatever, and stuff.

So, after that, a lot of things shifted, and it’s hard because like you said, just now, right, everything changes then, because my pulled beef in cauliflower mash was my favourite. Not my favourite, was, like the customers’

Reggie:  Bestseller.

Azurah:  Yes, correct, you know, there’s my salted egg calamari and French fries was also the best seller. So, a lot of things. Yeah, 

Reggie: What’s next? So then, with that, you know, you decided to wind down the whole thing? How was it, like, it was a thriving business, right? From what I gather, you know, all your food bloggers come here, there’s a loyal following, people, you know, I mean, there are favorite dishes, things are doing fine and you’re so busy, and then, how did it feel when you ended it? 

Azurah: I felt that I kind of like let down a lot of people. First, like, for example, the customers, let down a few of, you know, my partners, for example, the people that has helped built Wilder. So, sorry. It’s hard. Okay. Yeah. So, yeah,

So, but wait, I need to calm down. 

Reggie:  Yes. We calm down. 

Azurah: Yeah, sorry. Okay. 

Reggie: It’s good. That’s good. 

Azurah: No, I don’t, I’m supposed to, I play rugby, you know, and I play contact sports. 

Reggie: But you’re a human, you have emotions. There are bad days. And sometimes these things, they stay around because we don’t talk about it. But the more we talk about it, the more we work through. 

Yep. I feel like, I am in counselling

Azurah: Yeah, I guess, yeah. Sorry.

Okay, yeah, I guess the part about, I felt that let people down to a certain extent, but, I can’t, I mean, there are people who actually approached me, to kind of like, want to kind of like, come together, like, collaborate or take over Wilder, but the thing is, Wilder is not just a name, you know, it’s something that we’ve had an idea and we’ve actually built it to what it is till today. And a lot of the people that actually approached me, they don’t, like, it’s very different on how they run things or philosophy or different idea of what they want, you know. 

Reggie:  It feels, like, you were very attached with the brand, right. It is your thing. It’s you. 

Azurah: Yes, it is me, whether, it is me and the people that actually helped me build that brand. The thing is, yes, I say, let’s not, let’s end the brick and mortar, but we are still doing, you know, different things now, but it’s still the same us, yeah. 

Reggie: But sometimes that is just not enough for others. 

Azurah: Yes, it is. I mean, look, I mean, if let’s say someone were to kind of like, if someone one day were to come in and tell me that, hey, let’s start let’s say a plant-based, you know, something, right. Or, and their, 

Reggie: I start Wilderness, plant-based something. 

Azurah: Yeah, like, you know, start that, but with the same kind of philosophy or objective or aim to kind of like, run that business, I would say okay. I mean, it’s something that I feel that I can explore and whatever I’m doing right now, until today, I feel that, it’s coming together. This is meant to be.

Reggie: So, yeah, so, from the end of Wilder, you know, I presume there was a healing process because it sounds like so much is going on, you know, how did you go through that?  

Azurah: Okay. I guess, to share about this, I have to backtrack a bit, of my personality a bit, because I guess, at a very, I’ve always been the kind of person, right, I don’t share my problems with anyone. I mean, I just, but there’s the kind of person I am and I feel that I can deal with the problems. And then usually, right, I think, I’m the kind of, like, my friends, I, it’s so strange, you know, that, I don’t know what, I don’t know whether it’s a coping mechanism or maybe one day I’ll just, like, go kaboom, but it’s something that I’ve learned to go through it, acknowledge it. I think, acknowledging it is, the most important and then take that time, take that, how do I say this, that minute. For me, I feel like it’s a minute to like, you know us, get your, you know, get yourself together and you’ve got to continue doing it. I’ve never really like, you know, take a, like a really like, long break to, 

Reggie: To review, and just kind of reconnect. 

Azurah: I feel that, that’s my mechanism though. I feel that, also because I’ve grown up with sports, I mean, I’ve been an athlete for most of my life and the mentality, I mean, this is my own personal thing, is that I’ve got, 

Okay, when I was younger, I got into a car accident with my family, and that kind of build up my mentality. No, sorry, my mental strength. Like, if I don’t go through this, should I just wallow in my sorrow or what’s the next best thing that you can do? 

Reggie: And then how did you end up with Lokalfeed? 

Azurah: We wanted to build a platform that actually kind of tells a story like, every, we want to empower and kind of like, support women. So then, to tell their stories, I mean, that is why we started with and we are kind of like, trying to build it up because it’s still relatively new. 

Reggie: So, what do you think are some of these, like, very common challenges that women entrepreneurs face?

Azurah: I cannot remember, okay, I said I was the host during one of this entrepreneur, with one of the universities, right, and the investors, actually, the investors themselves actually say, right, that, technically, we need more women, you know, right, in the West,

Reggie:  I mean, they go to the extent of having like, a women fund, focus like, for women investors. So, you know, this is an under-served market, every time someone sets up a special thing for, you know, special group, then, you know, they are not the dominant in the space. So, there is a gender difference. 

