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Published: Thursday November 15, 2012 MYT 6:46:00 PMUpdated: Thursday November 15, 2012 MYT 6:51:35 PM
PHILADELPHIA (PENNSYLVANIA): There is something very likable about young Malaysian entrepreneur Izzat Rahman.
He constantly smiles as he politely greets his friends and customers at his fledgling bike shop which offers refurbished and custom built bicycles as well as repair services in the heart of the City of Brotherly love and Sisterly Affection, otherwise known as Philadelphia.
When the chairman of Mara, Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh, launched his company, "Kayuh Bicycles LLC" on Nov 2, it seemed like the whole neighbourhood had come out in full force to congratulate him and show their support.
'Kayuh' means 'Pedal' in Bahasa Malaysia.
His mentor Jaine Lucas, Executive Director of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute at Temple University, came by and proudly said: "Congratulations, baby!"
A senior official from the Philadelphia Commerce Department, Rojer Kern, expressed his pleasure that Izzat was part of the city's effort to revive the neighborhood.
Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, director of Education and Safety, Diana Owens Steif, came by on her bike with her colleague, Steve Taylor, to congratulate Izzat.
So did two young magazine editors, Gina Swindler and Heather Jones, who were there to present a stack of glossy art magazines called "CRED", which contained an article on Izzat written by 14-year old student, Darrien Johnson.
Three young mural artists from Amber Art, Willis Nomo, Keir Johnston and Ernel Martinez, were painting a mural of a cyclist on the sidewall of Izzat's shop.
The festive air at the shop also drew passers-by to stop and help with the mural - including Idris and Malaysian college students from Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey who were in town to meet the Mara chairman.
By hiring three employees, Kayuh Bicycles became eligible to apply for a matching grant to improve the shop and make it an energy-efficient premises.
And with a grant of $4,500 from MARA, Izzat plans to hang a sign at the storefront and install awnings at his corner store, which sits on the busy intersection between 19th and West Girard Avenue.
The bike shop is located within a two mile radius of several schools, including Temple University's main campus, Community College of Philadelphia, Girard College and St. Joseph's Preparatory.
US Mara director Razak Aziz is thrilled with Izzat's progress and is confident of the entrepreneur's future plans for expansion.
In line with his theme of combining the healthy sport of cycling with healthy eating, his growing clientele can look forward to a bike-friendly cafe serving healthy snacks and beverages, in the next phase of the store.
"I would like to instill the importance of riding safely and eating healthily," said Izzat while serving a variety of organic muffins and scones at the launch.
Izzat graduated with a degree in entrepreneurship and a minor in management information systems from Temple University earlier this year.
He learned the rudiments of business from his mother, Puan Sri Fauziah Ismail, owner of Bluwitte Enterprise, a boutique in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur.
"I recall carrying all those linen clothes and ceramic wares she sold at the flea market when she first started out," he said.
Izzat also listened to the advise given by his father, Tan Sri Abdul Rahman Mamat, former Ministry of International Trade and Industry secretary-general.
Abdul Rahman advised his son not to rely solely on a fixed salary but to strive towards self-employment - and follow in the foot steps of Prophet Mohammed who ran his own business - "it is more rewarding not only for yourself but also for the community."
By a twist of fate, Izzat ended up hiring three experienced mechanics, Paul Hill, Carl McKinney and Rick Ray - the very people who trained him at a bike store during his university internship.
That bike store had to close down when its owner passed away - and after months of tinkering with used bicycles in the basement of his apartment, Izzat finally mustered the courage to open his own shop and reunited the team to work at Kayuh Bicycles.
Izzat had initially proposed this business to his professor at Temple University but the idea was not well received.
He and his friend had nevertheless, entered his business plan in "Be Your Own Boss Bowl", an annual business-plan competition organized by Fox School of Business and emerged as finalists.
Inspired by the outcome, Izzat opened the bike shop in June this year with funds from family and friends.
His sister, Zihan, who currently resides in Boston, Massachusetts helped with the store's interior design.
Since the opening of the store, Kayuh Bicycles has been featured in local publications including CRED, Naked Philly, Temple News, Thrillist, Her Campus and Urban Velo.
He has also given talks at student clubs at Temple University and Penn State University about his start-up venture.
Not everyone is optimistic about his venture though, but he has solid support from his family, friends, mentors and team, as well as clients who believe that biking is the way to go.
He currently averages about US$7,000 per month but hopes to double his revenue by providing a variety of cycling products and additional services such as renting out bicycles on short-term lease to students.
The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia reported that the number of bicycle commuters had grown 151 percent from 2000 to 2009.
With the city's current traffic congestion, lack of parking spaces, and rising gas prices, biking is definitely a cheaper alternative.
The National Sporting Goods Association reported that the bicycle industry in the United States is a growing US$5.8 billion industry.
And that is certainly something to smile about for Izzat, as he rings up his next sale. - Bernama
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