This Mother’s Day, UPPRE sits down with 5 entrepreneurial mothers to find out more about the little things that make them happy about motherhood.
As we celebrate change let’s not also forget to celebrate the constant in our lives—our mothers. This Mother’s Day, UPPRE meets with 5 inspiring entrepreneurs—Hanis Azarea of design and stationery studio LYPATAN, Nina Othman of social enterprise Grow The Goose , Ann Yeap of healthy baby food Squeeeze Me Baby, Kong Wan Lin of organic skincare label Daisy Sky Malaysia, and Natasha Navin of eco-conscious children clothing line Kooshboo— who are also mothers to find out more about how they juggle their passion for entrepreneurship and motherhood as well as the things that give them joy in being mumpreneurs.
UPPRE: What made you want to be an entrepreneur?
Ann: Since young, I like to trade stuff. So, I’ll be like trading my gula-gula, my rubber band. When I was working with HP, I had a little bit of time, so I think it all started like, I went to Bangkok and at that time the clothes were really cheap there. So every time I went to Bangkok, I will bring back a bag of clothes then I sell online to fund my trip. That’s how it started.
Nina: I think when I was 10, I asked for something and my Mom said, “Go find your own money”. Things started from there and since then I’ve been an entrepreneur for the past 15 years. I’ve had photo studio, baking studio, production house, events. So yeah, it’s been interesting and I think that’s why the new direction I’m taking now takes kids to be an entrepreneur because I think it’s more of a skill set than a career.
Hanis: Same goes for me. My mom was a single mom who is also an entrepreneur and I found myself selling stuff even since I was small. I started burning CDs for my aunty and got paid for it. I like to sell stuff and get to feel that “Hey I just sold something”.
Natasha: For me it was different. For me, being an entrepreneur was more of a… not an accident but it was certainly not planned because my background is design. So actually I’m a trained architect who loves architecture. Because I wanted to be with the kids, I wanted to focus on being a mom and I did that. But of course, being creative, being in the design world, right after a few years when they started going to school, I felt “Oh I need to do something but I didn’t want to go back to the practice”. And of course, I’ve always loved fashion. And also at that time, I found that there weren’t a lot of kids’ brands that necessarily, you know, homegrown. So I found that there was a gap there and so that’s how I started. I was actually more interested in designing these clothes. And then when I started Kooshboo suddenly I thought “Actually I have to sell these as well.”
Wan Lin: Actually, I never imagined that I will become an entrepreneur. I was a full-time wedding photographer before I got married. It’s all by chance, really. Because my skin was really bad during my pregnancy, so I was looking for skin and hair care which was 100% organic, natural and effective for the skin and hair. So I started to chat with the aromatherapist online, and I learned a lot about essential oils. That’s how I started my business.
UPPRE: 3 of the mompreneurs here; Kooshboo, Squeeeze Me Baby, and Grow the Goose run children-related enterprises. How did having children of your own ignite the entrepreneurial passion in you?
Natasha: I think for me it was pretty direct right, it’s quite obvious because basically, that’s what happened, I mean I had kids and I found that there wasn’t really a lot of clothes that I really liked in the market. And because I’ve lived in overseas before in Australia, in Europe, I found that there’s a lot more like, more homegrown brands, you know, soulful products in terms of clothing and all that. So I when I came back I saw that it’s all just the same mass produced stuff here. It was quite a direct thing, you know. That’s how I started because I wanted to make nice clothes for my kids and I knew that there would be a lot (of demand). I spoke to a lot of friends and other people and everybody felt the same way. So I knew that there was a market for it.
Ann: I think that’s the same with me. After having a kid, when he started to wean (off milk and needing solids), I was a bit of a crazy-OCD mom. I needed to make my own food, I needed to know where it came from and how clean it was. So I started making all these food and then my son obviously had some problems. He always had eczema and allergies, so we had to be really careful with what we feed him. I customised his food and then the worst part is he’s picky. I think all the kids are picky, right? He doesn’t eat this, he doesn’t eat that. So I started mixing the flavours and putting them in these squeeze pouches that I imported. My friends would see them and they’d be like “Oh! Okay, could we buy from you?” and I was like okay. So I started selling them and then I realised that all working mothers have no time.
