REAL.M FOUNDERS’ ON PASSION, PURPOSE & RISK
Women’s Entrepreneur Journey. In conjunction with International Women’s Day, the three founders of Real.m — Naadira, Najmia, Atiyya — take a moment to reflect upon their entrepreneurial journeys thus far. From sisters to business partners, and from one stage in life to the next, these are their stories on investing in passion, working for purpose, and taking risks.
Could you share a little bit about yourself?
I was born in Penang, Malaysia but left to the US when I was 5, and lived all of my childhood up to my early teens in Northern Virginia, USA. I have a lot of strong interests, and I wish I can do them more often. I love travelling but I don’t get to do it as much as I would like. I love music and the energy it offers, but I’m not musically inclined. I love taking photos but I wouldn’t consider myself a photographer (I do everything on my iPhone and apps). I used to love makeup but lately I’m really digging the less is more concept and trying to go all natural where I can. Actually, this started when we created Real.m. I am truly passionate about what Real.m stands for — natural, environmental friendly, travel-lust, aesthetic, stylish, practical, and basically just being real. I thought if you’re going to create a brand, you got to live it and be it. It’s still a work in progress. Real.m is the epitome of who I want to be and how I want to live my life.
What made you who you are today?
So far, there are four things that made me who I am today: (1) my religion — it keeps me grounded and pulls me back whenever I go astray, (2) my parents — their values and principals, (3) growing up in the US and travelling — it really shaped my individuality and open mindedness, (4) my past experiences — they taught me how to move forward and do better.
Among the three sisters, you’re recognised to be one with a strong unique view on style and aesthetic. And one’s outlook appearance is essentially a reflection of one’s inner values. The same thing applies to a brand. Can you share a little bit more about the values of Real.m as a brand?
Real.m stands for Real Material because I am always passionate about “keeping it real” from who you are, what you stand for and what you do — always staying true to yourself and just doing you. The word “material” doesn’t only stand for fabric “material” but a general term for whatever we are going to sell, make and produce. The material has to come from a real/raw source — be it home textile, clothing or food. I want to keep it open because I knew eventually we would expand our product range and business.
Because I am really into aesthetics, it is no surprise that the brand has to be stylish. I am always drawn to pretty things, and most of the times, practical items that we see or buy are never marketed as something stylish. That is something I want to accomplish for Real.m. You can have pretty things but they also can have a purpose!
If Real.m was a person, I’d imagine him or her to be an individual who was very sure of him/herself, free spirited (but not a hippie), open minded and simple yet stylish. He or she is always coming back from their travels with something to bring home (values, skills, culture, etc) and always growing as person to become better.
It has been two years since you and your sisters started Real.m. If you could start over, would you do it again? And are there anything that you’d do differently?
Because of certain circumstances, I am still keeping my day job while trying to help as much as I can at Real.m. While I am focused on my full-time job, I make it a point to contribute my views when it comes to branding on Instagram and website. Because Real.m means so much to me, I can’t completely let it go. However, I knew Real.m was going to be okay because my sisters are in it. I am proud to see where we are today and how much we have accomplished. I am certainly looking forward to be able to fully focused on building Real.m with my sisters. However, in this journey, I do wish people could have told me that in order to gain, you are going to lose —be it time, money or chances. It is not easy and it is constant hard work.
You recently gave birth to your first child and became a mother for the first time. People say that your outlook of life changes when you become a parent. How do you think the experience of becoming a mother will influence your Women’s entrepreneur journey?
My journey as a mother has just begun, it’s hard to say. My priority right now is to take care of my son and be there for him 100%. I definitely want to take a break from my day job and because of that I am slowly getting more involved in building Real.m.