What happens when passion meets vision? For some, all they see are dreams and yet for some, with endeavour and drive, their dreams have become reality. Homegrown fashion designer Ms Kat Aziz is one fine example. Today, we listen to her story as she matched her dreams with hard work to open her own online fashion store for Muslimahs – Kaifiyyah.com.
Describe your business and what you do.
I own and run Kaifiyyah, an online Muslimah fashion business with items which I individually select, design and tailor-make. At the same time the business aims to create awareness on how to cover a Muslimah’s modesty by understanding the right kaifiyyah (methodology).
Why did you decide to start your own business?
I have always had the passion for fashion since I was young and I first stepped into the retail fashion business when I worked part-time when I was 16. I love providing suggestions and quality service to my customers even then and it has always been my dream to start my own fashion line since as I feel that it will definitely be different promoting my own designs as compared to someone else’s.
What were some of the initial obstacles you faced?
There were so many challenges which I faced when I first started. Challenges like worrying about the amount of support I will get from the public and reflecting if my designs are what my customers want, as much as me wanting to sell my designs.
For instance, I may feel my designs are unique but designs are subjective. What may be unique to me may not appear so to others. That was the biggest challenge for me and I had to remind myself that I am not designing for myself.
Also, being a very young company with no fashion design background and the lack of large capital investment, we faced several obstacles which I feel delayed the growth of the business. Honestly, I started our business with nothing but a fierce determination and drive to pursue my dream and be successful in what I do. Initially, the decision making process was always halted by questions such as “Do we have enough money to do this or that?” even if we knew how important it was for the company’s expansion.
Despite these challenges, we kept reminding ourselves to move at our own pace even if many other experienced business owners or coaches out there were trying to bring us down by saying we would not be able to make it if we do not have a substantial investment to build our business.
From all the negative feedback we received, we channeled them into positive energy and constantly reminded ourselves that every business is different.
…tough times don’t last but tough people do – Ms Kat Aziz, founder of Kaifiyyah.com
How does managing your own business differ from working as a paid employee?
The difference is so huge that I kept telling myself that no matter what happens, I will not go back to being a paid employee.
As I am very ambitious, sometimes I much prefer to make decisions without having to go through the hierarchy unless it is a major decision which I can’t see clearly. I prefer to make my own rules rather than to be under someone’s nose and feeling my space is confined.
I used to work in companies which pay me high commissions for every deal I close but at the end of day, you know it was through your own effort and you deserve more than just that commission. Also, the recognition goes back to the company or to your boss and not to you. It makes you feel unappreciated and dispensable.
Not forgetting the office politics which you need to deal with even if you do not want to get involved.
I also worked in a healthcare industry as a registered nurse for many years where I felt that I can’t do much to extend my services for my patients because the hospital has so many protocols to follow and at the end of the day the CEO becomes rich while we do the dirty work.
So, by managing my own business, I’m not saying that I don’t have to do the ‘ground work’. Rather, I am a person who believes in providing excellent service to my customers and ensuring they come back for more. That, to me is the basic ground work which we must excel in.
Managing a business is not just about making money.It is to know what people want and at the same time finding out what I really want in life and having the freedom to plan my own schedule. Most importantly, I love what I do and I’m not being forced to do it just for the sake of earning a salary.
What is the one key character trait needed to strike out on your own and why?
One key character trait is determination. Without it, we will be losing focus and will keep going back to where we started. Just move forward and be strong to overcome every hurdleand enjoy the roller-coaster ride. We may feel nauseous and disappointed time and time again but if we are determined to make our business a success, it will never fail.
And of course, do not be afraid to make mistakes no matter how bad it hurts from that one mistake. We must be brave and tell ourselves that tough times don’t last but tough people do.
Despite all the challenges we face, we must always be determined to make it with a “Bang”!