Introduction: I met Farella a few years ago. I was assigned to a story by the papers and went to meet this pretty young lass. I was fascinated by her gumption – she had a dream, a desire and she made it all happen. Here, in her own words, she tells her story.
Aneeta: Let’s start with a little about you. Please tell me where were you born? Where did you grow up and what do you do for a living?
Farella: Thank you for the introduction question Miss Aneeta. I was born at Samuel Clinic, Kuala Lumpur and I grew up in Kelana Jaya, Petaling Jaya for the first quarter of my life and spent the rest of my life to-date in Kuala Lumpur. I’d say much of my traits were developed through my experience in Kuala Lumpur as the surrounding in Kuala Lumpur was (and still is) really competitive compared to the small peaceful and harmonious town of Kelana Jaya.
Well as for my living, as we speak, I take up freelance jobs, among others, modelling or TVC extra and coaching – which is my personal favorite. I am a part time assistant coach in the area of social project and business development. I earned such credibility from years of experience and direct guidance from my mentors, especially with one who is well versed in the subject, a professional business coach, whom I have followed ever since I started Satirical Satin Project. I started off my journey to self-teach myself the art of social business by sneaking into coaching sessions with real entrepreneurs to becoming a minion (also known as personal assistant) to assist around during the coaching sessions. From there, I earned a spot to co-facilitate coaching sessions with my accumulated knowledge. Since then, I receive mentorship to which I am able to fall back to whenever I am in doubt or curious. Well, as how Yoda would do, my mentors never provide a one off direct and clear answer, but instead they would bounce back with a question to challenge my mind to find the answers and allow me to do things my way towards achieving my vision.
Well, did I figure the answers out? I think I might have figured things out the way I am supposed to, that is to do things the way I deem reasonable and workable. At the end of the day, there is no manual to doing business – there are 1001 ways to do things to achieve one particular goal, so your only limit is your imagination. There was no one definite answer to my question after all.
Aneeta: Let’s talk about your project. Satirical Satin Project. Please tell me what it’s about.
Farella: Satirical Satin Project is a youth social initiative which promotes youth inclusive development and sustainable environment with upcycle fashion which is in line with the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) addressed by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
In short, Satirical Satin Project mainly adopts fashion to address youth economic independence and environmental sustainability issues to promote the achievement of sustainable development in Malaysia.
This social effort advocates three main causes which are youth social and economic empowerment, civic engagement through volunteerism and sustainable environment with upcycle fashion.
The structure of this initiative is twofold; one is the upcycle fashion designer workshop which includes a fashion show to enhance visibility of the upcycled products by the youth artisans and second is the online boutique to create a market demand for the upcycled products.
The purpose of the upcycle fashion designer workshop is to educate youth beneficiaries to leverage on used clothing to be upcycled into new fashionable products, either for domestic or commercial use to generate income from home which requires no capital to start the business. However, skills are needed to start a humble business, thus, the Satirical Satin Project provides vocational education, training and the network to support these potential young fashionpreneurs.
What sets us different from the existing fashion schools is that we promote a change of lifestyle for the youth – by inculcating the love to upcycle used clothing into brand new products for their personal use and for a bigger purpose which is to establish their financial standing. It may start with the underprivileged youth groups but we are targeting the public youth as the primary consumers, thus the need to provide such skills and knowledge of fashion so the design of the upcycled products are equally competitive with the mainstream products. The impact that this change of lifestyle can make is towards the environment – the main beneficiary of this initiative, because we get to reduce the rate of fabric waste that contributes to 6% of the landfills by repurposing usable fabrics into new fashion products which extends the lifespan of a fabric.
As a social enterprise, Satirical Satin Project promotes the production of upcycled fashion products ethically designed and produced by youth from underprivileged groups to enhance their standard of life and the quality of the environment.
Satirical Satin Project aims to be a high impact initiative and become the leading upcycle fashion hub in Malaysia that addresses crucial issues like youth empowerment and sustainable environment.
Aneeta: This Project has been carrying on for a few years, now. Can you please give me three stories from this project that you will remember forever?
Farella: It has been carrying on for 2 years now, getting into its 3rd year, hopefully with bigger success and impact.
Well, there are few stories that I keep close to my heart, it is not a big deal for anyone, but it is a great deal for me.
