I’M horrifically late. Driving to the heart of Kuala Lumpur on a weekend is a task meant for the foolhardy. After weaving through traffic for more than an hour, I’m dishevelled, agitated and not just a little hungry for what’s supposed to be a leisurely lunch date with Intan Ilyani Ghazali and her daughter, Indah Khadeeja.
When I finally reach their table, my misery is compounded. While I look like a train wreck with my unbrushed hair and non-existent make-up, the mother-daughter pair look poised and tres chic. Brushing off my apologies with a wave of her hand, Intan beckons me to sit and immediately thrusts a menu into my hands. “Let’s eat first. You must be hungry,” she says with a smile.
I instantly take a liking to her despite the initial intimidating first impressions. Grinning and conspirational, she slips so readily into familiarity that it’s hard to imagine we’ve never met before. “Trust me,” she says, noticing my hesitation in deciding what to eat. Retrieving the menu back from my hands, she shares with a wink: “The food is good here,” and proceeds to order more food than we can possibly eat.
It’s this kind of confidence that has got her venturing into a field that’s completely new to her, after years of being in the banking industry. The new businesswoman has just launched her own cosmetic line, FACE & CO, with the introduction of her first product, a cushion foundation called True Foundation. “What better way to launch a cosmetic line than to start with the basics, the foundation!” she declares, grinning.
Getting down to the basics of research was something Intan had to do before proceeding fully into the beauty business. “I had to do my homework. Although I’ve always had a passion for beauty, I’ve had no experience running a business,” admits Intan, revealing that her decision to pursue her passion after 16 years as a full-time employee was something she’d always dreamt about. “It was time for me to build my own brand and spread my wings.”
She concedes that starting something new is always stressful and that although she was excited, she was also terrified at the same time. “You never know how people will respond to your brand or product. It’s the hardest but the most rewarding and exciting thing I’ve ever done,” she confesses.
It was a bold move — something which she’s gone on to conceptualise as a tagline for her brand of cosmetics: Be Bold. “I’m not just carrying a make-up brand; I’m spreading the lessons learnt from my own life experiences. Be bold and don’t be scared to express yourself. Go for a transformation. Be yourself but more,” she declares, adding passionately: “I love what I do. I love making people feel beautiful and showing them the endless possibilities when it comes to their beauty.”
The possibilities that lay before her were daunting. For the 38-year-old certified brand image consultant, the decision didn’t just involve her alone. Her teenage daughter would also be in the equation. “It wasn’t easy” she shares candidly. “But I knew nothing comes easy without hard work. And that I was prepared to do. Being a single mum actually equips you with a wealth of skills that comes in handy when you venture into entrepreneurship — multitasking, creativity, managing and operating on a budget, and problem-solving, they’re all useful!” she says, chuckling, as she gazes at her daughter affectionately.
Adding, she says softly: “Venturing into the unchartered territory of business is akin to wading through shark-infested waters at times. You realise that not everyone wants you to succeed. You get taken advantage of because some people know that you’ve got no back-up system, that you’re literally doing this on your own.”
However, bad experiences didn’t faze her from pushing ahead with her dreams. “I realise that I just have to work harder, learn the ropes and do a lot of research. I know that I shouldn’t cow down to condescension or people who think they can give me a lot of unwarranted advice just because I’m new and alone,” she adds with a determined tilt of her face.
It’s been a steep learning curve for Intan but she’s determined to plough through. With a tagline “Be Bold” as her campaign battle-cry, she’s all for promoting boldness to women out there. She emphasises that it’s not about simply selling a great piece of cosmetic and promoting beauty, rather, it’s about”... acknowledging the inner beauty which every woman possess and the message that we should be empowered to be who we want to be.”
Looking at her daughter with affection and love mingling in her eyes, she adds softly: “Being a mother is the most important and most humbling job I’ve ever had.
“As we celebrate motherhood, we should also give a nod to women who are raising children on their own. We need to do more to support them and that’s something I want to do eventually. I’d like to provide a platform for single mums to be part of this business model I’m building — simply because it’s my journey as well.”
BEING A MOTHER
Taking her daughter’s hand in hers, she says proudly: “She’s been an amazing support to me. It’s not been easy for her. She was only 7 when the divorce happened and she’s seen the struggle.”
The struggle is very real, confides Intan, as she recalls the days when she had to do a balancing act of raising her child single-handedly while managing a full-time banking career.
Eyes clouding at the memory, she shares: “I remember a time when my daughter was running a fever. I was up all night and had to drive her to the clinic at 3am. It was a working day and of course, I couldn’t go in to work that day. I’m just thankful I had an understanding boss who just told me to do what I needed to do, which was to take care of my daughter.”
Ruefully, she admits that she found it difficult to leave her daughter with babysitters. “She’s been living with different people since she was 10. On one hand, I had to ensure her safety and comfort and on the other, I had to ensure that I worked hard to be able to raise her well.”
Intan doesn’t discount the idea that perhaps what had happened to her propelled her to venture out on her own. “It has given me the opportunity to spend more time with my daughter now that she’s growing up,” she says with a smile. “I guess it will always be a balancing act but we’ve been through the tough times together and we’re doing just fine.”
“It has made us who we are today. We don’t like to rely on people and we’re independent,” chips in daughter Indah, with a smile. Looking at her mother, she says tongue in cheek: “It’s good that I’m already 14 and I need my own space, and you’re lucky I don’t kacau (disturb) you so much. Except when I’m hungry that is!”
Looking at them, it’s easy to see just how much the mother-daughter duo have in common. For one, they’re both inherently en pointe when it comes to fashion sense, acting as a pretty foil for one another’s signature style. Two, they embody mother-daughter relationship goals.
“We’re a team!” says Intan proudly. “I treat her like a friend. She’s free to talk about anything but she knows her boundaries. We’re friends but I’m still mum at the end of the day,” she says, grinning, as Indah rolls her eyes good-naturedly.
Enthuses Indah: “My mum is amazing. She’s a cool mum, and all my friends think so too. She’s been so independent and yet she has always valued family. She still takes care of her family back in Perlis to this day.”
Her daughter grows thoughtful as she adds: “When she got divorced, she had to raise me on her own. It’s been our journey — just the two of us, and I’ve learnt a lot from her example, to be honest.”
Putting a loving arm around her daughter, Intan adds: “It’s my faith in God and my determination that have kept me going through the tough times. I’m just blessed to have the opportunity to do what I do but I don’t take it for granted. I work hard and I try to raise Indah the best way I can.”
Concluding with a smile, Intan says enthusiastically: “If there’s anything I want to convey to all women out there is just do the best you can, work hard and move forward. You’ve got to recognise your own value, accept yourself, and have the confidence and courage to pursue your dreams. You’ve just got to be bold! “