Harasha Bafana – an accidental entrepreneur who is driven by moving other small business owners forward and saving them thousands of dollars on mistakes…
What’s your story?
I’m an accidental entrepreneur. I was a typical Singaporean who worked hard to go to the best schools, get right degrees and best jobs – until I stumbled upon the exciting world of entrepreneurship. My brother and I built up a food and beverage business from zero to a million dollars in 4 years with $0 advertising. TIME Magazine named us “one of the Best Places to go to in Asia.”
Work stops being ‘work’ when you’re an entrepreneur driven by passion and purpose. That was a decade ago and I’ve never looked back.
What excites you most about your industry?
These days, I have made it my cause to guide small business owners to grow their business without making expensive mistakes and wasting time.
What excites me most is the privilege of making a solid, positive difference in my clients’ lives. These are sincere people with precious dreams to make a better life for themselves and their loved ones. If their business fails, not only will they disappoint themselves, but their loved ones too. On the flip side however, if their business succeeds, they will experience immense joy and pride. This is what drives me, moving people forward.
What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m a descendant of Arab Muslim immigrants from Hadramaut who’d settled in this region a few generations ago. My mum is from Singapore and my dad, Malacca. I was born in Singapore and since both my parents didn’t speak English, they enrolled me into various Christian schools to ensure that I mastered the Queen’s English from its teachers. I grew up with a cosmopolitan mind as a result.
I consider myself an Asian. To be more specific, I am more Singaporean than anything else – that strange hybrid of being Asian yet Western.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore is a great place for business. It doesn’t have any natural resources, so the Singapore Government works hard to create a pro-business climate to fuel the economy. It has one of the lowest corporate and personal income taxes in the world, well-connected by air and supported by a professional civil service.
My Western friends call Singapore the ‘Beginner’s Guide to Asia,’ and I agree. Everything works here – our infrastructure, English-speaking populace and technology-savvy environment supported by a pro-business Government intolerant towards crime and corruption which makes it ideal for business people.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
I must share two – both have left deep impressions in my journey. The first was from my shrewd mother, one of the smartest people I know (and I have met many smart people in my life). She was a top student, but had to sacrifice her education early to take care of her younger siblings. Her advice, “Never let anyone control your life because your dignity is everything.”
The second advice was from my brother, a brilliant, visionary lawyer-turned-entrepreneur. This advice is crucial for every mission-driven entrepreneur to heed, “Ignore the background noise.”
Who inspires you?
I am inspired by visionary people who bring good to the world, whether they are politicians, entrepreneurs, spiritual leaders or community activists. My long list includes famous names (Nelson Mandela, Lee Kuan Yew, Abraham Lincoln, Jim Rohn, Prophet Muhammad, Muhammad Yunus) and lesser known ones such as Syed Mokhtar AlBukhary and Scott Harrison of Charity:Water.
I am also inspired by ordinary sincere and hardworking men and women who take pride in their work. It could be the taxi driver, road-sweeper, bus driver, sales assistant and more. These people bring gifts of light into my everyday.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I just learnt that there are people who engage ghostwriters to write an entire book for them for the purpose of personal branding. It baffles me how one can claim to be the author, which by definition means ‘a person who writes books,’ when they’re not. Seen from whichever angle, it is misleading and rather dishonest.
In today’s world where anyone can access an audience through social media, authenticity, that quality of being real, is a powerful way to be that can attract meaningful attention which lasts.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I have no room for regrets in my life. I have come to believe that everything happens for a reason and it is all meant to help me grow.
However, if indeed I could turn back time, the only thing I would have done differently is to consciously look for mentors much earlier in my journey. With the right mentors, one can achieve much more, better and faster. The mentors I have had over the last few years have brought wonderful shifts and guidance in my life and work. This is why I now mentor those I am meant to serve.
How do you unwind?
I thrive on drawing inspiration from simple pleasures. The pleasure of savouring a freshly-brewed cup of coffee in the morning. The simple meal I make using fresh food. Sitting at my roof terrace in silence listening to the birds’ conversations. Marvelling at the clouds and sky. Walking by the beach behind my apartment. Gardening and talking gently to my plants. Listening to my mentors on MP3s. Reading books that inspire me to progress. Journalling. Sharing my musings on Facebook. Conversations with loved ones. Playing with my two cats.
The list is endless when you have ‘no-thing’ to do.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I love being close to nature and indulging in simple luxuries. I favour quiet places such as seaside resorts, pretty islands and lush forest getaways. Apart from safety and cleanliness, I value places that have retained their charm and authenticity. Since my schedule is heavy, I go to nearby Malaysia and Indonesia.
I once went on a solo retreat to a lovely, quiet Batam seaside spa resort on wooden stilts. Time stood still for me. I watched spectacular sunsets from my milk bath and traditional sailboats gliding past, set against the backdrop of Singapore’s skyline. It was poetry.
Everyone in business should read this book:
EntreLeadership by Dave Ramsey. It’s a gem of a book, drawn from his rich experience from decades of being in the trenches. A must-have handbook that gives valuable, practical and timeless advice for taking one’s business from start-up to scale-up stage. He’s also big on ethics, something that we all should be guided by.
Also books by Seth Godin and Guy Kawasaki for exciting entrepreneurship energy. They are authentic, original and visionary. Great for entrepreneurs who want to bring out the big thinker in themselves.
Shameless plug for your business:
I set up The Adam & Hawa Network to help small business owners get the right knowledge and tools so that they can grow their businesses confidently. We do this mainly through our structured business mentoring programme & consulting arrangements.
My team and I helped more than 5,000 small business owners when I ran the SME Centre, an organisation supported by SPRING Singapore. Since the The Adam & Hawa Network launched in late 2014, our clients have stopped making tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of mistakes, ended painful situations and have grown their businesses faster.
How can people connect with you?
Drop me an e-mail at [email protected] or look me up on LinkedIn at https://sg.linkedin.com/in/HarashaBafana. We can arrange a phone call – nothing beats connecting the old-fashioned way!
This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:
Callum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries. He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence. A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.
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