Natasha: To be honest, that was a business that I thought about myself. When my firstborn was on solid, I thought, this is a lot of work. It’s a lot of work but it’s so important.
Ann: Yes, so it’s the first few meals that you feed them. Although it is very simple. It’s just very simple. It’s just steaming. All we do in the shop is just steaming and planting. But you can’t buy one apple every day and just steam the apple and the kid will have that apple for the next few days, right? So there’s no variety. But if you buy from us, then you can choose your varieties.
Nina: It started with my own kids, they wanted money to buy roller-shoes, and I was like “No, I don’t have money.” This was during confinement. I said “Go find your own money,” and they took it seriously. They were like “Okay we want to sell fried chicken.” They wanted to sell fried chicken like Mail from Upin Ipin. I said “Cannot. Fried chicken is not healthy, cannot.” They said “So what do we sell?”, they were four and six then yeah, mind you. Four and six. So I was like thinking, I have an entrepreneur friend who sells healthy sausages. He makes his own sausages, no preservatives, no additives, sausage kambing and sausage ayam. And I was like okay, let’s sell this.
So I posted it on Facebook and Instagram and they started selling, weekends they delivered them with their father. Within two weeks, they made enough money to buy each one pair of roller-shoes. And so I just posted that up and I had two sets of inquiries. One is “Can our kids be agents too?” and the second inquiry which was the eye-opener for me, “Do you have the module to teach kids this?” So then, that’s when I saw a gap because I’ve been an entrepreneur for 15 years, I can tell kids what not to do. So now what we do is we teach children how to monetise their talents and interests but attach it to a social mission.
UPPRE: As for Daisy Sky Studio and Lypatan how do you guys continue the passion for business after children?
Wan Lin: For me, what moved me forward is that I realised a lot of people having very sensitive skin because they’ve been using a lot of products containing preservatives and alcohol. I was having this really bad skin, I mean acne all over my face during pregnancy. I looked for organic products for my skin and it worked for me. So I thought there are a lot of people that will also benefit from them. That’s why I’m really passionate about pushing this in Malaysia.
Hanis: As for me, I just know that this is the way to go. I cannot stop just because I have children. I started sending my baby to a babysitter in front of our house so that I can concentrate on work at home as early as 60 days (after giving birth). But because I was still breastfeeding, I go there once in awhile. So only after she’s about one year old that we sent her to playschool. It keeps continuing until today and I mean yeah, it’s just the way to go, I just cannot stop even though the second one is coming.
UPPRE: How do you balance running a business with life at home?
Nina: Firstly, I think you should not use the word ‘balance’ anymore. There’s no such thing. How can you balance? That means you have to do two things at the same time, crazy or what? I think juggling would be a better term, otherwise, you would be doing one thing at a time. *laughs*
Ann: I think for me is to sacrifice sleep. So there’s no sleep. We have very little sleep. So you’ll be surprised after being a mother how little sleep you can or actually a human needs. Also, for me, I have great helpers at home and the grandparents are good. So when you have an emergency or you have something, a busy week, then we’ll call the grandparents. But I think the father figure is also very helpful in that they would jump in or help us, especially entrepreneurs, right. Sometimes, you can’t pick (the kids) up so (the fathers) have to (pull) their weight in the family as well. And that’s very important.
Natasha: For me also it’s the same, I’m very blessed with a good family support, like my parents are really hands-on. A good helper, that really helps, I mean, it wouldn’t be possible otherwise. My mom picks the little one from kindie and my dad’s always around. My mom cooks a lot like maybe three times a week. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be possible. So I would say family support. I agree with you but I can’t do without my sleep. But definitely sacrifice TV time. Because once the kids are in bed, that’s when I get to really be productive with work.
