“Work hard, be honest. Don’t give up, don’t take anything personally, and don’t take no for an answer. But ultimately, don’t waive people who are in need. You will benefit bountifully when you help others unconditionally,” is Nerfetiti Ahmad Nordin’s advice.
Since founding Mamayaya Zone in 2008, selling baby clothing and products online, Nerfetiti has transformed the business into several stages, with a homey brick and mortar store in Bandar Baru Bangi to date. “Unlike recently, e-commerce was almost unheard of then. So, I’m grateful for the response received since I started Mamayaya. I even had orders coming from Europe and the Middle East. After launching our first boutique store, our brand became stronger as customers continue to trust and believe in what we do.”
Everyone Fails, Even The Successful Ones
Every successful entrepreneur started somewhere. And for Nerfetiti, her journey started with golf. “When I came back to Malaysia in 1999, I opened a golf store without any strategic planning for it. I was not a golfer, nor do I like the sport in particular. The game was in fashion and I figured it would make a good business. But boy, was I wrong,” she laughs.
“I was a victim of several scams that almost ended my entrepreneurial journey.”
For one, she did not put into account that even the most dedicated of golfers do not frequently make big purchases. “They would come and buy golf balls or other accessories. But the biggest profit margin is in the golf club, which would last a good 3 to 5 years before the golfers would come around buying a new one. In addition to that, the other business owners in the industry did not appreciate someone as green as me competing with them. What’s more, I was also a victim of several scams that almost ended my entrepreneurial journey,” she adds.
On one occasion, she plainly admits to becoming a victim of the old-fashion cheque scam. “A company ordered 12 sets of golf clubs to be delivered to the office. When we were dropping of the merchandises, the location looked like your usual, proper running office, with employees and work boards. Things start to get suspicious when the cheque we tried to bank-in bounced. We quickly went back to the office to only be greeted by an empty lot. Despite all the unnecessary stress, the shop managed to survive for 8 long years before I finally sold the business off.”
The Silver Lining To The Dark Clouds
Nerfetiti sold the golf business for RM80,000 in 2008 and used the money to go to Mecca with her husband. The remaining balance, which was a mere RM2,000, was used to start her very first online store, Mamayaya Zone. “The name reflects the bond I have with my first daughter, Farah. As a toddler, she was unable to pronounce her name and would refer herself as Yaya. Consequently, it was the period where I was setting up the website. It just felt right to name it after her,” she fondly recalls.
Specialised in boutique-quality baby and kids apparels accessories, toys, books and gears, Nerfetiti started her own clothing line in 2010. “By the end of 2011, I have many customers coming to my house to either collect their merchandise or have a look at the products. Then, I have just given birth to my fourth child and it was quite inconvenient to have strangers knocking at our door in the middle of the night. So, I shifted to my first warehouse/showroom. It was also the time I started hiring people to help me.”
“At that point, I had more than 3 million unique visitors per month, but I lost all of the data in a split second. I was devastated.”
However, her first boutique was not planned. “It was the time when Bangi Gateway has just opened its doors. I was walking around when I saw the leasing poster. The next thing I know, I have put a deposit for a shop,” she amusingly narrates. On top of taking the first and second floor for Mamayaya, Nerfetiti also rented an area to put up a bouncy castle.
“I didn’t take the ground floor because the rent was too expensive. But it wasn’t long before I realised it was the biggest mistake I’d make. Pregnant woman and families with infants are less likely to visit the upper levels. Thankfully, the bouncy castle was doing great. I lasted two years there before moving out to Bangi Sentral in 2015 and later in 2017, here at Seksyen 15.”
“You can be at your peak one moment and down to the pits the next”
Nerfetiti’s lowest point came in 2013 when Mamayaya’s website was hacked and crashed. “At that point, I had more than 3 million unique visitors per month, but I lost all of the data in a split second. I was devastated. That incident prompted me to focus my business offline. I even bought over a spa business and an aerobic studio,” she says.
Sadly, that was not the end of her misfortune: an ex-staff of Mamayaya, who has worked with Nerfetiti for 4 years, stole approximately Rm 63,000 from the company. “The amount came up during the yearly auditing. After a thorough investigation and careful trackback, we found the culprit. Honestly, it hurts not because of the money, but because I treated her like family and the betrayal was heart-breaking.It was my mistake in some part for trusting my staff so blindly,” she informs but strongly believes that there is a lesson to be learned in every tragedy. “I take it positively. Even if I lose money, I should never lose myself.”
Many businesses are created with the main goal of generating lots of cash for the owners. Some for self-branding. Nerfetiti has other plans. In addition to developing better strategies in sales and marketing in line with the market demand, the mother of six is also heavily involved in various CSR events that promote breastfeeding and parenting.
“We work closely with private and government-linked hospitals. We even have our own mummy support circle to help new parents cope with their baby. All in all, Mamayaya became so popular, it inspired other mothers to set their own e-commerce as well. And I take pride in knowing I’ve motivated stay-at-home mothers to be independent.”
“People make the mistake of not having enough cash flow to roll out the business. And it hurts me to see promising businesses shut down.”
Nerfetiti emphasises that each business that she is involved in is aimed at helping others. “Even my latest product, MY URI was designed to help new parents properly clean and manage their newborn’s uri (placenta) with ease. And I want my children to carry that same spirit with them should they plan to start their own business. We’re also planning and preparing on our own line of organic natural baby care products for local and export market in this near future.”
Never Judge A Book By Its Cover
While owning a retail shop looks good, the expectation is not the same as the reality. Nerfetiti suggestion is to have a good (sizeable) capital and an excellent skill at costing before starting a business. “People make the mistake of not having enough cash flow to roll out the business. And it hurts me to see promising businesses shut down. The reality is, you need money to grow money. And even if you have the money, you need to how to manage your cash flow, your staff and your business. It’s not as easy as you think it would be.” However, the most important element when it comes to being your own boss is to have a proper supportive team.
“They (My children) are the reason why I keep on going. My business will one day be their heritage.”
“My family, especially my husband and mother, has been tremendous throughout my entrepreneurial journey and I’m truly grateful for that. Of course, I can never be where I am today without my 6 beautiful children. They are my backbone and true supporters. They are the reason why I keep on going. My business will one day be their heritage,” Nerfetiti beams, highlighting that the challenge in business is not to be as successful as other entrepreneurs but to be proud of what you’re doing.
“In spite of my string of misfortunes, I can confidently say that I’m at a good place. I have a happy family. My staff are happy. And I’m still able to help those in need. It’s not about making or losing money anymore. My vision was never to have 100 outlets within the next few years. I don’t have that kind of dream. I have my heart set right to helping the community and I consider it as part of my business.”