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It was almost noon and there were no calls from Alliance Bank to inform if we were shortlisted for the Top 7 SME Innovation Challenge 2015. We were told to expect a call from the Bank officials whom will be calling those who made it to Top 7. By 2pm, there were still no phone calls and we were almost certain we did not get selected. A coffee chat yesterday with Alliance Bank Executive Vice President after the mentoring session with Dato Wira Dr Haji Ameer Ali bin Haji Mydin had sank my hope to be selected. Victor gave quite a good perspective on what is deemed as bankable and what the Bank would avoid. I would recommend for Victor to take a session with the finalist for next year's SME Innovation Challenge.

After my 3rd appointment, I message Lilian Khaw from Alliance Bank. I said, please call me even if I did not get selected, I need a closure! My heart skipped a beat everytime the phone rang, the whole day. At 2:27pm, 3 minutes after I message Lilian, the phone rang and it was Lilian. My heart skipped a few (maybe a dozen) beats.. In fact, it probably stop beating for a moment. 

I was sure, Lilian called me in reply to my earlier message; that regretfully, I did not make it. She did not sound excited and asked me if I am free to talk. I was silent and my face probably already turned blue. In a slow voice, she said. Armin, Congratulation for being selected to Top 7. Suddenly, everything just stopped (not just my heartbeat)!

I was trying to digest what she meant and I said, for what?!! She said congratulation again. Then I went, are you serious? Please dont joke with me. Most of the finalists are really hilarious and everyone jokes alot. Lilian said again Armin, congratulation and I went, are you for real (again).. still in disbelief.

I wanted to scream... I wanted to cry... I wanted to jump but I was about to start another meeting. It was really weird and indescribable, and it really felt as if I was dreaming. After that conversation, just to be sure, I message Lilian again, are you sure I am one of the top 7?!

Honest be told, we work really hard to get to where we are but we saw the passion, enthusiasm and energy of all other finalists. I wont say we are better than others because everyone is really good in their own field. It is almost impossible to pick just 7. Suddenly, I felt bad for all other founders whom did not make it.

I can actually feel the deep passion in Ken, Mehedi, Natasya, Swee, Cliff, Elaine, Karl, Shuen, Kamae, Derek, Edwin, Effon, Giden, Penny, Jason and Chris. The business is actually their love and life. I am also happy for the top 7 in particular Sherlyn whom has been in tears with her struggles to keep her business afloat and successful. The cool John and his wife whom started their 'Sang Kaya' business with just a stall at Jalan Alor, and build it up into a chain of almost 40 stores nationwide. Fellow homie from Kelantan Syed Fuqaha from Katsana! Amos whom took great pleasure to make people happy with his delicious 'Humble Beginnings' cakes. 11 months pregnant Hui whom almost due for delivery but never failed to attend all the programs organised by the #BizSmart academy. Last but not least, Jon from Fresh Cart grocer whom I feel had the best description of the BizSmart academy program on BFM 89.90 business radio station interview.

CarBengkel being selected as the Top 7 is a winning to the automotive ecosystem. I will explain why in the next blog. CarBengkel system is a win~win solution to thousands of workshop operators and the 23 million vehicle owners in Malaysia.

I am truly thankful to Cradle Fund Sdn Bhd whom provides Carbengkel with the strongest foundation with the support and training given during when CarBengkel was first conceived and given birth. The BizSmart academy whom had re-create a sort of highway for CarBengkel to excel. The mentors whom had inspired our team to be united and especially to the officials at Alliance Bank in particular Lilian Khaw, Adrianne, Wei Yao, Arthur and Victor.

What is next for us top 7 finalists? Yes!! Public voting that will contributes to 30% of the final score. How to vote? Click this link here!!! -> 

The voting is open from now (3rd Dec, 12am) to 8 December (11:59pm). I really need your votes. Please vote for me.

For a step by step guide to vote, Stay Tuned!! 

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