Behind The Brand

I was in my final year at the university when I made a plan to create Pastels by Ieka Ahmad. I knew that I needed a job to fill in my free time as a fresh grad and I also knew that it was the right time to pursue this dream. So in the early 2015, at the age of 22, I established Pastels by Ieka Ahmad and since then have been officially running the business online. I’m still in a learning process but I’m open to share some tips on how to start your own business. In this post, I will share to you the bits and pieces of my journey including the challenges I had to face from the earliest days.

When I freshly graduated from a university abroad, I didn’t expect my life to be the centre of attention especially among my mother’s friends. Questions like where do I work or have I applied for jobs were asked very often. However, not all of them were pleased when I told them that I decided to run my own business while waiting for the offer.

“You went to Australia to study but came back to Malaysia to sell scarves?”

I guess it wasn’t the questions that were bothering me but the reactions I received after answering them and it was one of the challenges I had to face along the way. But thank God I passed the test in peace. I’m sure we all can relate to this. So, what should you do when encountering negative people? Just smile, ignore them and focus on your dreams. That’s what I did back then. My dreams are too big to focus on the negative things. So instead of wasting my energy trying to please everyone, I decided to give my all to my business.

I know that this dream of mine is different from my academic achievement. But I don’t think what I’ve learned in the university is – as quoted by some of my mother’s friends – just a waste of money and time. In fact, I believe that every penny invested on education is never a waste! And of course, there was another reason why I chose Psychology at the first place. Most of what I’ve learned in this field can be applied in our daily lives and I love the fact that I can use certain skills for parenting in the future. Insha’Allah. So yes, it was never a waste of money. On the other hand, it’s a long term investment.

I started Pastels by Ieka Ahmad with small capital of RM350. I used it to purchase the materials for my first collection, and pay my in-house tailor. Because I was still new and just about to test the market, I had only ten scarves made for my first collection. But, alhamdulillah, I received a lot of good responses and from there the demand grew. So, from ten scarves, the production number grew to 50 pieces and later 100 pieces of scarves were made per collection within the first year of business. The second thing to take note is if you still want to test the market and not sure how far your business could go, start with a small capital first. Once it grows bigger, raise the capital! Or even better – find investors.

The next thing I’m about to share is very important. Invest more time and money to learn about marketing strategy is the crucial part of maintaining your business. The algorithms of social media such as Facebook and Instagram are constantly changing over time. If you don’t want your marketing skills to be out of date or your services continuously rated negative, make sure you attend marketing courses. Having a mentor will also help to minimise wrong decision making. This way can help to save more money from being invested on things that aren’t necessary for the business.

One of the biggest achievements of Pastels by Ieka Ahmad that made me proud of my endeavours was when it successfully entered the international market. It was indeed one of the best moments of my life. Another moment I cannot forget was when my dear friend, Amirah, informed me that Mira Filzah was wearing my scarf on Cinta Si Wedding Planner. I was so excited and instantly searched for that particular episode! The drama was a hit back then and I was so happy that Mira decided to wear it on the show. A dream came true when a friend of mine, Fathnie, gave my brand an opportunity to be featured on a local newspaper through her journalist friend. It was really a dream came true! Thank you, Fathnie. I will always remember the kindest thing you did for me forever.

Honestly, looking back at it now, I’m very happy that I made the decision to start my own business. I may be missing the experience of working with the government or may not be entitled as a director in any government sector as what my mother’s friends would brag about but instead of working for other people I’ve been learning to build my empire from scratch – and I couldn’t be more proud of that. At such a young age, I’ve gained valuable experience that not everyone at my own age could achieve. Alhamdulillah. I know that I want to leave a legacy for my children in the future and although this dream sounds less wowing to you but I really hope someday my brand will go bigger and I’ll have my own boutiques. Insha’Allah.

So, I hope by sharing these little tips will help you figure out your next step. In the next post, I will be writing about what happened with my business within these couple of years.

Until then, best of luck!

Satin Silk Scarf from Pastels by Ieka Ahmad | Top from Clothesology | Flats from Christy Ng