Written by Putri Hamzah, mentee with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women
Greetings from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia! My name is Putri Herma Suriani bt Hamzah and I am a Cherie Blair Foundation for Women Mentee and proud of it.
When I was young, I never believed that one day I would be in business, nor did I believe that I could do anything but work for others. However, when I reached my thirties I started to see myself in the fashion business because whenever I went shopping, I couldn’t find anything that fit me and suited my taste. I found that being a plus-size or curvy person had disadvantages when looking for clothes and it always made me frustrated. I decided that I would learn how to design and sew my own clothes and sell them to curvy women. That was the starting point of my dream.
Fast forward ten years: after a divorce and struggling to find a good job, I went for short courses in dressmaking with Yayasan Pendidikan dan Vokasional Wanita, a vocational training organisation in Malaysia. After five courses I had a certification in hand, bought myself a portable sewing machine and started to take a few orders from family and friends. I eventually obtained an industrial sewing machine and a small amount of cash to start up my own label, Hatasia Curvy. I decided that I didn’t want to be just a tailor, but also a manufacturer on a large scale for plus-size women in my own country and, if possible, internationally.
Around this time I was invited to apply to be a mentee for the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women’s Mentoring Women in Business Programme. I succeeded and was matched with Philippe, a university professor from Lebanon. He has been my pillar and voice of encouragement in continuing my dream to set up my own factory one day. I didn’t have much experience in business, but since day one of our mentoring sessions he has been patient with me, coaching me on a lot of things regarding my field. I produced new designs for my label and we looked at selling them through Facebook and Instagram, which helped me to improve my visibility and increase orders from my network of friends. Philippe also gave me tips for financial planning and accounting, so that my profits and losses are well recorded. The biggest change I have seen since I started working with Philippe is that my ability to build relationships with potential clients has improved as he helped me to develop my communication skills and build my confidence.
As a part of being a mentee in the Mentoring Women in Business Programme, I also received a smart tablet with internet data. Using the tablet helped me access information relevant to my line of business, watch training videos and promote my designs online. My business has now grown from less than five clients to more than 30, many of whom are regular customers. As a result, I went from making a small profit on individual orders to having a regular income stream, increasing my revenue by 86%.
I am now in demand as a tailor and my clients ask me to design clothes which are suitable for their silhouette and sizes. Whenever I have time, I also make my own designs and sell them online. My plan is to keep on learning via courses and online tutorial videos to expand my knowledge in design, fabrics and sewing. I’m evolving my brand and making it more varied. Hopefully I will be able to diversify my skills further to include menswear and lingerie.
I am so blessed and grateful that I took the invitation to become a mentee because it has changed my life steadily and surely. I know that when the time is right I will be able to set up my own factory with the help of my mentor’s guidance. I know my mentor will keep giving me moral support and always be part of my success because he knows I am well-motivated and dedicated to making my business grow. I strongly believe that one day when I launch my label nationally or even internationally, it will be the assistance from the Mentoring Programme and my mentor that will have helped in making my dream come true.
Find out more about Putri’s business here.
Putri’s participation was made possible through our partnership with Qualcomm® Wireless Reach™. Wireless Reach’s support has enabled 200 women entrepreneurs to access the power of the internet, benefit from online mentoring and take their businesses to new heights. Learn more about our work together here.
The women entrepreneurs who participate in this project are provided with a data plan and tablet. We are pleased to have the support of BetterWorld Wireless and Tune Talk Mobile Prepaid in providing the tablets and data plans that make this internet access possible.