In conjunction with International Women’s Day, we talk to the boss of Bluebell Skincare about what it takes to run a beauty business.
It isn’t easy to leave a stable corporate banking job, but that’s exactly what 37-year-old Aliaa Zawani did to help the family business. Bluebell Skincare, a local skincare brand that launched in 2015 was the brainchild of her late mother-in-law, Puan Mek Yam Binti Jusoh, who after seeing her niece’s face becoming red and inflamed from trying out a skincare product, wowed to educate women about harmful ingredients and what they should be looking for instead.
Bluebell Skincare aspires to empower all women to be positive and put their best selves forward through effective formulas and ingredients backed by science that are halal and suitable for all. She tells us more about it.
What does your role in Bluebell entail?
“I’m an entrepreneur and one of the co-founders of Bluebell skincare. When the brand launched in 2015, it was solely my late mother-in-law’s idea. Aside from that incident that happened to her niece, she also wanted to have a project to work on when she retired. In 2016, my husband left his full-time job to focus on the brand and help out with marketing. That helped Bluebell grow quickly; we got featured on TV Alhijrah and introduced an agents system.
In 2018, my husband asked me to resign from my day job and jump into the business with him full time. It was quite a tough decision for me because I never imagined myself spearheading a business. It was never in my plan. But after my mother-in-law passed that very year, I decided to continue her legacy and so that I too can help more women achieve beautiful, healthy skin. Skin colour should no longer be the yardstick by which we measure beauty. I want more women out there to be more careful and analyse the ingredients contained in skincare products, and not just look at the testimonials alone. Shortly after I joined, COVID-19 happened, which made me question my decision. But ultimately it made me stronger and more resolved to make the business succeed.”
How would you describe your past relationship with your late mother-in-law?
“My late mother-in-law had a very strong personality. She was a career lady, which is the total opposite of my mother. She had six kids and yet she still managed to climb the corporate ladder. She is very detailed and particular in every aspect of her life.
We were quite close, but of course, there was still a level of distance between us because she was my mother-in-law and I respected her so much. She passed away because of cancer. In 2016, she found out there was a cancer cell in her lung. The doctor has suggested for her to remove that part of the lung but she refused. She was already at stage 3 at the time. The doctor estimated that she had six months to one year to live. She never told anybody about it, including us all in her family. I guess she didn’t want anyone feeling sorry for her. She even went to London with her grandkids and went on to do her Hajj when she was sick. So that’s how strong she was.
Your brand’s contribution to MAKNA (National Cancer Council Malaysia) was inspired by Puan Mek Yam. What do you want people to know about this initiative?
“From January 2020, we decided to contribute 5% of our profits to MAKNA every month. This is so that we get to continue on the legacy in her name and help our customers do good with their purchases.”
As an entrepreneur, who are some of the people in the beauty business that you look up to?
“I realised that rezeki is truly all from Allah only and that running your own business is a mind game. You have to always be positive and motivate yourself cos there’s no one else but you who can motivate your staff. But if it had to be someone, it’d be Neelofa. I think she is very inspiring. There are many challenges thrown at her and yet she’s steadfast in her religion and continues to be doing good with her businesses.”
Which product should someone new to Bluebell try first?
“The formulas all come from my late mother-in-law and outsourced to an OEM production. But I am very impressed with how she was ahead of her time. Back in 2015, some ingredients like acids weren’t as popular as they are today. But she had already introduced them in Bluebell.
Personally, I’d suggest our cleanser and our night moisturiser, RM59, in our starter kit. It’s suitable for acne-prone skin due to its salicylic acid content.
What’s your ultimate dream for Bluebell? What do you see for the brand in the next 10 years?
“I want to expand it on an international level. I’d love to see Bluebell Skincare Indonesia or Cambodia. I also want to tap into the younger market so that I can educate them on the importance of taking care of the skin.”