Whenever I see this little golden statue, may it remind me and every little girl, that no matter where you come from, your dreams are valid,” said Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o during her acceptance speech at the 86th Academy Awards last year.
Lupita’s words have served as a testimonial to always have faith in one’s passion and desire, and to never be afraid to reach for the stars. Even if you are merely a student, one is never too young to be an entrepreneur. Take for example, Siti Zulaikha Rohaizad and Eve Tan Vy-Ern, both 19 years old.
Siti Zulaikha is the co-founder of Pastel & Co., a budding fashion company centralised around the hijab, or the Muslim headscarf. She and her classmate-cum-business partner, Nur Qamarina Kamarludin, 19, launched their line of scarves on December 7th 2015.
Eve Tan, meanwhile, is a home baker who whips up delectable pastry masterpieces for various occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries. Her cakes go by the name Mon Cherieve Cakes, and have been doing quite well since she started the business a few months ago.
Having been a baker since the tender age of eight, Eve’s business first started off as a humble attempt at garnering some extra pocket money while she was at secondary school. Her cupcake business with a friend eventually fell between the cracks after they both separated after school, and that led to full-fledged baking under the brand Mon Cherieve Cakes.
As students and hijab-wearers, Zulaikha and Qamarina had experienced difficulties in acquiring new styles of hijab in a variety of colours. The scarves can be rather costly, and thus, Zulaikha had an idea of starting their very own scarves line. She then proposed her idea to Qamarina, who agreed and turned out to be the ideal business partner.
“Qamarina is nice enough to give me freedom in deciding what I want Pastel & Co to be like. From Selangorthe name, to the font and to the logo itself — I would say we are meant to be business partners. I wouldn’t find anyone else as understanding as she is,” said Zulaikha.
Juggling a business as well as academic performance is no piece of cake, even for a baker. Eve recalls having to make many sacrifices in order to keep up with her orders and her studies at the same time. She accepts every order that comes her way, as she sees it as an opportunity to expand her business. But this choice has its own consequences, as time constraint is evident during her life as a student under the Australian Matriculation.
“After college, I would rush home to bake, which takes around 4-6 hours, then study through the wee hours of the morning. Sometimes I would pull up all-nighters,” Eve claimed.
“But looking back, I have no regrets. Without determination, I wouldn’t have gotten this far in my business,”
For Zulaikha, her books are her priority as a university student, especially as they are in their last semester. With the release date of their line fast approaching, life has been hectic. Even so, Zulaikha embraces the challenges thrown at her in good spirits. – “We had to make many decisions in such a short period of time. It was very stressful but I like that kind of stress, it is the kind that gets you moving,” she said.
Among the biggest challenges that both Zulaikha and Eve have had to overcome would be self-confidence and facing disappointment. As a novice entrepreneur, Zulaikha often had doubts about whether her business would take off, as they face pretty stringent competition from other brands in the headscarves industry.
“People see me as the cheerful girl who gives out free smiles to everyone, but deep down inside, I am quite a worrier.
“So you could imagine how worried I was when I actually agreed with Qama to make Pastel & Co a reality,”
Fortunately, her parents have been extremely supportive of her efforts, and had her back through it all both financially and emotionally.
“My mum is always the one telling me to keep striving for what I want in this life and believe in myself a lot and leave the rest to God,” she said.
Eve echoes her sentiments, as she describes her parents as her pillars of strengths.
“My father would fetch me around to get baking ingredients and when the cakes are ready, he would help me deliver them to my customers’ places.
“My parents are very proud of me, they would snap pictures of my cakes and send them to their friends and share it on their social media accounts,” said Eve.
Zulaikha mentions that, to be a successful business person, one must be patient and have perseverance.
“You have to think positively to ensure positive outcomes,” she said.
Eve shares her experiences, too: “When a customer complains to you about the product, you have to take note of it and treat the complaint as a good thing because it helps you in knowing what the customers are looking for.”
“In secondary school, I used to supply cakes to a little bakery. It was a bakery that served mainly older people with little liking for sweet cakes. I would get a lot of negative comments and it discouraged me. I simply couldn’t find the right recipe to suit their tastes and I was disheartened that I couldn’t deliver a favourable outcome and they eventually stopped ordering from me.
“I took that as a learning curve and tweaked the recipes I got from various sites as I baked. Nowadays I get comments that my cakes aren’t that sweet, and rich in flavour!” she claimed.
To other budding entrepreneurs, Eve offers the following advice: “Don’t be afraid to start your own business. You have to be a risk-taker to be successful; don’t let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game,”
“To me, being in school is not a reason to not strive for your dreams. People might say you’re too young to start a business, but no time is ever the perfect timing,” said Zulaikha.
“You just have to go for it and believe in yourself hard enough,”
Pastel & Co. and Mon Chereive Cakes can be contacted via the following platforms:
Pastel & Co.: