CEO Series

Meet The 14-Year-Old M'sian Building Her Business Empire Selling Designer Hijabs

  • Empire Iman Safiyah is a shawl brand run by a 14-year-old Malaysian. 
  • One of the products is a school shawl that is developed based on Iman’s own experiences with shawls. 
  • She is also an influencer in her own right. 

If you look back to your school life, everyone had that one classmate who was a mini-entrepreneur in the making. Either by selling stationery, peddling slightly priced-up snacks from overseas, Batu Seremban to even friendship bracelets. You had to respect their hustle while still in school.

Nowadays though with the rise of Instagram and the accompanying Insta-shops, 14-year-olds can now build their own little e-commerce empires easily. And this is exactly what this Malaysian student did.

Fittingly named Empire Iman Safiyah, a 14-year-old hijabista by the name of Iman Safiyah sells a series of hijabs, between the more casual pieces to wear out, to school scarves.

And this isn’t even Iman’s first business.

Iman had been selling squishy toys for 2 years when she started to wonder about what to sell next. So in early 2017, Iman launched 2 lines of scarves—the Airish Shawl and Belluna Bawal.

She even registered the online business under Suruhanjaya Syarikat Malaysia (SSM).

But what really drove up her popularity was the Tudung Sekolah Iman Safiyah (TSIS), launched just November last year. One of the interesting selling points of the TSIS is that it’s an instant shawl that is designed to look like the nicer, yet more difficult to put on type of hijab.

Usually, instant school hijabs in the market are more comfortable and easy to wear, but not favoured because of how they look.

For the uninitiated, yes. Even for school shawls, there are variations on how they can look. This is all based on material, the cut, and how the hijab is styled.

Iman started selling school hijab because she can relate to its usual problems.

Iman Safiyah modeling her TSIS / Image Credit: Empire Iman Safiyah

“It started with my personal need to wear a more comfortable school shawl that is easy to wear and has a good material,” said Iman. “Most hijabs are difficult to shape, and the material can be hot, which gave me the idea to sell hijab that is more comfortable.”

Seeing a clear problem and realising that she can offer a solution, Iman Safiyah got her parents to invest in the business. She was able to prove her entrepreneurial calibre to her parents thanks to the money that she had already accumulated selling squishies.

In fact, both her parents and her siblings make up the usual team that helps her with the business, from taking orders, packing and delivery.

Thanks to that, TSIS has sold 2,000 pieces since their November launch, which translates to 500 pieces a month. Not bad for a young business run by a young founder.

Iman has also shared that they’re currently profitable.

“Yes, many have said that I am too young to run a business and they also question why I’d want to be famous at a young age. My response was: business has always been my interest, my passion, so I just do it and believe in myself that I can do it.”

The market opened up to her thanks to her large following.

Iman Safiyah on Instagram

Iman is actually an influencer in her own right. She currently has close to 300,000 followers on Instagram, 62,598 subscribers on YouTube, and a substantial following on musical.ly.

“Becoming Insta-famous or musical.ly famous is an advantage to me but both do not affect my day-to-day life. But both do help me more easily introduce my shawl business to them,” said Iman when asked about the experience.

And according to her, she didn’t even put in any special efforts to get this following..

“For me, I just shared pictures that I feel are good to be shared with my followers. That’s all, there was no specific effort to be done. Just being myself.”

But it is a lot to juggle.

Thanks to the business, she’s also been invited for features on TV9 and Astro / Image Credit: Iman Safiyah

“At first, it was quite hard as I was not used to it. However, as time went by, I managed to juggle business, social media and school,” said Iman.

Iman even shared the story of her biggest entrepreneurial challenge.

“My school scarves ran out of stock when there were many customers who had paid for it,” shared Iman.

“I had to ask my tailor to prepare the stock as soon as possible. Because of that, some customers wanted a refund but luckily, many were patient enough to wait for the new stocks. That definitely taught me a lesson to always, always make sure I have enough stock.”

It can be challenging to deal with customers online sometimes, especially since it’s just her and her family running the business. But after the business has grown, Iman has also learnt how to deal with difficult customers.

“However, if I am facing a problem, I will always refer to both of my parents to overcome the problems,” said Iman.

But she finally found an art to it.

“For school, I go to school every day like other students and also attend all school activities or extra co-curriculum. For social media, when I am free then I will engage my followers by sharing my photos, doing musical.ly or lives with them,” said Iman.

In the near future, Iman Safiyah will be looking to expand their collection of school scarves—ones for prefects, for sekolah agama, and etc.

Iman is also busy brainstorming ideas for her upcoming Raya collection, which will accompany her current three lines.

As for her aspirations, Iman does have the goal of becoming a businesswoman in the future. “Hopefully, everything goes well enough for me to achieve my goals,” said Iman.

Whether young or old, we think that age should not be a barrier to an entrepreneurship zeal. After all, as Iman shows, someone’s unique experience with their age might give them a perspective or business idea that someone else might never think of.

Of course, Empire Iman Safiyah’s scale is a relatively small one for now, but the fact that she has a registered business at all as a 14-year-old is certainly something worth talking about.

  • You can check out Empire Iman Safiyah on Instagram here

Feature Image Credit: Iman Safiyah

 

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