5 Influential Bruneian Leaders You Should Follow in 2018

photo collage of dr vanessa teo, yb khairunnisa, and iqbal damit

“The key to successful leadership is influence, not authority,” as described by writer, Kenneth H. Blanchard. Indeed the degree of influence one has over others speaks not only of the qualities of a leader, but also of the impact they create. Moreover, people often emulate the behaviour and actions of successful people. Brunei, like everywhere else, is home to an array of influential leaders spanning across all generations and industries.

In this article, we have singled out the top 5 for all students and young professionals from this region to follow in 2018:

1. Dr Vanessa Teo, CEO & Founder of AgromeIQ

vanessa teo

Vanessa Teo makes the list as an emerging entrepreneur with an innovative business in hand. She is the CEO and Founder of AgromeIQ, a smart farming startup that aims to eliminate the guessing work out of agriculture through digital technology. In addition to improving farm productivity, AgromeIQ also offers to teach [farm] newbies through their specially designed workshops and exclusive mobile app called SproutIQ.

First established in 2016, this budding startup has consistently made progress judging from the considerable media coverage of their milestones in 2017: from new programme launches to snagging the Special Recognition Award at the 3rd ASEAN Rice Bowl Start-up Awards (ARBSA). Quickly becoming a media darling, Vanessa Teo aims to scale up and expand her business to new heights eventually reaching the rest of the ASEAN region. With a tagline of “now anyone can grow”, she has a lot to live up to but for 2018, it looks like the sky is the limit.

Follow Vanessa Teo on Instagram: @vanessa_teo

Related: Revolutionising Agriculture: The Rise of Urban Farmers in ASEAN


2. Eyon Ukoi, Co-Founder of Eco Ponies Garden

eyon ukoi

Leading the pack is Eyon Ukoi, co-founder of Eco Ponies Garden, a community-based tourism business offering the experience of local homestays and farm-to-table living. Hailing from the Tutong District, one of Brunei’s most ethnically-diverse communities, Eyon is known as one of the pillars in her community. She is well-known for her commitment in introducing locals and tourists alike to the rich traditions of Tutong and the wonders of quaint back-to-nature life. While she’s done her fair share of influencing over the years, the rising popularity of Eco Ponies has made a significant impact to her reputation as the face of Tutong’s tourism. This is partly due to the highly engaging content from the Eco Ponies social media accounts and sleek website design.

Eyon’s dedication speak for themselves – they describe a passion to engage, empower and enlighten. Her business offers great insights and hands-on experience to rural living and the diverse cultural elements of Tutong. Eco Ponies not only maintains their own organic farm on-site, but also support local smallholder farmers. With a business that creates positive social impact, Eyon bridges the gap between awareness and action. Thus it’s no surprise that she’s known as a leader in her own right.

Follow Eyon and Eco Ponies Garden on Instagram: @eco_poniesgarden


3. YB Khairunnisa Ash’ari, Youth Legislative Council Member

yb khairunnisa ash’ari

Next on the list is arguably one of the most involved Bruneian when it comes to youth-led initiatives. So it is no surprise that she was awarded a position as a Legislative Council (LegCo) Member in 2017. In fact, YB Khairunnisa became the youngest member at 29. Like Eyon, she has made considerable contributions particularly with work related to the environment and youth development. She’s best known for her role as the co-founder and Community Engagement Director of Green Brunei, a youth-led platform for sustainability promoted through education, advocacy and conservation. With an impressive line-up of meaningful work plus a number of responsibilities to her name, she later became the first Bruneian to be awarded the prestigious Queen’s Young Leaders Award.

With her newly appointed role, she aims to be the voice of the youth of Brunei and highlight their most pressing issues in addition to promoting for more sustainability efforts. If her past accolades are any indication, YB Khairunnisa is set to become an even bigger influential leader than she is now.

Follow YB Khairunnisa on Twitter: @kyeeee and Instagram: @khairunnisa.ashari


4. Dr. Hjh Mona Yati Mohd Kassim, CEO & Founder of muBn Learning and Growth Company

mona yati mohd kassim

Moving on, we have the effervescent Dr Mona, who is the CEO and Founder of muBn Learning and Growth Company, a social enterprise for business consultancy, corporate training and development. She’s also an ASEAN business professor recognized by the Japan Asia Seed and the ASEAN Project for Entrepreneurship Education.

She takes an innovative and engaging approach to bridging faith, learning, and business. One of her flagship service is the Tarbiyyah** programme (for kids aged 3 to 9), which is reportedly the first Islamic scientific-based enrichment programme based on the play and pray approach. Having started in 2015, they have already engaged with over 600 children. When she isn’t spending time managing her company, teaching and being a mother of 4 children, one can often find her unceasingly devoted to creating an environment steeped in faith from her constant speaking engagements to mentoring other entrepreneurs.

Follow Dr. Mona Kassim on Instagram: @kassimmona


5. Iqbal Damit, Founder of Hand4Handbn

Having been involved as a relentless volunteer since 2009, Iqbal Damit received the Youth Service Award from the Sultan of Brunei in 2017 as a recognition for his contributions in empowering communities both local and abroad. Prior to establishing Hand4Handbn, an NGO focusing on humanitarian-relief work, he managed 11 volunteer projects in Malaysia and Cambodia between 2014 and 2017.

However, it was a volunteer trip to aid Rohingya refugees in Cox Bazaar in Bangladesh that marked a turning point in his career as a youth leader. Unable to continue to ignore the plight of the refugees, he set out on his trip along with his brother and a friend almost on a whim but a purposeful one at that. With the support of friends and families, Iqbal managed to raise BND 15,000 to provide over 1,000 food packs to as many refugees as they could reach. After such an eye-opening experience, this culminated to Hand4Handbn’s second trip back where they managed to provide not only 2600 food packs, but also built 51 shelters, 60 tube wells, a mosque and a madrasah. Iqbal’s journey as a young committed leader may have started a while ago, but his start as an increasingly influential figure is just the beginning.

Follow Iqbal and Hand4Handbn on Instagram: @hand4handbn

Related: Looking Back at 2017: Top 5 Hottest Events in Brunei


Leading with Purpose in 2018

From entrepreneurship and business to civil service and volunteerism, a big part of what makes an influential leader in Brunei is focusing on purpose-driven work. Work that doesn’t only draw in acclaim but also encourages and empowers others to achieve a greater purpose.



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