This International Men's Day, Poptron Celebrates Male Founders With Amazing Grit!

18/11/2022

It's International Men's Day, and that means it's time to celebrate the amazing men in our community!

Once a part of the corporate culture, these are gentlemen with grit and determination who have made huge, positive impacts upon Malaysia's community of local brands. This International Men's Day, we celebrate the men in our community, one and all true entrepreneurs that we look up to, and can't wait to see more of.

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Jeremy Raj, Founder of Beard.On

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Once a Business Finance Manager with 10 years' experience in the field, Jeremy Raj is now the bonafide founder of Beard.On, proud husband and new dad to a baby boy. In life and in work, he's no stranger to colouring outside the lines, opting to march to the beat of his uniquely-him drum. "I left the industry because I wanted to build something for me and my family," He shares, with full candour. "Plus, my director didn't like the fact that I had a long beard and a man bun, and that initiated my move away."

The creation of Beard.On was the next logical step for the beard connoisseur. "There were no local products in the market which catered to the bearded community in Malaysia, and most of the products come the US. We wanted to have our own identity, not only promising quality, but also keeping it all natural." Today, Beard.On has grown to become a purveyor of high-quality men's grooming products - bearded and beardless, alike.

On gender stereotypes pertaining to men, Jeremy shares his belief: that men are often regarded as being logical, making decisions based on rationality but without emotion. "Actually, men do make decisions emotionally; it's just that we don't show it. People say men are not sensitive, but we are. To be successful entrepreneurs, we need to tap into all parts of our character, including becoming emotional and sensitive which is important to drive our passion."

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Jee, Founder of J. By Jee

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A self-declared fashion lover and collector of brands bolstered by strong histories, Jee Suraidi is inherently drawn to all things unique. "I think I'm an all-rounder," He shares with us. "I started working as an in-house graphic designer. Then, my boss gave me the opportunity to be part of her business by placing me in the Sales and Marketing department, with a role in Retail Management and Business Development."

In the thick of it, Jee would go on to expand on his skillset in managing a business, all the while nurturing his growing passion for building a brand from the ground up. "From there, I decided to challenge myself to start my own." Ultimately, the J. By Jee brand upholds the ideal that the perfect accessory can improve one's confidence, allowing them to express and project their unique styles and personalities through the tiniest details or extravagant designs alike.

Speaking on gender roles and misconceptions that he would like to correct, Jee opines that style and fashion should not be gendered - but rather used as a representation of one's personal likes and how they would like to present themselves to the world. "In a modern society, what gender you are does not matter, but how you project yourself as a human being does. Style, fashion, and how you treat others reflect who you really are."

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Andrei, Founder of A&A Naturals

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With over ten years racked up in the corporate world, Andrei of A&A Naturals (pictured alongside his partner, Afiza) once worked as a legal counsel. "Whilst I enjoyed the challenges and experiences I had as a lawyer, I felt I could not make a positive impact on others' lives as much and as effectively as I wanted," He shares with us. "I felt starting my own business would bring me closer, and make me more effective in making the world a better place."

Andrei's stars aligned when he met his partner, the other half of A&A Naturals. It was when he witnessed Afiza's passion for crafting self care products that he recognised the golden opportunity in his hands. "A&A Naturals was created with the purpose of touching people's lives, and inspiring them to become better people both inside, and outside." And how? By providing the hardworking masses plant-based skin and body-care products that will allow them to prioritise their daily hygiene, take care of their skin, and help them to feel good in every way.

"As a man, I had to learn that being strong does not mean to be physically strong, or to not show any weakness - but to know my weaknesses, to accept them, and to acknowledge them as they are," Andrei shares, speaking on generalisations surrounding men showing weakness. "In other words, to accept myself as a human being, an imperfect human being. For me, life is a marathon, and not a sprint. As long as I get up at least one time more than I fall down, I'll make another step towards my goals."

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Ben, Founder of Ready To Rock

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"I came from a design and advertising background that spanned 15 years," Ben of Ready.to.Rock and BOTICA Natural Remedies shares. As a certified aromatherapist and self-proclaimed crystal keeper, this dazzling designer has had a colourful career. He's served as a motion graphics designer in a local television network, worked full time in two big agencies in the advertising industry, and is also the founder of a boutique agency.

"I felt I needed to take a big (and scary) step, to do something completely different and change the way I was living at the time," He shares. In search of the perfect balance for work and life, he nonetheless discovered that the only way to truly make a difference was to stop, to breathe, and then to take some time to figure out his next steps. Serendipity and chance lit the way, and it was thus that Ready.to.Rock and Botica Natural Remedies came to be. "I was introduced to crystal healing by a friend, and from there, it became a new way of being, and one day the thought just popped into my head - 'how about sharing this with the rest of the community?'"

