The process of self-enrichment and acquiring new knowledge should never stop throughout a person’s life. Living by this principle, Asfarena Samion, CEO and Founder of Arena Fashion and Design Institute has come a long way in the tailoring industry. What started as a mere pastime has turned out to be a successful entrepreneurial journey of 20 years thus far. Asfarena shares her recipe for success and what keeps her flame burning in this chat session with Top 10 of Malaysia.
In essence, the word, ‘idle’ is never in Asfarena Samion’s dictionary. A self-motivated woman with a pleasant persona, Asfarena is well-organized and is always one step ahead in what she does.
In the late 90s, she left her full-time job in the banking industry to take care of her family and children, but that did not stop her from achieving success in life.
“I am so used to having something to do during my free time, so I decided to learn to sew traditional clothes from a local tailor,” says Asfarena. By the year 2000, she had gained the skills to sew beautiful clothes for her family and that was when she decided to turn it into a small business.
“My late mother was sceptical that a tailor can go far in business. I told her that I will one day become a successful tailor,” she says as she recalls the negativity that she received from the people around her. Later, when her family moved to Kuala Lumpur, Asfarena started collecting orders from people working in offices.
“I saw how lucrative the tailoring business was in the big city. Office workers need traditional clothes to wear to work, but they don’t have time to find a tailor. So I decided to go to them, measure, sew and deliver the clothes once they are done,” says Asfarena.
Operating solely on her own and from home, her business started to flourish mostly by word of mouth and traditional marketing.
“Besides taking customised orders, I also took the chance to improve my skills and started attending formal classes under the government skills programme,” Asfarena shares.
She then pursued a diploma course from the Bangkok Fashion School and involved herself in Program Pembangunan Usahawan MARA, where she was inspired by successful entrepreneur, Datuk Wira Dr Maznah Hamid.
Asfarena has learned a lot during her early days, including beading skills while working as a part-time beader for prominent fashion designer, Michael Ong.
With discipline and efficient time-management, Asfarena persevered and finally opened her own tailoring boutique in 2003 where she continued taking orders for clothing and beadings.
Two years later, she ventured into training where she started to provide tailoring skills training to big groups of students. Having a knack for teaching and a passion for helping others, Asfarena founded her own teaching center two years later.
“With my hard-earned money, I bought two lots of shophouses to start Arena Fashion and Design Institute (AFDI) here in Subang Perdana,” she says with a sense of pride.
In 2007, the institute opened its doors to the public and became a skills training center accredited by Jabatan Pembangunan Kemahiran under the Ministry of Human Resources.
“Our training is funded by Perbadanan Tabung Kemahiran, where we certify selected students with Sijil Kemahiran Malaysia Level 1 to 4. These are formally recognized certificates issued by the Government,” she says.
Now that AFDI is running well, Asfarena has ventured into providing skills training mentoring programmes in collaboration with Ainon Business School.
As a Skill Expert Icon of Jabatan Pembangunan Kemahiran, Asfarena also helps new business owners to excel in their entrepreneurial journey through business seminars.
“There is nothing more satisfying than watching people grow in their business. I have had my ups and downs, and now I want to share my knowledge with others,” she says.
Even so, Asfarena still has a lot of plans for AFDI for the future and she is not showing any signs of slowing down. “What accompany me in my journey forward are focus, discipline, and commitment,” she says.