Entrepreneurs with disabilities RISE to challenges thanks to empowerment programme


  • Living
  • Friday, 09 Aug 2019

Gondolos decided to go into the beauty business after attending basic makeup classes.

Wheelchair-bound makeup artist Noney Gondolos, 50, inspires others with her grit and hard work.

Despite being born with muscle dystrophy and brittle bones, the single mother-of-two from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, does not have a pessimistic view of life.

On the contrary, she boldly faces the challenges that life throws at her.

She was diagnosed with brittle bone disease when she was a year old, and Gondolos has had to be careful with her movements to avoid cracks and fractures in her body.

“When I was about seven years old, I couldn’t move without breaking a bone. Sometimes my friends accidentally crashed into me, causing me to have broken bones in my legs. Usually, it would take me a month to heal,” recalled Gondolos, whose parents worked as rubber tappers and paddy farmers.

Due to her health issues, Gondolos has a small physical stature but that has not stopped her from going all out to create a better life for herself and her two sons.

When her 14-year marriage failed, she filed for divorce in 2014.

Gondolos, a talented singer, started performing at parties and events in villages and government departments.

Also read: RISE: An economic empowerment programme for persons with disabilities

Gondolos with her sons Hassander Koko (front) and Hallysander Jojo. Photos: Noney Gondolos
Gondolos decided to go into the beauty business after attending basic makeup classes.

But she harboured another interest. Since young, she has marvelled at how makeup could transform people’s looks and how makeup make them beautiful and confident.

“I could see the difference that makeup made, so I always borrowed my sisters’ makeup tools and learnt about makeup through trial and error,” she said.

In 2006, she decided to go into the beauty business after attending basic makeup classes.

Gondolos all dolled up for a singing performance.
Gondolos all dolled up for a singing performance.

Then, she also improved her skills through the Maybank Foundation’s Rise (Reach Independence and Sustainable Entrepreneurship) programme, an economic empowerment programme that supports disadvantaged communities, particularly Persons with Disabilities (PWDs).

That increased her confidence level and she took on more customers, even doing bridal makeup.

Gondolos said, ”Makeup is a field where one has to constantly upgrade oneself to keep up with the latest styles and techniques.”

Over time, word got around about her skills and she became highly sought-after. From making a mere RM250 a month, her income shot up seven-fold.

With more money, she could afford to buy supplementary milk to help with her brittle bone condition. Her two sons, aged 14 and 17, are now attending a private boarding school in Tamparuli, about 35km from Kota Kinabalu.

Gondolos also plans to set up a beauty saloon in Kota Belud next year.

Despite a hard life, Gondolos remains an optimist and a fighter. Her simple creed in life is to survive. “If I don’t help myself, who will do it for me?”

Also read: Physically-challenged entrepreneurs boost business through special programme

Balamurugan is happy that his business is giving him a steady income. Photo: Maybank Foundation
Balamurugan is happy that his business is giving him a steady income. Photo: Maybank Foundation

Never give up

Machine operator S. Balamurugan was going home after work one day back in 1994 when he was hit by a goods truck.

He suffered injuries to his right eye, causing him to have blurry vision.

Seven months after the accident, he quit his job in a tea leaves processing factory in Cameron Highlands, Perak. He then moved to Ipoh in January 1995 and worked in a glove factory.

On June 3, 2000, he got married and started work as a security guard in his housing estate in Taman Cempaka, Ipoh.

Life was tough as his pay was too little to survive on.

“In the first two years of my marriage, we dipped into our savings, including our wedding gift money and also pawned jewellery to make ends meet,” said Balamurugan, 45, adding that at that time, he also had a young daughter.

Formerly a security guard for 19 years, Balamurugan opened his car wash business last year. Photo: S. Balamurugan

“In 2002, after an eye operation, I lost vision in my right eye. Soon after, I applied for welfare aid. Five years later, I was given the aid amount of RM350 a month,” he said.

Meanwhile, he continued to work as a security guard in different locations.

Then in January last year, he decided to open a car wash in a secluded housing area. Getting customers was difficult as the housing estate was not near any main roads. He barely earned enough to support his family.

All that changed after Balamurugan attended the Maybank Foundation’s Rise programme, where he was motivated to improve his business.

He thought of a plan to speed business up on slow days and started offering mid-week promotions for car wash, polishing and waxing services. Soon, he began to get more customers and increased his income.

He then went further by providing free services such as fixing minor car scratches. Grateful customers in turn recommended his services to others.

Balamurugan also collaborated with travel agencies to send their tourism vans to be washed at his car wash at a special discount. This arrangement assured him of a regular income.

Today, Balamurugan is happy that he can provide a comfortable life for his family, including education for his daughters Vishnupriya, 19, Ganushasree, 17 and Tulusidevi, 15.

In early March, he also bought a new car and recently, paid the booking fees for a new house. “I am also grateful to my wife, M. Tanam, who has been very supportive of me all these years.”

More importantly, he is thankful for being given the opportunity to truly shine as an entrepreneur.

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