So.lek: Siblings’ Insights Into Entrepreneurship
SO.LEK Cosmetics Sdn Bhd, a business name primarily derived from the terms often used by the siblings, the founder Dahlia Nadirah Juhari and co-founder Luqman Hakim Juhari, including the Malay word ‘Alat solek’ (make up set) and ‘So? Relax!’. This unique brand name was launched last October, after their visits to pharmacies in New York, USA which sparked Dahlia to create her signature brand lip crème, carrying a Malaysian DNA, custom-made for the Muslim community with subtle ingredients such as olive oil. Property Insight’s senior writer Mages had a pleasant interview with the siblings and discovered their newly-found journey into entrepreneurial lifestyle.
Property Insight (PI): Who inspired you to venture into this market? What was the influence over your entrepreneurial race?
Dahlia Nadhirah (DN): To be exact, it was our visit to New York, when I saw Kylie Jenner’s lip kit. It wasn’t costly yet maintained good quality, so I asked myself why not we create our own, made in Malaysia. While Kylie Jenner has a huge following in the mainstream media, the lip crème, which is affordable and suitable for Muslim clients, is not readily available here. I have been attached to banking sector for 8 years, while our mother is a businesswoman. Being very strict on entrepreneurial start-ups and meticulous on proposals, she has encouraged us to pursue the idea and taught us to be on our toes if we were serious with this business endeavour.
Luqman Hakim (LH): As for me, it was my sister. I am still on the verge of finishing my engineering studies when my sister requested my assistance. Now, I am serious in running the business, the figures and follow-ups on orders. I even tested the lip crème on my lips for demo purposes (chuckled). Dahlia puts her heart into anything she believes. At times, we do argue as siblings, but we complement each other too.
PI: What were the start-up challenges you faced to set up this venture?
DN: Firstly, we had tough time getting the right manufacturer for our product. We were actively searching for the perfect manufacturer who can meet our needs like formula and texture, and produce it locally. After 2 months of searching, finally in April last year, we managed to find a halal-certified manufacturer who could produce for us a matte lip crème that was soft, easy to apply, non-dry, long lasting, and easy to remove too. And the best part is, the colours will go according to the skin tone of the wearer. Currently, there are 4 – 5 similar brands in the market, some were run by my own friends, but we see it as a healthy competition. Most of our clients are friends, families and repeat customers who recommend it via social media and word of mouth.
LH: We have launched our website www.solek.com in October 2016 and collaborated with Pretty Suci and Fashion Valet to capture a wider market. Moving forward we are looking to place it in physical stores like pharmacies. Now, we usually receive hundred over orders at one time, with hundred over queries, but we managed to satisfy all the customers with timely replies and deliveries. Social media provides a better market penetration in this business. Payments were done online, and the product will be delivered from our factory in Rawang, Selangor.
PI: How did you get started with the idea or concept for the business?
DN: Our mother, who is also our investor, was a zoology graduate but ventured into a thriving engineering-based business, and myself studied psychology but decided to do this because I will have control over my income and learn entrepreneurship the basic way, with the help of technology. She was the inspiration who worked super hard and precised to guide us the best way to manoeuvre the difficulties in running a business. With her guidance, we managed to pay our investor within 3 months. We wanted to do halal mart and services on halal line but we do not have any food and beverage background, so after a discussion with our mom we arrived at this.
LH: We loved the idea of flexi-time career, because I am a student and can still do this on a part time basis. Howerver, after being in the business we realised that if we don’t work hard continuously, there is no concrete income to sustain the business. If we miss one or two postings in social media like Facebook, we will miss the sales too as social media users are always current and prefer sites which are active. Therefore, while initially we thought we would have more time to ourselves, as it turned out we spent 24/7 looking out for orders or payments.
PI: Please share on your products and what makes it different from other brands in the local market?
DN: What distinguishes our products from the rest is the brand name and the logo. The logo is dedicated to our grandmother, who used the eyeliner or ‘celak’ during her younger years. And we adopted the logo for our product to carry on a traditional feel. As for the brand names, the lip crèmes named ‘Gincu”, was started with local names like anggerik, dahlia, seroja, chempaka and mawar. The lip crème is olive oil produced in the Mediterranean, and would receive the trademark patent in less than 3 months. We also produced the eyeliner with the name ‘Celak’. With additional 6 shades and a mascara called ‘Lentik’, we hope to have a wider target audience, all before Hari Raya Aidilfitri this year. Besides, as part of our corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme, we also make a stand to donate RM1 from each sale to selected charity organisations.
LH: We wanted the texture that would be easy to apply and remove, as this is vital for our Muslim customers, when they want to perform wuduk (ritual purification before prayers). Even our eyeliner is super easy to apply and removed!
PI: What have you been doing to raise the profile of the products so far?
DN: For brand awareness, we are particularly focused on social media promotions. We are popular because of the frequent promotional campaigns. We have taken part in a few exhibitions and local bazaars. We did several interviews with print media, which helped a lot with the branding and product awareness. Next, we would focus on advertisements like on billboard space.
PI: What are your investment plans for the next 12 months?
DN: We have planned to bring the products to global market by participating in international exhibitions in China, Brunei and Africa. We would like to widen our local reach through network of stockists, distributors and drop ships (sending directly via manufacturer). We have in the pipeline to increase the brand exposure through collaboration with Fashion Valet and so on, to increase the product range and receive the product certifications.
LH: Part of the strategies would be to form partnerships with big online stores, moving forward, we would want to focus on investing on adverts, as well as selling our product in physical stores.
PI: What is your personal advice for upcoming entrepreneurs?
LH: If you want to do something, don’t think too much, just do it. If there’s a mistake along the way, learn from it. Don’t use them to measure whether you have failed or succeeded. Work hard. And make sure there’s something unique about your brand and product that would make you stand out from the others.
PI: How does branding help your popularity in entrepreneurship?
DN: We wanted unique local names to represent the brand and products. We decided to name after flowers and Malay princesses like Mahsuri to place us in a better brand recall. Such a strategy blends well with our Malay-majority clients. Hence, with increasing number of clients from all cultural backgrounds now, we are excited to let them know the meaning of the names too. Undoubtedly, we don’t compromise on the quality of the products and service, as these will determine the sustainability of the brand and propel the product range to flourish.
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