Taking Entrepreneurship to New Frontiers

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The House of Ridz Okumura Sdn Bhd is a well-established Malaysian brand in the hair care scene. The company started by the husband-and-wife team, Abdul Ridzuan bin Abdul Mutalib and Akiko Okumura, in 2010, has grown into a million-dollar business consisting of three salons and a florist. Through strategic networking and marketing, a loyal team and financial prudence, the company built a steadfast loyal customer base that included celebrities and royalty. Based on customers’ demand, the services are augmented with a niche product line. The formulation of hair care products based on European and British hair care standards is a success. In an interview with Top 10 of Malaysia, Ridz spoke on his entrepreneurial journey including his background, the challenges of current product lines and services, and future development plans.

Ridz from Parit, Perak has travelled a long way, both logistically and career-wise, before embarking on his entrepreneurial efforts in hair care services. “I come from the school of hard knocks,” acknowledges Ridz. “Coming from a family of ten, we struggled for a living. My first job was planting oil palms and despite the odds, it was a success.”

“Subsequently I moved to Kuala Lumpur and gained experience from a multitude of careers whilst simultaneously picking up pointers about business strategies, people and the environment. The jobs range from sanitation endeavours and sales to frontline hotel positions. Along the way, I met my Japanese wife, Akiko Okumura who has been a pillar of strength in building my career,” smiles Ridz.  

“In 2009, to realise our entrepreneurial dreams, my wife and I formed a business partnership called the House of Ridz Okumura,” recollects Ridz, “That was a turning point in our lives.” 

“My passion is to convert people’s hair into their crowning glory,” says Ridz, “The experience gained from training and hands-on work gave me the confidence to enter the field of hair care services. Further, our research indicated a good market potential for luxury hair care services at affordable prices.”

The first salon opened in Subang Jaya in 2010, followed by another salon in Johor Bahru in 2016 to cater to Singaporean customers and in 2021 the third salon opened at the Concorde Hotel, Kuala Lumpur. A florist business called Bunga by Ridz Okumura was also started in 2018.

“The early years were a big challenge,” admits Ridz, “Various marketing strategies including Groupon and distributing 5,000 flyers were not a success. Subsequently through intensive networking and association with local celebrities we gained publicity,” elaborates Ridz. “From there the business took off.”

“We targeted the right market segment and our revenues today are a testament that we are on the right path. Our customer base in Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and Indonesia is growing strongly with about 289,000 online followers.”

“When we started the business, it was more of trying our luck,” explains Ridz, “It was only after two years when things stabilised that we were able to have the vision of becoming a well-known brand in hair services.” 

Ridz’s personality and people-management skills in attracting and retaining customers and staff is a major contributing factor to the company’s success. Also, a highly committed 50-member team has contributed significantly towards the company’s growth. “Our personalised services have resulted in high customer retention,” says Ridz. “We ensure that customers’ concerns are resolved satisfactorily. Similarly, we assure them of the quality of our products.”  

There are two companies, the House of Ridz Okumura Sdn Bhd and Ridz Okumura Essentials Marketing Sdn Bhd for the product lines. “Our strategy to be at the forefront of the local hair services industry requires in-depth overseas and local research,” explains Ridz. “We improve the quality of services by removing obsolete services and products while incorporating innovations.”

The wide range of services offered includes hair styling, colouring, scalp treatment, bonding and perming at prices affordable to the average consumer. “The scalp treatment for hair issues will produce results within one to two weeks,” assures Ridz.

“We have augmented our services with a range of exclusive hair products formulated in Europe and the United Kingdom,” explains Ridz. “The two product ranges based on exclusivity and price are premium Ridz Okumura and Ridz Okumura Essentials. During the MCO phase, we launched the Essentials range to cater to a wider segment of our customer base.”

“A striking milestone we have achieved is becoming well known amongst Malaysian celebrities and royalty,” says Ridz. “Furthermore, the awards and recognition of our services by the Autism Society of Malaysia can be considered as one of our milestone achievements in CSR activities.”

“The expansion of our salons from one to three today plus the diversification into the florist industry are milestones that signify our business expansion,” says Ridz. “We sell about a thousand units of our products weekly and have an estimated customer base of about 200,000.”

“Notable challenges existed from the initial days of operations,” recollects Ridz, “We had to work from early morning until late night when we had to create awareness of our services. The lack of social media meant things were not as easy compared to nowadays. Starting from ground zero was a big challenge.”

“Getting the right niche formulations that are effective and suited to local customers is another big challenge,” explains Ridz, “Our quality testing of products stretches up to six months before being used on customers. My management and leadership style are based on collaboration and teamwork,” says Ridz, “I have close communications with all my staff and ensure there is teamwork between staff. We are a relatively small team so it is easy for close interactions.”

“As we are customer-focused, their feedback is the main benchmark used to manage staff performance,” says Ridz. “A lot of empathy and flexibility is required. Problems are resolved through discussions. My staff are a key inspiration for me to bring the company forward.”  

“Currently we have plans to venture into the educational field and include the establishment of a hair service educational academy,” says Ridz. “We have started the pilot educational programmes in collaboration with the Human Resources Development Fund of Malaysia or HRDF where we train about 200 potential hair stylists. In five years, the academy will be an established institution. And in ten years, we are projecting to have our very own building. Our collaboration with established companies like AirAsia will pave the way for more such collaborations with other companies.”  

“Work-life balance is more tilted towards my home life as I enjoy spending time with my family. I have a reliable, supportive and experienced team who handles daily operations,” says Ridz. “I am in close contact with the office while working at home. For me, that is a balance.”

“My greatest achievement in life is my family, my wife Akiko Okumura and son Sky Okumura, and also the businesses I have established,” says Ridz with pride. “My advice to young people is to be astute in selecting opportunities and work hard with determination,” adds Ridz. “Gain experience in any field and grow from it.”

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