RAEESA SYA, ORKID COSMETICS CEO & FOUNDER
As a kid, Raeesa Sya was happier to kick a football than play with dolls – the Barbie she begged her mum to buy out of peer pressure was exiled into oblivion within a week. The self-confessed ‘tomboy’ was an avid dancer in school. These days, she finds thrill in competitive sailing because “it’s such a technical sport”, and prides herself on having scaled Mount Kinabalu in 2015. However, running a cosmetics and beauty business means she has to mostly keep her feet on the ground. “I’ve always had two sides, a bit masculine but also a bit girly… there are no cookie-cutter girls,” says the boisterous 27-year-old.
Her successful streak in beauty and cosmetics ventures is also driven by two sides – emotion and logic. While she loves make up, she dived into the business because the data makes sense. Her research showed that the beauty industry has room for capitalisation. Recognising a gap in the market for a spa and salon booking app, she started Bfab in 2016. The startup raised a six-digit USD seed funding round before launching. Prior to that, Raeesa sold off a similar app called Lulu.
The serial entrepreneur’s latest venture, Orkid Cosmetics, is a line of halal lipsticks for fun-loving girls – a market with high local demand but less tapped by industry players. “I’ve always been a more logical [entrepreneur]. I do trust in my guts as well. But even when I decide to do something that has never been done before, or when there is no data [to guide me], I will study something similar that has data,” she explains. Her analytical approach paid off. She was selected as Tech in Asia’s 12 under 30 promising SEA entrepreneur 2016, and first runner up of D3MDD Hackathon 2014, among others.
RAEESA SYA “If we trust our gut and execute, we can make it.”
Raeesa’s knack for making money took root even before she hit puberty. An aspiring astronaut, the 10-year-old had her eye on a small telescope. To afford it, she bought snacks in bulk for cheap from the supermarket, and sold individual packs to her friends at a profit. When her dad brought home too many candies as souvenirs from overseas trips, Raeesa would also sell the excess at school. Her ‘illegal operation’ was eventually shut down by the teachers, but she did earn enough to buy the telescope. “It was the first thing I ever bought [with my own money!]” says Raeesa, her smile both sheepish and smug.
However, Raeesa does not recommend quitting day jobs to dive into entrepreneurship, but to work on the startup idea on the side and ease into it when the business shows potential. This is no small feat, but to her, the deadliest challenge comes from within. “As women, we tend to doubt our own capabilities. For example, when starting out, I thought I needed co-founders to teach me how to build a startup. But it turns out they did not know what they were doing as well, and I ended up having to help run it. So why do we doubt ourselves? If we trust our gut and execute, we can make it,” she shares.