As commander in chief of his brands, Ben's main wish is to help the community as much as he is able. As of this year, he's even made clear intentions: "To be able to help one person every day in the best way possible, from creating a custom blend to suggesting an existing aromatherapy product, or recommending a crystal or sets that would be most beneficial for one's specific needs."

Asked what generalisation about his gender he would like to correct, Ben proffers: "That there is no middle ground. The many polarising opinions on the rise lend some prejudice to the overall perception of how men are." He goes on to expand that men are often stereotyped as relenting, ruthless, or goal-driven in business, or as out of touch with their emotions and intuition. "There are, of course, individuals who fit those definitions, but there are so many of us who can bridge both ends of the spectrum and find a healthy balance in all aspects of our lives."

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Alfies and Richard, Founders of Projet1826

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Projet1826 was founded over happy hour beers, born of a collaboration between Sabahans Richard and Alfies. It was exactly 6:26 PM when the dynamic duo made the life-changing decision to start their very own brand, focused on crafting high-quality sandals and mens' accessories to enrich the everyday gentleman's wardrobe. With both men being avid sandal wearers, they nonetheless struggled to find open-toed shoes that were the right fit - and it was with Richard's knowledge in fashion retailing and Alfies' experience in original equipment manufacturing that the brand was brought to life, thus solving the struggle in one fell swoop.

The goal: To provide casual footwear to after-hours office executives swapping out their close-toed loafers for something a little more comfortable. The idea: That those who work in casual, start-up environment are not necessarily beholden to expensive dress shoes to prove themselves. "Sandals, while comfortable and breathable, are also stylish and just as good! Slip ons have become an essential kind of footwear, and Projet1826 serves just that," Richard, who is also a multi brand store owner, tells us.

With Projet1826 having taken wing into a fully-fledged, bonafide brand, the duo hope to impact public perception of social norms and professional decorum by showing us all just how chic smart casual can look. On correcting the generalisations of men, the duo add: "The common misconception, or generalisation of men is that we dress poorly, are unpresentable, and do not respect art form." Taking into account the variety, aesthetics, and eye-catching styles of their collections, one can only say: that's not true at all.

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Fariz, Founder of Elexia Naturals

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As founder of Malaysian-grown natural skincare and wellness brand Elexia Naturals, Fariz Abu Bakar is understandable one who appreciates the simple pleasures in life. Despite his background, which was and currently remains rooted in the financial, legal, and corporate world, Fariz nonetheless realised it lacked soul. "The shift towards natural skincare was about wanting to commit something more meaningful and personal for the individual lifestyle, which resonates with my ethos relating to living a natural, sustainable life while preserving a natural ecosystem."

Elexia Naturals was born as a result of Fariz's personal observations. He cites compelling scientific data compiled over the years, all demonstrating the health risks of parabens, sulphates, artificial fragrances, and colouring - each commonly found in hair and body care products from mainstream brands. "The brand came from merging our own personal observations of the community around us, and the evidence from the scientific community at large," Fariz tells us. "(We wanted to) offer a natural alternative to one's wellness, be it mental or physical. Elexia Naturals is committed to delivering a luxurious experience of wellness that is free from harmful chemicals, with no parabens, artificial colours, and fragrances."

Like Jee of J. By Jee, Fariz believes that the lifestyle industry, including beauty and cosmetics, is not merely the domain of the fairer sex. "Males like to look and feel great too," He shares. "Globally, over the years, innumerable males have made their mark and impacted this industry. As such, the drive for many of these males, like myself, is to offer others a great lifestyle experience to alleviate and elevate one's mental and physical wellbeing."

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Our Resident Comfort Connoisseur, Founder of Selesa

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A self-professed 'average Joe that takes snoozing way too seriously', the founder of homegrown pillow brand Selesa (who wishes to remain incognito for the present) is looking to revolutionise the way we rest and sleep. "I was an analyst for an innovation management consultancy firm," He shares with us. "I spent 3-4 days a week travelling for work and staying in boring hotels with my boss right next door to me, and I realised how uninspired I was."

This realisation, coupled with his endless desire for research, saw Selesa's founder digging into the science of pillow design and manufacturing. "It started off with me educating my friends around me, especially those who have spent outrageous amounts of money on pillows (RM300-RM400!) - and now I feel like I have a public duty to educate everyone!" The ultimate (and we think, most noble) goal? "To eliminate that irritable feeling one has when they don't get enough sleep! What a dream it would be!"

Asked on misconceptions or generalisations he would like to correct regarding his gender, the cheeky founder has only this to say: "I have to SLEEP on this one and get back to you."

Who are some of your favourite men in the entrepreneur and microbrands' community? Shout them out in the comments below! And don't forget to follow us on our social channels for more fun content, tips, and stories on your favourite local brands!

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