Fascinated by business as a child, be it through selling kuih or working at a restaurant for a mere RM2.50 per day, Darwennah Siska, founder and CEO of Preciousbysiska Sdn Bhd has certainly come a long way. This gutsy entrepreneur evidently comes from humble beginnings and although those times may seem daunting, she has fond memories of them. Speaking to Top 10 of Malaysia, Siska shares her experiences, her passions and the business that she has successfully nurtured.
Growing up in a single-parent household, self-driven Darwennah Siska is fourth among five siblings. “I’ve always enjoyed working. At age eight, I asked my mom to make some kuih for me to sell at weddings in the village,” shares the Sabahan. Siska learns things from experience and attributes her determination to her mother who ran small-time businesses, but points out that the decision to go into business herself was entirely her own. “I saw her go through difficulties, yet never once think of giving up,” says Siska with pride. Upon leaving school, she took on a day job whilst part-timing as a property agent in Malacca for 10 years to help her mother out. There, she would often sketch designs in her free time.
This was when a friend requested help to find a buyer for a property promising RM279,000 in commission but when she found a buyer, the money never came. This was the first bump in the road for her. Siska then decided to acquire proper technical knowledge in fashion since she has a great passion for it. “I saved up to join Akademi Melia and completed 3 courses of study before my mentor, Datin Sri Azela introduced me to Ridzuan Ismail from Wanpa fashion house who are now my mentors too,” Siska explains. After completing an internship with Wanpa, she decided to continue working there for 2 years.
It was about this time that Siska thought to herself, ‘Until when am I going to work for others?’ Then she went on to open her first Preciousbysiska boutique in 2015 with the support from her friends, family and mentors. For her brand name, she draws inspiration from the word ‘precious’ as it refers to something of value and she wants wearers to treat clothes as precious commodities. “At the start, it was just me handling orders on my own and my sister helping with operations. It was a challenge as I had a lot of walking to do in sourcing out for materials, but I enjoyed it,” Siska shares. Despite receiving 30-40 ready-to-wear (RTW) orders in the first month, she was only able to take 20.
Today, Preciousbysiska does RTW, made-to-measure (M2M), wedding design and supplies materials to over 20 boutiques in Malaysia. Siska says she is proud of what her brand has accomplished. “After just 2 years, we now have clients from Scotland, Philippines, Australia, Brunei, Singapore and Indonesia,” she explains. Preciousbysiska’s latest is its 5th summer collection inspired by floral patterns and brings the peplum back. The two-piece jumpsuit appears as a one-piece for practicality, with materials imported from Korea. She shares that it is suited for Muslimah fashionistas too. The challenges Siska faces in her business include getting quality materials and having to deal with uncollected orders.
Having been cheated on numerous occasions, she now keeps most things to herself but her milestones are impressive. “I’m privileged to have VVIP customers and my twelve designs lined the runway at Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week 2016,” she shares. As a leader, Siska is approachable but can be strict when necessary. She is also confident and straightforward, drawing inspiration from moguls like Victoria Beckham, Kimora Lee Simmons’ and Dato’ Rizalman Ibrahim. “I’m determined to succeed to look after my family as they are my first priority. I can find money easily but I can’t find another family,” the petite entrepreneur with a big heart explains. Her advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is direct.
“Firstly, you must pray. Secondly, you must have your parents’ blessings. It is also important to learn by working with others for experience, and to persevere, be charitable and provide for your parents no matter how small the sum. I’m always open to advising those interested in opening an online boutique,” she offers.