Siti Hawa Ismail and Ahmad Faisal Hisham come from a background that has little to do with interior design. Siti Hawa holds a degree in aerospace engineering while Faisal is a trained software developer. However, they have emerged as a significant player in the industry after having overcome the odds. Top 10 of Malaysia had a recent chat with this power couple, Siti Hawa and Faisal, founders of Laurea Home Furnishing on their journey to success.
Siti Hawa Ismail has always been keen on the idea of entrepreneurship. “I really like doing business,” says the 39-year-old Siti Hawa. Initially, she was not quite sure of the type of business she would like to venture into. She experimented with various types of products that she would sell. Her husband, Ahmad Faisal Hisham, supported her every step of the way.
The couple eventually settled for English-styled bed sheet sets which were in great demand back then and they went all the way to China to customize their personal bed sheet sets. According to Faisal who is fluent in French, the word Laurea was inspired by the word ‘lauréat’ which means “award winner”. In 2007 Siti Hawa and Faisal opened their first outlet in Putra Heights, Selangor carrying only bed sheets sets. “The shop was filled with thousands and thousands of bed sheet sets,” recalls Siti Hawa. However, the shop’s signboard promoted much more, listing curtains and furniture too and with customers requesting for more products, they expanded their product range in 2008. “We included wallpapers, sofa upholstery, wall-to-wall carpets – basically almost everything,” reveals Siti Hawa.
Having observed the different ways people set up their houses through visiting clients’ homes, Siti Hawa and Faisal gradually began to learn more about interior design. “We have no background whatsoever in interior designing,” admits Faisal. “We learned from experience,” says Siti Hawa. Their interior design services started with terrace houses and gradually progressed to cover semi-detached houses and bungalows.
Today, Laurea Home Furnishing is a one-stop destination for those who seek to transform their homes into a beautiful work of art. Built-in cabinets, wainscoting, curtains, blinds, flooring – you name it, Laurea has it! Behind the scene is a spectrum of expertise provided by a workforce ranging from consultants to architects to labourers ensuring quality and a seamless workflow. “I want to give the best to my clients,” says Siti Hawa with a sense of pride.
Laurea Home Furnishing covers two double-storey shop lots and is now a showroom designed to evoke various concepts one can opt for their homes. Every corner presents a different theme to suit different preferences. It is no easy task to beautify a house. The quotation itself takes two weeks to be prepared as it is time-consuming to gather site measurements, produce conceptual designs and preliminary designs. Depending on the work that needs to be done, the time taken to complete a job could be as long as seven months. Being in business, challenges are indeed an everyday affair. As leaders of the company, Siti Hawa and Faisal reveal that they do not hesitate to help their workers with the messy work during renovations. “We’re used to it,” they say.
On how they managed to get this far in a trade they knew nothing about, Siti Hawa is quick to attribute it to the values of passion, focus and being a fast-learner. Faisal on the other hand, credits his experience in research and development where much studying, willingness and perseverance influenced his approach in learning about interior design and home furnishings. The knowledge gained since the first day of establishing their business has been constantly evolving and shaping who they are today. Siti Hawa and Faisal are the perfect business couple as she reveals that while she is a big risk-taker, Faisal is more careful. “We complement each other.”
For those yearning to be in business, their advice is to follow passion when selecting a business. “Don’t overthink it. Instead, you must start and get it done. Don’t give up easily,” says Siti Hawa. “Having good common sense is essential too,” Faisal adds.