Azurah: Yes, correct, gender difference, I mean, not all of us will experienced it, but it does exist. It does exist. I mean, this is like a whole different topic that it’s just going to go into like, a rabbit hole.  So, with Lokalfeed, yeah, so, we decided to kind of like, take on Lokalfeed and see where it goes. But right now, it is a platform for us to kind of like, tell stories and empower, like, you can do this too. 

Reggie: Yeah. So, what are some of these, like, stories that you think, 

Azurah: There were, for example, there is this one entrepreneur that she’s a co-founder and worth sharing,

okay. Sorry. I lost my thought, yeah. 

Reggie: Some good stories. 

Azurah: Okay, it’s not just related to business, so, there’s this one girl, she actually rode around halfway around the world, on her scooter, on her own. 

Reggie: So cool.

Azurah: Yeah, right? So, these are the amazing stories that, you know, because, I mean, when I was growing up, there weren’t many women representation or they weren’t many stories about women that can do this, can do that, you know. So, I don’t know, I just felt that there are a lot of amazing women who are actually paving their own way and their stories should be told. I mean, it, people underestimate the power of, how do I say this, the power of representation or that, you can do this. And it has nothing to do with gender at all. Even though when someone says that girls can’t do that, or women can’t do that, that’s not where you’re supposed to be, like, fudge it, you know.  Yeah, just get it done, because I’ve actually heard stories that because of what people say to them, right, that they don’t want to do it. And the thing is, I don’t know why, but some women, they, I want to build their confidence, you know. They’re like, there are so many women with amazing stories and they are actually doing this, this, this, this, that, that, that and it is possible. I mean, yeah. 

Reggie: Awesome. Awesome. So, yes, I think you’ve shared a lot of stories, like, 

Azurah: All over the place, 

Reggie: I mean, it’s a beautiful mess. Aligned with the theme.

Azurah: Yes, correct. I think I should use that tag.

Reggie: Hashtag, beautiful mess, but it’s really a lot of good stories. And I think one question that I asked everybody, and I want to ask you also is like, after all of these things, right, like why do you still do what you do? 

Azurah: Hmm. 

Reggie: You know, entrepreneurship is crazy, right? So, yeah. 

Azurah: Yeah. I do it because, okay, to be honest, like for example, for Wilder I do it because there’s a problem. The problem is, and the problem for me for Wilder is that. It, how do I say this, wait, let me just rewind that, okay. So, I didn’t tell you why, I didn’t tell you like, me as a person, and the how I grew up in the, like, the sustainability bit. So, that’s how, in Wilder also, I kind of like, impart that to the team and all that, and I felt that that sustainability bit, right now, has evolved where I focus on just food waste. For example, I want, like, the world to not be, like, technically zero hunger, whether that is even possible or not, you know, but that’s something that Wilder is going towards, finding solutions to the problem of minimizing, for example, food waste, right. Because that’s what we practice at Wilder. That’s why I don’t cook like, a bulk and then serve. I cook, when someone orders. But yes, when there’s a portion, because I know when I do that, when I cook in, bulk, there might be food going to waste, but people don’t see that as like a normal practice. So, if they wait a bit longer, they’re like, why did they get so long? You know what I mean? So, these are the things that I struggle with, and yeah, so, for Wilder is because I believe, and I’m working towards, hoping towards, finding the solution for example food waste, right, and to minimize the hunger in the world. Yeah. For Lokalfeed, it’s equality. That, you know, nothing should be based on your gender, your race or whatever, you know, person is a person. It’s an individual’s capabilities to do what he or she wants to, without being discriminated against, you know, and stuff like that. So, yeah, why I do it? Because there is a problem and I’m very persistent in one way or another, to do something about it. I know, it’s really tough, and people do ask me that, but I say like, fuck it. Sorry. I just said fuck it. No, like, people don’t understand why I do like, you know, why don’t you just get 9 to 5? You know? And there are people who actually offered me 9 to 5, but the thing is, I feel that has a problem that we need to solve. I don’t know. I haven’t found the answers yet, but I feel that this is my journey, this is where I’m supposed to be. Yeah. I mean, entrepreneurship is a struggle. Yeah, and if you’re not in, it’s very easy for you to say. But, we are who we are at, Reggie, so, we’ll just do it . Yeah, it’s tough, but yeah, but I want to ask you, so, why did you still do what you do Reggie?

Reggie: So, I think, on my end, sometimes I’m not very sure also, why do I do what I do, but it’s this idea that I feel the need to live a congruent life, right? So, like, I’ve picked up a nine to five, right. On the side, you know, but a lot of freedom, this 9 to 5. It’s a very well negotiated package, right? So, 9 to 5 in a case that I offered my abilities, you know, to somebody to do it, right. And I feel this dissonance because it’s not what I love. I enjoy it, in a sense that I enjoy like, oh, figure out this problem, solving that thing, and I have a lot of, you know, autonomy, in the venture that I’m with, you know, but I don’t love it. Right, so, which is why we’re doing what we do, because this is one, I love. I love talking to people, understanding their stories, seeing the world from a multifaceted perspective, you know, many times in our own field, in our own circle, there is one story or there’s a predominant narrative, you know, and over time, if we stop exploring, if we stop going out and stop talking to new people, this dominant narrative will foster to be the truth. Capital T. Which is not accurate. There’s just so much more out there. 

