Walking Tall

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Having always been an avid shoe collector with a deep interest in shoe fashion, she took it a step further by converting her passion into a career – a fruitful one at that too. It was no easy feat, as she had to work her way up to where she is today. In a chat with Top 10 of Malaysia, Dato’ Normah Ibrahim better known as Emma, CEO of Red Profile Sdn Bhd talks about the success of her company and her future business plans.

Dato’ Normah Ibrahim graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration and with that qualification she secured a role as a financial planner at CIMB Bank in her hometown of Kuching, Sarawak. Emma eventually moved to an oil and gas company in Kuala Lumpur where she was offered the role of Chief Executive Officer.

However, when she remarried, her husband convinced her to return to Kuching. “I didn’t want to come back and be a housewife,” she says. “So, he asked me to do business. He said whatever I’d like to do, he will support me,” she adds. Her self-professed love for shoes pushed her to venture into the footwear industry and Emma’s realization of the lack of leather shoe manufacturers in Sarawak encouraged her even more. So, she took it very seriously from day one. “I went to the United States of America to learn how to make shoes, from high heels to safety boots and even brook shoes,” the former student of Ohio’s International Shoemaking Design School explains.

In 2005, Emma started her company, Red Profile Sdn Bhd. When asked about the choice for the name of her company, she was quick to state that ‘Red’ is her favourite colour and ‘Profile’ is taken from the word ‘high-profile’, a term she is rather fond of.

Since its inception, her company has been responsible for supplying leather footwear for the uniform bodies in Sarawak that range from the police force to RELA and even nurses in hospitals. “We are currently expanding our business to the Middle East,” she adds. Today, aside from safety shoes they are well-known for, Red Profile produces a fashionable line of shoes that goes by the brand, Emma Daniel.

Gaining recognitions from Sirim QAS International Sdn Bhd and the Science & Technology Research Institute for Defence (STRIDE), the quality of Red Profile’s shoes simply cannot be denied. In addition, Emma’s accolades include the Asia TOP Business Awards in 2016, Asia Pacific Entrepreneurship Award 2016 and Usahawan Ikon Karnival Usahawan Desa 2016 Sarawak.

Nevertheless, it was not always easy for Emma. “I had to use all my savings to start the business,” she reveals, adding that she is grateful for Red Profile’s achievements regardless and how much it has accomplished. “I never expected it to grow this big because I thought I was only doing it as a hobby,” the proud mother of four admits. She hopes that one day Red Profile will expand further to other parts of the world.

Besides shoes, Emma is also busy working to produce her own cosmetics products under the brand name, Samara. The first product range is expected to include lipsticks made from natural ingredients and men’s wash made with special ingredients originating from Sarawak.

Balancing her hectic work schedule and personal life is indeed a challenge but according to Emma, time management is essential in making the most out of both worlds. On her management and leadership style, she claims to be strict with her staff. “But if you do your job well, you will be rewarded,” Emma adds.

Her advice to those who seek to succeed in business would be to have an earnest attitude. “Do something you love. Do it with honesty and sincerity. You cannot rush. You have to start slow and study the market. You need to start from the bottom to reach the top,” she shares.