One is the story of my struggle – well, I am still struggling but not as much, and the initial struggle when I first started is precious because it transpired perseverance and determination, for not only me, but my humble small team as well. Back when I established Satirical Satin Project with its very first upcycle fashion design workshop, formerly known as the “Starelite Workshop” in 2016, there was only me who was doing almost everything, because at that time, my dear fellow young team members did not have much idea on how to get things done, thus, as the only person who was very clear of the vision for Satirical Satin Project, I had to lead the team by example, in which I had to show the team what is required to be achieved and how to achieve it. I took it upon myself to prove their doubts wrong, by constantly showing them whatever they thought was impossible, was actually very much possible.
But, there will always come a time when even the most visionary human being can lose it to the circumstances as well. So, the story that I’d like to share is about how at one point of time when I was overseeing the whole operation and management of the workshop, I did not manage to acquire sponsorship for food catering for the few remaining weeks to feed the young participants at the workshop. So, it was just natural for me to reach out to my fellow teammates, who were at that time committing to a full time study, particularly, Miss Nursyuhada Abdull Halim, a dentistry student at Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) at that time, and who were also my Director in charge, who showed me such faith in my vision for Satirical Satin Project, that she went to such extent to sacrifice her lunch breaks to make calls to a list of restaurants to convince them to sponsor food supply for the workshop and reported to me every single day, in between treating her patients at the clinic, sometimes with bad news and to her delight with good news which, among others, she managed to convince En Zaihasri, from Nasi Kukus Ayam Cincang Malaya to sponsor food for the participants at the workshop for two weeks.
That particular part only tells about her perseverance in assisting me to make my vision a reality, so as to not fail the young participants who were benefitting from the program, but this part will tell her determination to ensure help is sent to me in my moment of weakness, so we can uphold the vision of the initiative together, and so I will not call it upon myself to give up on it.
So, just when the good news came rolling in, the good news also came with a flaw. Well, the food sponsorship did not come with a delivery service, so, we had to render to volunteer’s assistance, which to our disappointment, we did not manage to get any help as we needed. Speaking of struggle, eh? At that time, I clearly felt helpless because I was not with any transport, and the fact that I had to man the workshop alone with no other assistance when the classes were not in session, broke me into tears in the corner back in the workshop.
But, determined to not fail the young participants who were already believed in the vision we set up for them, Nursyuhada, also known as Chu, took extra measures to have the food packages to be delivered by Grabcar, which at that point of time, did not offer Grabfood services. Like me, she funded the Grabcar service with her own money, which I believe was her savings from the scholarship she received as a high performing achiever.
Just by recalling these memories brought tears back to my eyes, which is the very reason why, everytime I tell the story of how I started this initiative, I attribute the success to which has put Satirical Satin Project to where it is today, to my team in every of the projects I organized. I have always believed in a quote shared by one of my favorite lecturers which goes “Alone, we can only go so far, together we can reach for the stars”.
This is definitely one, but the most moving chapter of the many stories of my dedicated team’s journey of perseverance and determination.
The other story I would like to share is about the humble impact my social initiative has made, to if not all, one of the youth participants of the upcycle fashion designer workshop in 2016. Even if only one life is impacted, that already gives me sufficient reason to pursue greater heights with this initiative for the benefit of the youth community.
I would say the upcycle fashion designer workshop in 2016 was not the most well organized and perfect workshop, as I personally encountered a lot of challenges to put them together due to the lack of resources and support, at that time which I assumed was due to lack of understanding and awareness of the issues addressed, but, I went on to see it through because I believed in the vision that I have to aspire the target youth groups.
I learnt from the youth participants of the workshop whom I termed as Star Rookies, in the idea that they would commit to develop themselves as a star in the fashion design world, that they were unimpressed with the operation and management of the workshop; I am sure they had expectations of what a sound program looks like – but it rather was disheartening to learn of that when I clearly submitted my life only to see this through. But, it was not their fault, was it?
After learning that, I do not only lived through my days being angry at the people who are in the position to offer assistance and support to ensure help is delivered to these youth to change their lives but chose to turn a blind eye on such opportunity, but despite the anger I also devoted my life to get as much support by making people truly understand the value added of my initiative for the target youth groups and the environment so this time, Satirical Satin Project can make a tangible and measurable impact. I am very committed ever since to really see it through that the beneficiaries get on the path to change their lives with upcycle fashion, because it is very much likely to draw them their own success.
So, despite the disheartening truth, after a few years, I learnt that one of the Star Rookies, name Haizatul Ardiella binti Abdullah, actually developed a keen interest to pave her way into the fashion industry as an upcycle fashion designer; an aspiration she developed after undergoing the Satirical Satin Project humble upcycle fashion designer workshop in 2016.