Nina: For me, I have that support system, also. When I had to go away, overseas for three weeks, I had to leave them. So I’m very lucky in that way. Yeah, three weeks. That’s the longest so far, three weeks for like twice, but anyway it was good to have that support system. But when I’m back, the support system (family) sort of do their own thing. Okay lah. *laughs* So then I would have to really not be too OCD.
Natasha: Yeah, that’s true too.
Nina: So there’ll be like baskets of laundry, it’s there, it’s there lah. If I need to spend time with the kids, then I’ll just sacrifice the laundry time to be with the kids. One hot meal, just simple recipes, everything one go. I love the TV series ‘Chopped’–
Natasha: Chop! Chop! Chop!
Nina: Have you guys seen that, that thing on the–
Ann: We haven’t been watching TV these days *laughs*
Nina: *laughs* I watch it and I like it. 20 minutes, everything siap, you know.
Natasha: Yeah. Being efficient, I guess.
Nina: So it’s that, I think, you change. You have to sacrifice certain things. I don’t do the sleep part but I sacrifice on the sitting down, having proper meals.
Natasha & Ann: Yeah, that doesn’t exist anymore.
Other roundtable members agree.
Hanis: As for me, it’s just the three of us. It’s me, my husband and my daughter. It’s been quite a struggle but we manage through. So, I think we just have to be really a good team. After work, I just have to get at least one or two hours without work. I just have to leave the phone somewhere so that I could focus on the house. But I guess, yes thankfully, my husband has been supportive. He sends my daughter to the playschool and then fetches her. That’s how my husband has helped me through this phase. But I want her to need me, so sometimes that’s why I try to spend at least one hour with her. Sometimes maybe my partners are still working and need something but I just have to say “I’ll get back to you guys later.”
UPPRE: What’s your favourite part of being a mum?
Ann: I actually look forward to… So, I’ll pick him up after school, then I will drop him off at home. Then, I’ll rush off for at least one meeting. And then, at 4.30, 5 o’clock, he will go downstairs of our condo and play with his friends. So, the favourite part would be, whenever I got home, I’ll go straight to the park. And he will see me from far and he will scream “That’s my mummy!”. And he will run and come at you and then he will give you a big hug. No matter what stress you have, it’s like – okay, it’s all worth it.
Wan Lin: For me, I’ve been enjoying creating memories with my son, to learn new things, to discover new things with my son – be it eating in new places or learning something from the books. Yeah, I enjoy it very much as a mum.
Natasha: In our house, two of my older kids are already 12 and 10, so you can imagine the struggle is more like no gadgets, right? So, the rule in our house—between 5 to 7 pm is playtime. We’re very lucky to have a little garden in the house—we have a trampoline, so they play a lot because it’s not so hot anymore at that time of the day. They would’ve finished school and I would’ve finished work. So, between 5 to 7 pm, all of us would be in the garden and just play. That’s our family time.
Nina: Mine is introducing them to the things I like to do. For example, I started to introduce them to hiking, so they started hiking with me. I do things, well they do things like, you know, korek cacing, tangkap belalang, mandi hujan, panjat pokok, stuff like that, because I’m a nature person. So, yeah. That’s that. It’s nice seeing what I like they like too. They love durians. My trio all is like—nampak je, nak durian, and then we have to stop and makan sampai jilat jari and everything. So, those kinds of things, I think, creating memories like this together, and then giving them just a bit of life experiences. I think creating that memory is my favourite part because I had a part in it. I cannot imagine if it comes to a point like, “Oh, I can’t remember my mum, I don’t have memories with my mum.” That is my worst nightmare.
Natasha: Because you’ve realised now just how fast they grow. Your to-do list is never going to be finished. We always have stuff to do but then, it’s so important because by the time you realise it, they’ve grown and that time is over and you’re never going to get it back.
