Ask any fashionista what their dream is and the common answer is to have their own fashion line. A passion for fashion is essential to build a fashion empire but building a strong brand presence to complement that passion is just as important but many has failed to do that. One successful entrepreneur who has hit the nail on the head is Nur Hidayu Zorkafli, Founder and Marketing Director of Shawlpublika. She shares with Top 10 Malaysia on how she found her brand’s signature and how her strong online presence has elevated the brand’s success.
In her late twenties, Nur Hidayu Zorkafli is part of a new breed of entrepreneurs. Her age puts her in the Gen Y category and as a Gen Y entrepreneur, she aptly started a business out of passion whilst cleverly harnessing the power of digital resources and collaborations.
In 2012, Hidayu graduated from Universiti Teknologi MARA with a degree in building survey which landed her at her first job in a construction company. She then subsequently moved to the oil and gas industry as a Procurement Executive. A fashion enthusiast at heart, Hidayu took every opportunity to dress up to the nines, even when her job required her to visit off-shore facilities. Revered by colleagues and friends for her fashion sense, many started coming to consult her on the latest fashion and dressing styles.
Eager to share her passion for fashion, she finally introduced Shawlpublika in 2014 as a part-time business selling “crumple shawl”, a unique hijab she sourced in bulk via the world-renowned online marketplace, Ali Express. “At first, everything was sold offline. After posting photos of myself wearing my shawls on Instagram, more demand came in which prompted me to start selling online,” says Hidayu. Shortly after, Hidayu left her full-time job to focus on Shawlpublika. She attributes her success to her husband, Iskandar A. Suffian, for playing an instrumental role in her decision and shares that his entrepreneurial spirit and encouragement are one of the many things that keep her moving forward.
“Shawlpublika took off after it went online. Social media is a powerful tool and it is a big part of our marketing strategy,” shares Hidayu. To date, the brand proudly boasts a stunning 190,000 followers on Instagram. Shawlpublika made a breakthrough when its followers started noticing a saree baju kurung that Hidayu designed and was wearing at the time. A new demand grew, leading to her travels to many provinces in India to source for authentic sarees for a new saree-inspired line comprising traditional baju kurung and contemporary doll-tops. Saree inspirations became Shawlpublika’s signature trademark as its clientele expanded, from the young and vibrant, to the rich and cultured. The demand seems to run into over time, something even Hidayu did not foresee.
“I thought it was only a seasonal thing, but apparently sarees are evergreen,” she says. “People have associated Shawlpublika with beautiful sarees, and I intend to keep it that way,” she adds proudly. Hidayu continues to build her brand by collaborating with online fashion influencers who wear Shawlpublika clothing and post it on Instagram. This type of engagement brings a double exposure to the brand, making it the perfect social media strategy for a fashion label to adopt in this massive digital era.
The brand’s strong online presence has also opened up doors for Shawlpublika. Major Malaysian online fashion curators like Zalora and Fashion Valet now carry the brand and Shawlpublika recently did its inaugural runway show during the Malaysia Fashion Week 2016. Come Aidilfitri 2017, Shawlpublika will also venture into international shores, starting with Indonesia. It is still a long way to go for Shawlpublika but Hidayu never looks back. An endearing persona, Hidayu is nothing short of being determined and disciplined in her business endeavours.
When asked of her advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, she shares that a thirst for knowledge is key! “Stay focused, but similarly, be open to new ideas and have an endless thirst for knowledge to improve yourself,” she says encouragingly.