What is actually more disheartening for me is the fact that these bright youth from the underprivileged groups have endless potential in them waiting to be discovered and refined to their own advantage, but, not much help and assistance are offered to them which specifically direct them to leverage on their genuine interest and passion. Most efforts direct the target youth towards immediate employment opportunities and maximize their existing skills and not very much focus given to their interest and undiscovered potential and passion which may be of greater benefit in the long run. Following to this, the actual scenario is, though remote, the Star Rookies, ended up returning to their respective welfare homes and left the home at the age of 18 years old, with no specific life direction and assistance to stand on their own feet. What became of one of them is she returned to the family who has history of drugs abuse to become nothing, especially with no academic or vocational qualifications as a school dropout and was only sent to an Islamic school before returning to the family at age 18.
Thus, the spark of interest shown by Haizatul Ardiella, also known as Diella to pursue a career with upcycle fashion truly moved me and inspired me to do more than what I am doing so I am able to assist her, and many others to find their way to establish themselves as successful upcycle fashionpreneurs in Malaysia.
My work this year is highly motivated by her, to get more people and related organizations, foundations, agencies and corporates to support her aspiration and others alike, so we can create opportunities for those who fell out from the running for mainstream opportunities.
All these lead up to the final story that I would like to share about my journey with Satirical Satin Project.
The sentiments that I hold very dearly back then when I established Satirical Satin Project were very much focused on one’s self-development because I believed that everyone deserves to be good at something, thus be confident about it and leverage that advantage to achieve success, which also applies to young undergraduates who more often than not limits the world to what meets their eyes, when the world offers so much more than that.
But over time, when I studied into the causes I advocate under Satirical Satin Project, I realized that I am doing so much, not only for the community but for the environment, which if put in a bigger picture, I am not only changing lives but I am in the pursuit of changing the world.
For a 22 year old girl, who believes so much in the idea that she is capable of changing the world; rejections, doubts and cold shoulders are the major contributions to her depleting faith in her own fight. But, she has a warrior in herself that despite the challenges, she never gave up, not because things were not hard enough, but because she believes so much in the values that she is capable to add to the world.
Needless to say, I am that girl, and I am glad I never gave up eventhough things were getting harder and harder over time, I never really gave up and I oftentimes confidently step up to find my way to level up Satirical Satin Project.
So, what is my story about not giving up – is a story about how I confidently came unprepared for a bootcamp for fashion social entrepreneurs in 2018 with nothing but an open heart to learn and network as much as possible to push Satirical Satin Project to achieve greater heights.
Me and my partner, Siti Nur Farahin, did not manage to attend the first day of the 3 day program, so when we were on our way to the bootcamp for its second day, we acknowledged that we might have missed so much from the first day. So, when we stepped in the venue, we were told by the organizers that due to our absence the day prior, we are not to take part in the Pitching Competition – which I was not aware of – due to the fact that we might not know of the appropriate contents to be contested for the competition, thus we were advised to mingle around to catch up on our own of what we have missed. But, my warrior soul was fighting in me to want to be in the run for the competition, especially for the fact that I have a prior knowledge of what a social business model is, and I wanted to put it to a test, to validate what I believe I knew.
Long story short, we managed to be slotted in for the competition out of my whims of course, and we owed that to the founder of the bootcamp herself who were kind enough to permit our participation and to go through the pitching structure with her personally very quickly.
You can imagine how hectic it was for me and my partner who ignorantly came to a social business development bootcamp unprepared with no laptop and hardisk at hand, so compared to other groups, we had to come up with a pitching deck from scratch with lesser time at hand – note: with no reference and archives what so ever.
When the time came, we pitched for the preliminary round with the drabbest Powerpoint slides ever, confidently persuading people to believe in our social business model. Then, my partner who were reasonable enough to be in doubt questioned if we are to make it, when I was clearly excited to prepare for the probability of us making it through for the final round. I cannot tell where that confidence came from.
Guess what, we won the competition and received a Seed Grant worth USD 150. However, I was not entirely proud of the win as I really thought it was a sheer luck due to the lack of efforts put in the win.
But that win motivated me to subsequently compete for another grant in 2019, this time intentionally, with premeditated strategies. For this competition that offers a grant up to MYR 3,000, I was shaking in anxiety to just make it for the win, despite the many voices I heard inside my head saying I may not be able to make it.