Hanis: For me, the favourite part of being a mum is discussing with my husband as a team like how do we mould our child. We always have house rules; though it’s very hard to follow, but we try to so that she has some kind of guideline. For example, we still haven’t let her have the freedom to use phones, only TV. She started to be quite addictive to it but I guess that’s normal. I think that’s the best part of it because you have someone that you can really shape and mould.
UPPRE: Do you think your children will pick up the entrepreneurship skill from you?
Hanis: For me, I would really love it if she could be one because I feel like there’s a lot of things you can explore in entrepreneurship, you know, if she could be one. Because it’s going to be a really tough world later on compared to now. So, I think if she has it, she has some sort of way to control her life, I mean, not saying that usually, entrepreneurship will go all good, but it’s the best learning experience, I would say.
Wan Lin: For me, I’ve never expected my son to pick up any particular skills from me like the entrepreneurial skill. But one thing I would nurture them from young is that never give up halfway in anything you do. So, yeah. love what you do, do what you love.
UPPRE: What do you usually do to unwind and recharge?
Natasha: Netflix for me.
Nina: Sometimes yes. I only follow 3 series. I follow Suits, Grey’s Anatomy, and Blue Bloods. Just the 3 but I follow them diligently. To recharge, I do
Hanis: For me, it’s a bit too late but I watch Gossip Girl just to not think about anything. They’re really long episodes and I’m still not done until now so… When I was younger I watched the series halfway through but yea…
Natasha: My husband and I will just watch 1 episode of 40 minutes before going to bed. You have to otherwise I’ll have difficulty to sleep as well because your mind is still…
Wan Lin: I’m not a TV person, so for me, I’ll take a bath and get myself refreshed. That’s the best part of my day. Can you imagine? It was quite surprising to me after being a mom.
Ann: I have an obsession with hair. If I’m really stressed out I’ll go to a saloon and I’ll have my hair washed. After that, I’ll feel better and the whole day will seem brighter after a hair wash.
Hanis: Sometimes after a whole week of working and you’re tired but even when you relax you’re not relaxed. Sometimes I feel anxious and I don’t know why so I’ll just go to the bathroom and start cleaning it.
Nina: That’s your de-stresser.
Hanis: I’ll feel so tired cleaning but after that, I’ll feel so much better.
Wan Lin: I like to do online shopping also.
UPPRE: Are there things you miss about life before kids?
Ann: I miss eating my meals peacefully. Now, (just with the ladies) we had time to take pictures but with the kid, it’ll be like okay mummy eat first, then daddy and after that, we’ll look at the kid like okay now you can slowly eat.
Natasha: For me not much maybe because I’ve already passed that stage so I am able to eat my meals peacefully but I remember though when (my children) were little (eating) was not fun. Also for me, it’s been a while life with kids. So I can’t imagine it without them. I really really enjoy being a mom.
Nina: Mine would be the sports bit. I used to do squash, futsal, and hiking. So I had to take a step back because the youngest is 3 still. But I’ve started hiking with the boys so I’m slowly getting back to it. But I just have to wait a bit more because I can’t carry the little one while hiking. I can’t wait for her to be a little bit older so that we can all go together as a family.
Hanis: I do miss a lot. Things like watching movies with my husband, working out and just having some free time for myself.
Nina: I don’t know what those are.
Natasha: Yeah after a while you’ll forget and they’ll come out of your system.
Wan Lin: I miss the time when I can sleep through the night. Because I still need to get up twice at least. Also the flexibility of going out anytime I want with friends.
Ann: But they grow up so fast and after a while, you’ll be like I wish they’d call me in the middle of the night.
Natasha: Not sure about that…
Interview: Basir Zainuddin
Photography: Nurul Humairah
Social Media: Shamrina Rose
Production: Vimal Palasekaran
Concept: Leong Ee Vonne
Venue: Brasserie Fritz
Flower: Shoran Flowers