Losing sleep and weight over the MCO

“It is very contradictory. You want to protect jobs, but you are not protecting the companies providing the jobs.”

(The Edge) – Christy Ng, fashion entrepreneur and founder of shoe retailer and manufacturer Christy Ng Sdn Bhd, has not had a proper night’s sleep since March 17. She has lost 3kg and is on the verge of depression.

As she watches her bank account depleting, and with no proper income stream, she thrashes about wildly for solutions, digging into her personal savings and selling whatever she has that is of value.

“Basically, we are manufacturers and retailers of footwear. So, I am being hit left and right. The shopping mall rent is hitting me badly. Of course, in normal times before Covid-19, we had no problem paying rent. But now…” she trails off.

It is not like Ng does not have grit. She started selling shoes at a night market, going without sales some days and wasting materials while designing her shoes. Coming from an average family, with a father who was an air-conditioning technician and a mother who was practically a housewife, she knew there would be no family money to tide her over if she hit any rough spots.

Ng’s first big break came when she won the Alliance Bizsmart SME Innovation Challenge in 2013. She used the RM250,000 prize money to build a 3D customisation engine for custom-made shoes for her website. In 2015, she received a RM500,000 grant from Cradle Fund, which she used for marketing and advertising the online business.

Ng tells Enterprise that of her 10 landlords, two — Sunway and the Ikano Group — have stepped up to offer free rent for the duration of the Movement Control Order (MCO). “They knew we could not  stomach this anymore. But not all landlords are doing this.”

The others are either giving partial waivers or none at all.

Ng’s company has been forced to stop manufacturing while still paying its staff their full salaries. “I have exhausted my personal savings and now I am trying to sell my one property — an apartment — to pay rent and my 100 employees,” she says.

The problem is that, this is not the time to sell property. Because of the MCO, real estate agents are not taking clients to view properties. And Ng is at her wit’s end, willing to do whatever it takes to stay afloat.

“I am trying to cash out of my insurance policies, sell my house … My whole life is ruined. I am a first-generation entrepreneur in my family. My father was an air-cond man. I cannot be going back to my family to ask for money, unless I want to borrow their EPF savings,” she says.

“This pandemic is killing all business owners. A lot of us will be closed after this.”

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