Hilariously, I even had a silent conversation with myself to which I actually compared the probability of winning this competition with the previous accidental win. I said to myself “If I can win that grant, I can potentially win this one as my idea was pretty much validated”. But then again, I was competing against many other great ideas that promote sustainability of the people and the planet, so I was not entirely complacent with my humble initiative especially when the judges were made of the DYTM Tengku Amir Shah Ibni Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah Alhaj, Crown Prince of Selangor and patron of Selangor Youth Community, Evan Cheah, CEO of Sunway Ventures and Wan Dazriq Wan Zulkiflee, CEO and Co-Founder of PurpoSE Malaysia.
But, I guess, my relentless efforts over these years to actually study the social predicaments and address the issues with necessary measures despite the insufficient support and resources and continuously refine its structure pays off with the win! Now I know, I have given the knowledge I acquired from my mentors a fraction of justice, if not much!
If there is anything I learnt through my journey with Satirical Satin Project is that success is perspiration and only with persistence and perseverance, result will be transpired and call for the right attention and support.
So, let’s not ever give up.
Aneeta: When we first met, you were still studying. What were you studying? Have you completed your course? And what’s next, education-wise?
Farella: Yes, when we first met, Satirical Satin Project was getting into its first few months of establishment, and I was 22 back then, in my second year law degree at Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM), Shah Alam.
Well, I have not completed my studies yet following to the special leave I took to pursue my passion to be a fashionpreneur with Satirical Satin Project. I believe that my law degree will always be available to open doors to a promising future for me once I grab hold of the scroll. But, my budding social business will not always be available for me to make a mark in this world if I am to put it on hold – especially due to the competitive race among budding entrepreneurs in this era with the emergence of social business ecosystem.
But, my first love has always been for law, where I get to learn of the engine that regulates social behavior which is a fundamental often taken for granted by the people. So, it is in my planning to resume my studies once Satirical Satin Project takes off where I am able to entrust it to another person to see it through in my passive involvement.
Aneeta: Was it difficult to balance study and work?
Farella: I would say it was very challenging but it was not impossible to balance studies and work – however, to balance studies with a startup may be even more challenging due to the commitment required of you to get things moving.
For instance, to be able to put together the upcycle fashion designer workshop in 2016 called for my sole commitment to be in attendance when others were partially involved, otherwise no one will be available to man the operation and management of the workshop, apart from having to strategize and plan, do networking, attend meetings and pitch to potential partners and sponsors.
A startup requires all of you, not just part of you – unless you have a group of proactive and visionary team members who can effectively play their roles to bring in necessary resources and funding without requiring you to micromanage every single aspect of the company. As for Satirical Satin Project back then, the team were made up of full time varsity students hence it was understandable that they were not able to fully commit to such roles, hence, in my determination to work things out, I took it into my own hands to be the person who micromanage, and delegate minute tasks to respective departments.
But over the years, with the reputation that Satirical Satin Project has built up, it is easier to get people to commit to a bigger role to play in the organization, but in the spirit of volunteerism, Satirical Satin Project still observes the limit and capacity of each and every individual. Due to the wide range of people who volunteers with Satirical Satin Project, we need to tailor the tasks to the capacity and knowledge of the volunteers rather than assigning selected tasks, as there is a standard for each of the initiatives.
Aneeta: What are your plans for the future?
Farella: My life has been about Satirical Satin Project since year 2016. So, it is natural that my future plans in 5 year time involve the efforts to further develop Satirical Satin Project as a transformational enterprise in Malaysia.
Apart from that, in the efforts to build up my financial standing, I have also recently joined a new social business venture with my sister in food and beverages services which upholds social values towards promoting sustainable development in Malaysia. This new venture, known as the Batek Potato Café, leans towards profit-making but practices social advocacy to serve the community.
I believe I am more focused to establish myself as a social entrepreneur for the passion I have to influence change, but it is in my contemplation to graduate with my law degree within these few years as well so I can build a stronger credibility in the work I do.
Aneeta: As you know, this website is for storytellers. What advice would you give to those who want to start telling their stories?
Farella: Well, I am not much of a storyteller myself in the beginning until I realized the need to effectively communicate my story for people to understand the work that I do because they can relate to the story. So, my one piece of advice for those who wants to start telling their stories, is to never wait to tell your stories until you find the best way to tell it, but to simply share it the way it comes to your mind, so your story can be easily understood by others that will inspire them in the way your stories intend to.
Aneeta: Farella, this is all I have to ask. Is there anything you’d like to add?
Farella: Thank you Miss Aneeta, it was such a pleasant time sharing with you my stories. If there is anything I would like to add is, I hope that Malaysians will be more attentive to new and unpopular opinions and initiatives to channel support to the rightfully deserving initiatives to affect real change in Malaysia.
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