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. At the age of eight, my family moved to Washington DC, USA, and stayed there for eight years. Because of the frequent travels and exposure to various cultures during my formative years in the US, I see myself as a child of the world. My interactions with people of different origins have also shaped who I am and they have definitely inspired my arts and my way of thinking when it comes to Women’s Entrepreneur Journey. I am definitely passionate about the arts. I have always been a creative person. I think we got it from our dad. Growing up, I was always making things and painting things. So, eventually I went on to do my major in fine arts. Over the years, I have had involvement in many disciplines, such as interior design, production of art festivals, and product designing for jewelries and furniture. And now, I am focusing on designing clothing.
Many people are considering to quit their jobs and start a business. And you have done exactly that and start your Women’s Entrepreneur Journey. Can you share your thought process in making that move?
I am not the most adventurous person nor an extreme risk-taker, but I also don’t like to play it safe either. When we decided to do our business, we did it on the side for at least a year. During those times, things were not moving as fast and that was a sign telling us that we needed to put in more resources, time and effort to grow Real.m. I had a year to think about the transition while I was still working. Because we had started the engine, the transition for me was a little less scarier.
We met a lot of friends who quit their jobs before really understanding what they want to get into or what kind of commitment it takes. I definitely knew that starting the business, we wouldn’t be seeing much for the next three years. That is just the amount of investment of effort and money it takes. It was definitely a scary move. But after having seven plus years of working and always feeling like I could contribute more and that I have my own vision to implement, that kind of sealed the deal. I am also great with multi-tasking and silent leadership. I felt like this was something I could put my energy into instead of jumping jobs, not being satisfied, and feeling like I was not building something for myself and my family. In a job, you can climb the ladder, but you are putting your time and effort in building someone else’s vision.
We were lucky in the way that things were set up financially. The move was about adjusting to smaller pay cheques instead of me living off my saving. That definitely cushioned the blow.
I am happier now though things are harder and responsibilities are much heavier. I feel like l am taking control of my life. You know you are working towards something bigger and more meaningful. I no longer feel stuck. I see an open path, and now it is just a matter of going through the ups and downs. I know I am, not only building something for myself, but also for my family and future generations.
Naadira was asked a similar question. As many people will attest, mixing business and family can be explosive. In your Women’s Entrepreneur Journey, Why did you think you choose to work on a business with your sisters?
We always knew that we share similar views and interests. All three of us are creative. My older sister was a trained architect, who also loves photography. My younger sister is into branding and communications. She is quite a personality herself. We felt like we have different skills and we could come together and do something really great. I think there is just a connection with your sisters that you don’t get with your friends. It can be difficult at times, but you know the trust and understanding is there. When things get really heated, one of us will always become the bigger person because we know that it is not worth jeopardizing the well-being of one another. We are very mindful to not let business arguments come between us. For us, family is always first.
Who is your entrepreneurial role model?
I believe in mentorship and I have been lucky enough to meet a mentor, whose values I can really resonate with. Her sense of business ethics is definitely commendable and I do admire how she keeps her relationships with people. In negotiation, her approach is always fair and objective. And from her, I learned that it is all about listening in business. The more you are able to absorb what others are saying, the more you can conclude what your next move should be. Another thing I have learned is to build real, solid relationships — be it with your business partners, suppliers or customers. These are the relationships that will get your far down the road.