Leaving the corporate life to pursue your passion while juggling family is no mean feat, but husband and wife team Anas and Erina are proof that you can make it work!
1. Tell us a bit about yourselves ?
Erina: Just turned 30 this year, a mother of two, and an engineer turned entrepreneur. I’m a very simple, practical and straight-to-the-point person. My friends say I’m boring because I like black and white (and grey!) but hey they’re so easy to match! Currently learning to master the skills of organizing and multi-tasking. I don’t bother much about bags and shoes and make ups, but I’m always looking forward to my next holiday destination! Oh, and I hate ironing.
Anas: I’m a Klang boy and I dream big. I’m also very competitive and get easily challenged when people bring me down. I’m an avid reader. I’m read, every-day. One of my big wish is to see more Muslims to unite and starts praying 5 times a day. Only by praying 5 times a day then a Muslim can strive to be champion in the world and hereafter.
2. What’s it like working as a husband and wife team?
Erina: To be honest, I can’t think of anyone else to be my business partner. We’re both the ying & yang to one another. He sees and sets the goal, I plan on how to get there. I’m good at production, he’s good at marketing.
I see him, ALL the time! Although we try not to, we talk about the business (and everything else as well) everywhere we go, from breakfasts to late night pillow talks. Because of this and also because we always talk from different angles, we argue a lot too. But they almost always end up for the better - like a continuous business and self-audit; a check and balance. And it makes the business stronger.
It’s nice, you know. To work with someone who shares the same mission: for the family & for the ummah.
Anas: It’s definitely a dream in which not everyone can have right? My wife is my colleague in the office and wife at home. We talk about almost everything ranging from the topics of family, business and religion most of the time. We are lucky because of the shared dreams that we have and therefore we have no issues of working together as a team.
3. What motivated you to start the Zaahara brand?
Erina: The love of Allah. I wanted to do a business that has a purpose for the Ummah.
Anas: Zaahara came into picture after our journey from Umrah in 2012. We decided to venture into Islamic business as there were not many back then. Along the way, we discovered the joy of selling telekung (the prayer wear for the ladies) as it gave us the room to connect with other Muslimah around the globe. Besides that, it also enables us to do da'wah in a subtle manner.
4. One of your most popular products is the Sofia Travel Telekung. Could you tell us a bit more about why it’s every Muslimah’s travel essential?
Erina: The Sofia travel telekung says a lot about me - simple and practical. It is something that I’ve always wanted for myself and for other Muslimahs out there. To pray with ease and comfort with this travel telekung.
It is perfect for travelling because it is light, comfortable and convenient! Many ladies love the material because it’s not too heavy to be carried around and not too light and flimsy when worn. What I like most about it is the fact that I can just fold it any way I want, and just shove it into its bag and I’m ready to go! - told you I’m THAT practical.
Anas: Being a Muslimah does not restrict you from other activities. Almost all modern Muslimahs are active and always on the go these days. Due to life priorities, we know that the telekung travel is definitely a MUST-HAVE item. Having a telekung travel that is light and convenient will definitely allow Muslimahs to pray with comfort. It gives them the flexibility to pray without having the need to use the waqaf telekung at suraus and musollahs. .
At the end of the day, every Sister prefers comfort and how can we eliminate this need when meeting the Almighty?
5. Tell us something interesting/unique about the telekung? For example, do styles differ across different countries?
We both have the same answer for this: The ‘telekung’ or sometimes known as ‘mukena’ is a women’s prayer wear popularly known in the Malay Archipelago. Telekung is a two-piece garment, a khimar (long hijaab) and a skirt. They are long and flowy, enveloping the wearer and adding a touch of grace to one's movements.
Traditionally, we are accustomed to wearing white-coloured telekung because it symbolizes purity. However these days, many are opting coloured telekungs (our best selling colour is black!) because of their opacity and simply because wearing your favourite colours brings out the best in them!
Our aim is to introduce the telekung to other Muslimahs around the world as it can help more Muslimah to pray with ease and comfort; confident that their aurah is covered.
6. Can you tell us what has been surprising for you since staring the Zaahara brand?
Erina: That there are ladies who collect telekungs! We have encountered customers who make sure they have our telekungs in each colour!
Another suprising fact, 80% of Muslims in Malaysia DO NOT pray 5 times a day. And that those people that you think DO NOT pray, actually pray (not just the wajibs but the sunnahs!) and are also very very generous in giving telekungs away. So, please, don’t judge. Prayer is a private thing between you and Allah SWT.
Anas: I am able to be a sister! Being an online entrepreneur and startup, there are many things which I need to do. Just to share – I am the CEO, I am the operations, I am the customer services, I am Mr everything. So there are times while communicating with customers, I need to be ‘Sarah’ or ‘Anis’ as this is to ensure high level of comfort.
7. Do you have any advice for those who want to leave their corporate jobs to pursue their passions?
Erina: Firstly, make sure your passion pays! Secondly, is to make sure that you have a strong self-discipline and strong determination and that you are ready to work hard, out of your comfort zone. One important thing to note: You don’t have more time when you work on your own, but you have more flexible time.
Anas: Firstly, leaving a corporate job to pursue passion is great but do take note that it is not easy. Your life might change. The pressure can sky rocket. You will need lots of tissues to wipe the tears later. LOL.
Here’s a few things:
- Solat istiqarah and make lots of doa
- Learn the basic fundamentals (basic business maths, communication in business, life planning, mentors, do a lot of readings and surround with business people)
- Enjoy the ride
- Failure is not everything
8. How has travelling changed for you from before you were married and now that you have a family?
Erina: We now search for kids-friendly places to visit when planning for a holiday. And our daily schedules revolves around the kids routine (nap time, snack time etc). And packing! Oh myyyy… the packing bit!
Anas: Before I was married, I can just travel without any prior planning. Now, with 2 kids, definitely things have changed and I can’t just travel without planning. Our test with 2 kids will begin this June where we will be travelling to UK for a month. We’ll see how the adventure will turn out. ?
9. What are some of your favourite travel destinations as a family?
Erina: Ubud, Bali - there’s always something serene and peaceful about that place.
Penang! - We love to eat! And Penang just has it all! We will have a list of places to eat for breakfast, brunch, lunch, tea time, dinner, and supper! And then, there’s the beach.
Anas: I would prefer Ubud in Bali, New Zealand, Makkah and also Penang.
10. What’s the one thing you can’t live without when travelling?
Erina: My Sofia travel telekung of course!
Anas: Definitely a few books to read along. I just can’t!
11. Fill in the blanks: Our hope for the world is that ______
Erina: People learn to live with a purpose.
Anas: People will start to embrace the differences that God has created and learn to live in peace and harmony.