In person, Farhan Nadia Bakly exudes an ethereal beauty with a pleasant and reserved persona, but inside, this mother of two is built with determination and discipline—the most important traits a businesswoman needs.
There is a sparkle in Nadia’s eyes when she speaks about her handmade leather shoe brand, Bebebundo, particularly when she refers to it as her baby. A term so precious that I instantly knew what passion drives her entrepreneurial journey.
In retrospect, Nadia never really saw herself ending up a sewist and a designer. Though she graduated with an Engineering degree from Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, United States of America, Nadia knew she was not cut out for the engineering life.
“It was not my favorite field, honestly. I knew that I did not want to pursue a career in engineering after I graduated,” she said, laughingly, as she reminisced about her years of studying in the USA.
After graduation, Nadia had a short stint in banking, and then delved into business development for a private company. It was during that time that she began learning how to sew, mostly from her late mother who had a talent for sewing and crafting.
“Everyone in the family knows how to sew, I am sort of the late bloomer,” Nadia admitted.
In no time, Nadia was caught up in her new hobby and found herself sewing and selling baby items like hairbands, bibs, and baby shoes under the brand name Bebebundo. While she attended office in the day, her nights were spent on sewing. As time went by, there was a surge in demand for her handmade items, which led her to leave her full-time job to fully focus on her handmade business.
“I found joy in sewing. Although it is now my fulltime job, I have never felt like it’s a burden, compared to waking up for a 9 to 5 job,” she said.
Perhaps the name Bebebundo was also conceived out of her joy in making beautiful handmade items for babies, as the name “Bebe” means baby in French, and “Bundo” means mother in the native dialect of Minangkabau, an ethnic group from her hometown of Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia.
The idea for sewing moccasins, soft-sole leather shoes, came when she was looking high and low for a moccasin for her baby daughter, Zulaikha. Her search came to no avail, but instead of making do, she came to a revelation that she could actually make it herself, so she gave it a go.
In the beginning, making mocassins out of leather materials was a completely new thing for her, but determined to make it work, Nadia took her time to acquire the right tools and taught herself until she finally came up with her first pair.
“I did a lot of experiments, gradually learning through trial and error, and by reading on the Internet,” she said.
Today she specializes in making impressively designed children’s moccasins, and has even expanded her collection into hard-soled leather shoes for toddlers.
When it comes to running her business, Nadia is tactful and plays it smart. Being a mother means she needs to cleverly divide her time, especially when to focus on sewing and when to focus on her children and family.
“I could go on for hours when I start sewing. I used to do it at home, but I realized that I needed a proper studio to help me draw a line between work and family,” said the dedicated entrepreneur and mother.
In 2016, she finally opened her own showroom and studio in Shah Alam, where she runs her business. Refurbished from an old bungalow, the showroom is aptly named Space@Bebebundo, and the tastefully designed space is also available for rental.
Nadia’s dedication to her work is evident in her designs and workmanship. A meticulous sewist with attention to details, she pours her heart into the design and sewing process, and makes sure that each of her products comes as she intends them. Her inspiration has always been her own children, who also grow alongside her brand.
Currently she runs her business mostly by herself as founder, designer, and sewist; with the help of a few assistants. Curious and fascinated by her capabilities to keep things going, I asked if she could share her secret.
“I believe in being disciplined and not making excuses. Granted that excuses are sometimes valid, but it should not be the thing that stops you from keeping on,” she said humbly, but full of conviction.
As we ended the conversation, I asked for a piece of advice she would like to share with other women who aspire to venture into business, particularly in the handmade and home-based industry.
“Things are never easy, but persevere and push through, no matter how hard it hits at you.”