Online childcare store Chubby Phat Kisses was named the top startup of the fifth cycle of DARe’s flagship startup development programme Accelerate with a pitch to sell sustainable, low-waste products, and create content on common parenting issues.
Brunei’s first low waste store Kaimana took second while pasture-raised poultry producer Pasture Flock took third amongst 18 startups – 14 of whom pitched before a panel of judges yesterday at the Design and Technology building in Anggerek Desa.
The top three startups are expected to join the top startups from previous cycles in pitching to regional investors in Singapore when the COVID-19 pandemic subsides. DARe CEO Javed Ahmad said the latest cycle of startups have been able to identify gaps in the market – while also keeping sustainability in mind.
“We are seeing startups (from accelerate) that have the potential to scale despite the current challenges faced globally; they are coming from diverse sectors including online education, digital media, agriculture, fashion, food and beverage, retail and logistics,” said Javed.
Managing Partner of International Markets at Golden Equator Group Adam Flinter, whose firm Golden Equator Consulting is the appointed trainer for this cycle, said the sultanate is seeing an increase in the quality of startups as a result of the developing entrepreneurship ecosystem which includes support from national agencies, corporations, higher-learning institutions and other stakeholders.
Against the backdrop of the pandemic, Flinter said the cycle’s startups brought urgency – with 80% of participants either generating revenue, offering a minimum viable product or having demonstrable prototype.
Chubby Phat Kisses has two prospective distributors in Malaysia for their product line which includes Brunei’s first adjustable cloth diapers, non-bio laundry detergent for sensitive skin, plant based full body wipes, and organic cotton rompers (children’s jumpsuits).
32-year-old architect Jo San Ong started Chubby Phat after her child suffered from a febrile seizure and a urinary tract infection (UTI) that she initially thought was just a regular fever and teething based on feedback from family and friends.
“From that experience I knew that there was a gap in credible information available to parents, so I set up Chubby Phat Kisses as a online platform that could gather and offer free awareness content from verified experts and healthcare professionals to help parents make better decisions,” said Jo, whose 14 month old daughter Giselle has since made a full recovery.
Chubby Phat’s product line was developed by Jo based on her experience with Giselle’s UTI, which she believes was exacerbated by an over-reliance on disposable diapers, detergents with bio chemicals and cleansing wipes with fragrance.
“The products we’ve developed are sustainable and safe for kids to use – and in the long-term will also save you money – by incorporating one reusable diaper day, you’re saving up to 912 disposable diapers which would cost you more than $500,” she added.
Kaimana is targeting to open its first physical outlet in April this year after securing a round of angel investment. Founded by sisters Trisha and Tracy Lai and their cousins Tiffany Lai and Denise Yong, Kaimana markets itself as Brunei’s first dedicated store specialising in high quality products for low-waste living.
Their catalogue includes amber jars which extend natural preservation by blocking UV rays, mason and mold jars, and plastic-free containers and bags made from silicone. They have also recently introduced jars with refillable tea leaves and plan to bring in other refillables for personal care items like shampoos and lotions.
“Accelerate has really opened our eyes to the quality of startups out there and opened up a lot of networking opportunities for us,” said Trisha who recently returned from Vancouver after 15 years working abroad, where she discovered low-waste shopping and products.
Meanwhile oil-and-gas professionals Chong Zhao Ren and Kevin Chan Jun Xian are currently identifying a suitable site for starting Brunei’s first commercial pasture-raised chicken farm. Chong has been raising chickens in his backyard in Belait since 2015 and trialed his first movable coop in 2017 which enables chickens to be securely raised on grass outdoors.
Pasture Flock raises the industry standard Cobb 500 chicken, but rears them for 12 weeks – about double the length of intensive coop farming. The resulting chicken is larger than the market average – weighing in between two to three kilogrammes, and is priced at $10 per kilogramme, about double the average retail price.
Research shows that the nutrition of pasture-rasied chicken contains more vitamins, minerals and healthier fats as they enjoy a better diet and environment with access to fresh grass, cleaner air and more physical movement. Anecdotal feedback from customers also claim the chicken has better flavour.
Chong also ensures their poultry has an affordable yet nutrition dense diet by sourcing high quality fruits and vegetables that are about to be discarded by supermarkets.
“Despite our more premium price we have been fully booked for all our cycles (approximately 200 chickens in total) and we are keen to begin commercial production,” said Chong.
“The Brunei market is $116 million; we believe at least 5% of the market is ready for premium poultry (based on number of households with monthly expenditure above $3,000) – and we believe we can capture a third of this which would be worth $2 million.”
Over 100 startups have completed Accelerate – formerly known as Startup Bootcamp – since the programme started in 2016. Collectively they have raised over US$1 million in investment and generated over 450 jobs. To learn more or apply online visit DARe’s website.