In search of comfy and trendy workout threads that are easy on the budget, founder of Ash Be Nimble, Hui Mathews, curated her own sweat-wicking, stylish and affordable active-wear line.
PHOTOGRAPHY YONG KEEN KEONG MAKEUP DIVA PRODUCTION HAIR BIBIAN L/HAIR MENU
FEMALE: What inspired your business?
Hui: “I’ve always wanted to build my own brand. During my first road race at the Malaysia Women Marathon in April 2013, I noticed there wasn’t enough affordable and fashionable sports apparel in Malaysia. I then started training for the 50km ultra trail marathon and realised I needed more sets of sportswear, but that would set me back financially.”
FEMALE: Have you always known this was what you wanted to do?
Hui: “Definitely not. I only knew I wanted to do my own thing and that’s it. My goal when I left university was to eventually land my dream job at The Boston Consulting Group – which I did – but when I got in eventually, it just felt anti-climatic.”
FEMALE: What were your concerns before switching?
Hui: “At first, I was working at The Boston Consulting Group and developing Ash Be Nimble simultaneously on my own for almost 10 months. I constantly asked myself: is it worth giving up a highly-competitive and well-paying corporate job? Do I have what it takes to build a brand from scratch? How much savings will I need to put in?”
FEMALE: Any setbacks?
Hui: “Working full-time while trying to set up my brand was very difficult; it’s almost two jobs put together. I don’t come from a well-to-do family so everything was self-funded and (I was) really trying to prove that my idea could work before I took the leap to leave my job. So 2014 was a very challenging and tiring year.”
FEMALE: Did you ever second-guess your decision?
Hui: “My husband and I have had many raw conversations about it: is this going to work? How long do we have to put off saving and owning a home, going on nice holidays and (myself) working as a freelance consultant to fund this?”
FEMALE: What drove you to keep persevering?
Hui: “The media picking up our story, customers believing in our brand and telling us it motivates them to start exercising and the support of friends and family, and of course my husband making sacrifices to let me chase this dream.”
FEMALE: What’s next for your brand?
Hui: “We’re now in four countries: Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia (Bali) and the Philippines (Manila and Cebu), with invitations to many fitness and lifestyle events. I’m also expecting my first child, so I’m excited yet scared with what lies ahead, but I’ve been building an amazing team, including two permanent and eight casual staff. There’s no room for fear or worry, only a lot of gratefulness for how far we’ve come in 18 months.”
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