Bella Ammara Holdings chief executive officer Carl Samsudin tells Yellow Pages Malaysia why taking risks is the best way forward.
Carl poses with his wife Nabilla. – Pic courtesy of Bella Ammara Facebook Page
Born Khalif Samsudin on 25 September 1987, Carl, as he is better known, is the co-founder and chief executive officer of Muslimah garment and hijab producer Bella Ammara Holdings.
However, Carl actually landed his first job in banking some years ago.
He toyed with the idea of setting up a small business with his then fiancée, Sharifah Nabilla Al-Yahya. Interestingly, Bella Ammara Holdings has its beginnings in Carl’s desire to get married and fund his big day.
While he was still gainfully employed in the banking sector, he noticed the number of people who defaulted on their banking loans.
“I knew that I didn’t want to be like them. I needed money to finance my wedding but I didn’t want to take a loan from financial institutions,” he said.
Carl knew that one of the best ways to generate income is to set up a business.
The company's products include casual hijabs and apparels. – Pic courtesy of Bella Ammara Facebook Page
He then thought of buying some fabric to be made into hijabs before selling them for a little profit.
Realizing that too many people lose their cash due to lack of business exposure, Carl undertook research on starting small businesses to ensure a good start.
Armed with RM1,000 borrowed from his mother, he made telekung (female prayer robes) to sell.
Within a short time of selling only via Facebook and word of mouth, he made a 100% profit.
He reinvested the earnings and repeated the process. By July of 2010 — in four months — he made RM50,000.
Be it simple or formal, you can buy it at Bella Ammara. – Pic courtesy of Bella Ammara Facebook Page
Of the amount, Carl used RM30,000 for his wedding while the remainder was reinvested into the business.
Today, there are six Bella Ammara Boutiques and many more resellers.
The strength of the fashion brand’s goods is due to the personal touch of his wife Nabilla who helps design the hijabs. There are plain hijabs as well as ones with decorative elements.
There are also jubah (long dresses) in many innovative styles, and more ornate hijabs and modest garments for formal occasions such as weddings.
Models wear a selection of colourful Bella Ammara scarves. – Pic courtesy of Bella Ammara Facebook Page
Besides Muslimah attire, Bella Ammara sells cosmetics under the brand name Sugarbelle.
The company employs 60 staff in the management and retail sector with a payout of RM3 million in salaries per year.
Challenges lie ahead — cash flow and competition are among them.
“Everyone is able to do business through experience and a little bit of research. Definitely, we’ll run into problems such as unexpected costs. For example, the company lost RM2 million in its intermediate stages but that’s business. I realized that I just needed to find a way to recoup the loss.”
Helped by social media, Carl focused on marketing to get Bella Ammara back on track. Now back in the black, Bella Ammara has upped its ante on social media too. There are close to 800,000 followers on the company’s Instagram account and 470,000 followers on their Facebook Page.
“Many companies lack branding and marketing strategies. Even big names still respect branding. It’s all about brand power,” added Carl.
A majority of the company’s sales — nearly 70% — comes from online buying.
The company also sells cosmetics, named Sugarbelle. – Pic courtesy of Sugarbelle Facebook Page
Carl believes that his strength lies in daring to do something different and taking risks. He also believes in following the trend.
“The Gen X way of doing things and keeping the same job for life is not applicable anymore. That’s one of the reasons why I decided to start a business many years ago. And the best way is to keep up with the trends. More people are shopping online and one day, everyone will use apps. If we stay conventional, we won’t progress much,” said Carl.
His main aim now is to dominate the hijab market in Malaysia.
“I want women to think of Bella Ammara first whenever they want to purchase hijabs.”
Visit Bella Ammara Facebook Page and Instagram account for more information and special offers.
And don’t forget to download Yellow Pages Malaysia mobile app on Google Play Store (for Android) and App Store (for Apple iOS) to gain access to a wonderful spectrum of home-grown brands.