Azurah:  Yeah, oh my gosh! See, my hair. It’s like, I feel that, how do I say this, I’m not sure, but one thing that actually led me here is because again, I mentioned earlier, right, because I almost died when I was young and I feel that people underestimate that. What if the next day didn’t come, right? If I were to die today, did I do, I mean, I know it sounds cliche, but this is something that I really believe in because I had the experience of I almost died, and you don’t want to live with regrets, even though whatever you are doing super hard, you know, it’s not making you lots of money, but happiness and truth, like you said, right, it depends and it varies for a lot of people. So, yeah. I feel that you need to live with purpose, right? I mean, seriously, do you or myself know that we are going to live tomorrow, right?  Yeah, so, that’s how I choose to live my life, I mean, even though yeah, even though people don’t see it or people question or it’s not the norm, but it’s okay. At the end of the day I am answerable to myself. I don’t need anyone’s approval or whatever. So, yeah.

Reggie: Thank you. Thanks for sharing. Thanks for sharing. 

Azurah: Thank you for sharing your story too, I mean, it’s amazing and I’m so glad that, yeah,

Reggie:  I am so glad we met.

So, yeah. That was pretty emotional, like what Azura said, pretty like, it’s a beautiful mess, right? And I think that is where entrepreneurs, kind of feel half the time. We just don’t talk about it, right? It’s every day is a new day, there is no like, repeat, you know, everyday there is something new, like problems never end, you know, and from time to time, we have to take a break and to heal ourselves. But the reality that things are so messy half the time, is beautiful in itself, but it’s also the hard truth, right. And people don’t talk about it. People tell you how easy is it to make money, to start your own e-commerce store, to like, you know, build your whatever, whatever. And those are rubbish, from a personal viewpoint, from entrepreneur’s viewpoint, I think that is pure bullshit, right. Truth be told, every step of the way, things are changing, from finding the product to developing, from your team, you know, and it’s just so much, and I think Azurah kind of carried that whole difficult, you know, the whole mess and I’m still feeling it.  I’m sure you’re feeling it. And yeah, you know, there’s so much to learn, there’s so much in this process. But like what she said, give yourself 5 seconds to doubt yourself, you carry on. All right, so, for all of you to have stayed all the way here, she has something more for you. 

So, let’s say someone wants to start to be entrepreneur, right. What is one advice you would share with them? 

Azurah: The why? Because I think that is the most driving factor that is going to kind of like, push you, you know, when you have a very bad day, that is going to like, push you like, through that speed bump or whatever. Because you get lost very easily on why you’re doing this.

Reggie: Okay. That’s good. That’s good. 

Azurah: No, no, I’ve got one more advice. I think this is very important that you give yourself five seconds to doubt yourself and then just do it. So, it’s two. The why, to drive yourself through that speed bump or whatever, you know, that big wall, the second one, is just give yourself five seconds. So, which means, right, that if you think of an idea and if you think that it’s a great idea at that moment, right, do it within five seconds. After that, right, the doubt will set in. Oh, no, should I do it? Shouldn’t I? That’s why I, like, that is one rule that most, that’s why I do like, all this nonsense, not nonsense. These things, 

Reggie: Experiments

Azurah: Experiments is this, and the thing is, because of these experiments, right. I get a lot of, you know, little projects that happened and stuff like that. But if I took that, if I doubted, if I let that doubt sit in, I wouldn’t have all this and I think it’s about putting yourself out there, you know, just take that step. And I think courage is very important also. Yeah, I know that’s three, I’m sorry, but these are things,

Reggie: That’s four. 

Azurah: That’s four, sorry, you see, even I lost track. Thank you, Reggie.

Reggie: Thank you. 

Azurah: Thank you so much.


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Ep 2: His Business Burnt Down In A Day. What Mindsets Got Him Through? – Shafiq from Meka

What would you do if something you have spend years building burn down to the ground suddenly? Would you rage quit? Or fall in the abyss? Or would you put yourself together, take good care of the people around you? Tune in to find out how our guest managed that!

Our guest, Shafiq, is the Co-founder of Meka, a 3D printing and prototyping firm. And he will be sharing how he managed the situation when his factory burnt down. What are his thought process? Why does he continue to do what he do even after facing hardships? What is it in entrepreneurship that he is after? What is his important bedrock of support in his entrepreneurship journey? In this episode, you will also hear what are some qualities he looks out for when finding a business partner. How being a minority in Singapore affected his entrepreneurship experience? And what advice would he give to someone who wants to be an entrepreneur?