The Borneo Post (Sabah)
Success story of Semporna’s selfmade entrepreneur
SEMPORNA: Semporna is a legendary township for its ability to draw tourists from all over the world with its natural beauty.
United Sabah Sze Yip Association (USSYA) president Datuk Susan Wong Siew Guen, who had attended the first installation ceremony of Semporna Sze Yi Association, was fascinated by the potential in the district.
Moreover, she was impressed by Semporna Sze Yi Association president Kapitan Chong Kok Lik, a successful self-made entrepreneur who has built a business empire in the district consisting of a hardware store, a brick factory, a zinc factory and hotels.
Half a century ago, Chong made his way from Tawau to Semporna in search of a job.
His first job in Semporna was a street vendor selling and repairing watches.
For years he worked diligently and by the time he was 38, Chong had earned his first pot of gold of RM1 million.
“The value of RM1 million was enormous 40 years ago,” Susan said when relating Chong’s success story.
Chong invested his savings on acquiring lands and set up a hardware store. His business continued to grow because of his ability to capitalize on the demand of customers.
Seeing the market demand for brick and zinc, he established his own brick and zinc factories. As the tourism industry in Semporna boomed, he diversified into the hotel sector.
He now owns a budget accommodation, a boutique hotel named Wing’s Hotel, and an upcoming four-storey hotel currently under renovation and will be operational soon.
He also built a grand mansion, where the installation ceremony was held, for his family.
Susan said Chong married his wife at the age of 25, and together they have two sons and three daughters. The couple are also doting grandparents to 12 grandchildren.
She said all five children were single-handedly raised by Chong’s wife, who somehow still found time to assist in running the family business.
Today, their eldest son operates the hardware store, factories and hotels, while their youngest son is living in Australia. Meanwhile, their eldest daughter manages two tyre shops whereas her sisters oversee two jewellery stores.
Susan said Chong’s story was certainly inspirational for he had come to Semporna with little money and managed to build and expand his business ventures and eventually earned his first pot of gold in a decade through sheer hard work and diligence.
Despite his wealth, Susan said Chong remained down to earth and friendly to everyone.
On another note, Susan said USSYA would attend or organize activities in Semporna annually with the formation of the Semporna Sze Yi Association.
She said Semporna not only attracted tourists from all over the world with its world-class diving spots such as Sipadan Island, Mabul Island and Sibuan Island, but also the annual Regatta Lepa festival which has been listed as a tourism event by the Sabah Tourism Board (STB).
“Semporna is a fascinating town because it manages to draw visitors from across the globe despite being small in size.”
Susan, USSYA life honorary advisor Datuk Wong Ten An and Datuk Wong Yit Ming flew from Kota Kinabalu to Lahad Datu, and embarked on a 1.5-hour car trip to Semporna in order to attend the welcoming dinner hosted by the Semporna Sze Yi
Association on April 9. The trio checked in at Wing’s Hotel for the duration of their stay.
The following day, Susan officiated the opening ceremony of the association’s premises, after which she and the delegates enjoyed a sunny afternoon at Sibuan Island. The installation ceremony of Semporna Sze Yi Association was held at Chong’s residence later in the evening.
The next morning, the delegation visited Chong’s old home in an orchard, where he still lives, as well as toured the brick factory, zinc factory and new hotel under Wing Tat Group.
The delegation departed Semporna at noon and travelled by car back to Lahad Datu Airport where they flew back to Kota Kinabalu.
Susan said the Semporna trip was quite unusual as there was hardly any crowd anywhere.
“I have not been anywhere for more than a year. And it was a strange feeling not seeing large crowds at the airport or Semporna jetty.”
Susan said the trip has opened her eyes to the charm and potential of Semporna, a land of opportunities.
She added that Chong’s success story has left a deep impression on her.
“His story will inspire young people or aspiring entrepreneurs to work hard to achieve their goals.”