On this particular Wednesday at their office in Hartamas, Tengku Chanela Jamidah and Didie Nasir are in the mood for reflecting. It’s almost noon and typically, plans for where to eat would be underway, but the founders of Dida and their team are working through lunch during the fasting month.
A clear glass wall on which beauty tear sheets are pasted haphazardly serves as one of the backdrops for our shoot, but contrary to the chaos on the wall, the “accidentally twinning” ladies in their navy blue getups are a picture of calm.
And why wouldn’t they be? They’ve been doing this a long time … having been involved in several businesses prior to Dida, they have the industry know-how, market knowledge and experience that’s brought them to where they are today: owners of an ever-expanding business with a seven-figure revenue, achieved in under two years.
“Sometimes we have to stop and reflect and recognise our achievements, when we first started we just kept going and going and when you’re the one involved in the business you don’t see it from the outside and when you take a step back, and you see everything that we’ve achieved in two years it’s pretty incredible,” says Jamidah, who also owns Thavia the label and has been heavily involved in the fashion industry for a decade.
“We basically started it by ourselves and we have our own personal responsibilites, families, children and other businesses. I feel like it’s not something that you can achieve so easily – the reason why I say that is we did it all on our own, there was no outside involvement, we didn’t take any loans, we are completely debt-free, no other investors, we did everything ourselves. It’s honestly quite overwhelming but also satisfying,” she adds.
Didie, founder of Dynda designs, says that they had the right instincts when they launched two years ago.
“We kind of knew it was the right time … Kylie (Jenner) launched her line as well, and we knew it was going to pick up,” she says. “We didn’t know how far we would go and to be able to survive for two years, we’ve been growing organically from day one. For such a small team that’s quite an accomplishment.”
At any one time, the team consisted of Didie and Jamidah, plus two to three staff on average.
The number of homegrown boutique cosmetics brands has been growing over the years, and while there are plenty of great brands, Dida’s edge is having managed to reach a level of brand identity that is international, being sold at numerous distributors, with their main source of revenue coming from their online sales.
“Sales are just very consistent on the website, we have online specials and products that are exclusively online but it’s more about people feeling like they’re connected to the brand,” says Jamidah, whose personal style is “effortless chic”.
Didie adds that the popularity of the brand also stems from making sure their products suit the Asian market.
“The undertones, we make sure we pick colours that are fashionable and in trend and also practical for our consumers. We understand the market, and while we do ship internationally most of our customers are from Malaysia. Perhaps they are not very adventurous with colours but the power of Dida is we are able to communicate to our consumers on how to use these colours, through tutorial content,” says Didie.
While the aim of every beauty brand is to make their customers look and feel good, Jamidah and Dida take it a step further – part of their vision is to empower women (their tagline is, after all, “By Women, For Women”, which is why they set up the La Dida curated bazaar, which just held its second instalment last weekend.
“It’s very important to show that as women you can achieve something if you put your mind to it,” says Didie. “It’s good to be financially independent, doing something that you love and following your dreams. We started La Didaand we weren’t afraid to bring vendors on board that were also cosmetics brands. Healthy competition is good! It’s ok to support your friends that have cosmetics brands.”
Jamidah continues, “It’s about supporting the local market, we don’t just have the beauty, fashion and lifestyle vendors, we have food as well – everyone needs a platform to showcase, so why not support each other and everyone benefits?”
“There are a lot of bazaars going on and we wanted it to have a different atmosphere, a different vibe, we wanted to throw a party! We have a lot of activities, we wanted to make it experiential so that when they leave they leave happy and engaged. Energy is very important – if you feel the right energy it’s like the ripple effect, we want people to feel that community vibe,” says Didie.
Having the bazaar during the month of Ramadan is also a plus – with stalls open until midnight, customers are able to shop after breaking fast.
On the topic of celebrating Raya, both ladies have found themselves reflecting a lot on what the season means for them and their families.
“For me this fasting month has taught me a lot about sacrifice, that my daugher is growing up, she’s 10 years old and hasn’t missed one day of puasa. My business is turning two, my brother and sister have just left for the US for their studies – this is a really meaningful month for me, there’s been a lot of self reflection as well. You look deep within yourself and get to know yourself a bit more,” says Jamidah, who also has a young son.
“My grandmother on my father’s side is not around anymore, our family just celebrates in KL rather than going back to Pahang, we need to make sure that we keep the traditions going and keep our family ties as well.”
Didie, whose father and mother are from Kedah and Terengganu respectively, sadly hasn’t been back to her kampung in five years.
“With ageing parents who aren’t feeling so well, if anything I would like to spend more time with them,” says Didie, who has two boys. “My husband lost his mother during the Raya month last year and it was really fast, it makes you realise just how blessed I am to have my parents around. As the eldest in the family, I feel like it’s my responsibility to take care of my parents and my siblings.”
Jamidah, also the oldest sibling in her family, grew up with one parent and completely understands the sacrifices one goes through for their family.
“That’s where I get my strength from – my mum – she’s so resourceful and giving, she’s doing so many things for everybody. I think with my daughter getting to be 10, it’s reassessing what I want for myself and my family, what’s the next step for you and them, at the end of the day you just want your children to be happy and as a mother you’ll sacrifce anything to give your children the best life possible.
“How do I keep that balance, how do I give them the best but how do I look after myself? Self care is also important, if you can’t look after yourself you won’t be able to look after them,” she adds.
With all the talk of family, before long, both are reminiscing on the Raya days of old, when they were children running around in their grandparents’ houses.
“Back when grandma was still around – my mum has 10 siblings and I have about 50 cousins, when we went back to Terengganu it was super happening, sleeping in the living room together, duit raya, fireworks, that’s what’s missing now, celebrating in the city,” recalls Didie. “That’s what I would like to have again, it’s really hard to get everyone together, everyone has their own families.”
“We used to go back to Kuantan and everyone, my uncles, aunts and cousins would go to my grandma’s house somewhere near Teluk Cempedak. My grandma has a massive living room and everyone would just sit around there just talking, the kids would be playing upstairs, all the kids would watch movies and play with fireworks, just the whole thing of experiencing things with your family,” says Jamidah.
As busy mothers with several businesses under their belts, Jamidah and Didie try to take time out for self-care, in different ways.
“I love massages but I’m really getting into the whole mindfulness aspect. I like to go for Sound Baths, alternative therapies like those wellness retreats where you do yoga, eat healthy. I feel like I need balance on the inside, your energy needs to be aligned, needs to be cleansed every so often,” says Jamidah.
For Didie, all she needs to unwind is alone time, where she can hear her own thoughts.
“Anywhere, even if it’s just on my bed, as long as I have that quiet space. I can’t sit still doing my hair and nails, massages … I feel like it takes forever and I’m not doing anything.”
Their brief Raya break may be coming up, but these ladies aren’t resting on their laurels anytime soon. With Dida doing well and a strong fan base behind it, they are looking to expand even more.
“We’ve captured the local market and we are ready to take Dida to a more international level. We are in negotiations with special partners to increase distribution but we’re also looking into partnering with someone that will be able to boost the brand,” says Jamidah. “You always have to innovate, keep up, do something fresh.”
Didie adds, “The market is really, really small it’s getting super saturated you have to either go big or go home!