KUALA LUMPUR: The tagline Qu Puteh Qu Puteh, Barulah Putih may be annoying to some. However, as a marketing slogan, it has worked effectively.
It certainly has helped build the business empire of Datuk Seri Hasmiza Othman, better known as Dr Vida.
Often dressed in glittering clothes and decked in jewellery and a gleaming tiara, the CEO of Vida Beauty Sdn Bhd is a recognisable ambassador of her brand.
The 44-year-old born in Machang, Kelantan often stars in her own product advertisements, promoting her range of beauty and healthcare products.
The wealth she has built has enabled her to sponsor a variety of popular television entertainment programmes and even a football team. This in turn has further boosted her popularity and sales of her products.
Speaking in a thick Kelantanese dialect, Hasmiza said the road to becoming a multimillionaire was filled with hurdles. While doing business, she had been sabotaged, cheated, slandered and while failure upon failure was experienced.
The hardships, however, compared little to the pain she felt when she lost two of her four children in a fire three years ago.
However, Hasmiza refused to be let down by the trials she endured.
With hard work and tenacity, she rose against the odds to become what she is today.
Her material success can be measured by her RM22 million home in Ipoh, her 22 luxury homes, her more than 10 luxury cars and the jewellery that she is constantly adorned with.
“I’ve gone through failures and losses, but it only made me more determined to work harder for this life and the hereafter. I would not be able to achieve all of these without tenacity,” she said.
FROM THE GROUND UP
Hasmiza came from humble beginnings. Her life changed for the worse when her father, who owned a sawmill, died suddenly. From then on, her mother had to tap rubber to bring up Hasmiza and her two siblings.
She discovered from a young age that business was a good way to support herself. She made good pocket money selling kacang putih (legumes) and nasi bungkus (packed rice meals) to school friends.
She eventually made her way to Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang to pursue a degree in education, majoring in Malay Literature and History.
To support herself in university, she sold products from Kelantan such as the batik sarong, prayer garments, meat sambal (hot relish) and keropok (chips) to her friends and lecturers.
At the same time, she tirelessly worked shifts at a factory and took on a part time job at a fast-food restaurant near the campus.
Upon graduation, she was assigned to teaching at SJK (C) Poi Lam in Ipoh.
However, even with a steady monthly income as a teacher, she had a strong desire to run a business.
She eventually decided to start a business in the field of beauty and grooming and enrolled in a grooming course.
THE BIRTH OF VIDA BEAUTY
After learning the trade, she made the bold decision to take on a RM100,000 bank loan to open a beauty salon.
“With a teachers salary of RM3,000 at the time, I had pay back a bank loan of RM2,000. I used the balance to pay for my rent and car instalments and to survive. Those were some difficult times,” she recalled.
As she was still new to a business on that scale, Hasmiza naively spent all her loan money on renovation works.
“The entire RM100,000 sum was spent turning my shop lot into a beauty salon.
“It was funny, I had a beautiful salon but no money for capital or for buying products to sell!
“So I had to go out and make more money by running a pasar malam (night market) business, selling food, prayer garments and other items,” she shared.
After 12 years, Hasmiza decided to quit her teaching job. She then signed up as a staff at the National Vocational Training Council and taught hair and makeup grooming to students at the centre.
To improve their skills, she decided to set them up for a challenge.
“In my classes, they would cut each others hair and do facials for one another. I didn’t find this challenging enough. So I bought RM15 chairs and brought them to a supermarket where I asked them to offer free facial treatments to the public.
“The promotion was well received, so I decided to buy lounge chairs to enable more students to practice what they have learned.
“After that, many started enquiring about facial wash products. It was then that I first came up with my own line of cosmetics, Vida Beauty,” she explained.
RUNNING OUT OF CAPITAL
Hasmiza then received a RM1mil grant from the government to start her cosmetics business. Half of the money was spent on Research and Development, which included travelling to several countries to source for the best ingredients for her cosmetic products.
She then spent RM100,000 advertising her products in a local magazine and the remaining RM400,000 on advertising on private radio and TV stations.
However, none of it produced tangible results.
“The magnitude of the financial loss took a toll on me, to the point that I was diagnosed with high blood pressure. However, there was a silver lining to the episode. “As someone who likes to experiment, I tried coming up with my own remedy to treat my blood pressure, using gamat (sea cucumber), known for its cooling effect and pomegranate, which is high in antioxidants. The remedy managed to reduce my blood pressure.
“That was the birth of my health product, Pamoga. However, the sales of my products refused to budge due to the advertising failure. That year, I managed to sell only 500 bottles of Pamoga,” she said.
DARKEST BEFORE THE DAWN
Daunted by her product marketing failure, Hasmiza eventually decided to end her business but not before giving it one last shot. She chose to promote her products through the RTM Kelantan FM radio station.
She spoke about her products, particularly Pamoga, in 15-minute slots for two days.
On the third day, she was convinced that her business was a bust and went to close her shop at a supermarket in Kota Baharu.
To her surprise, she found a crowd gathered outside the premises.
“I thought someone had fainted, but it turned out they were there to buy Pamoga. That was six years ago. From then on, my sales soared. User testimony proved to be the most effective way of marketing my products.
“Today, sales of Pamoga is some 100,000 bottles a month, and I have over 100 other products,” she said.
After ten years in business, her products reached eight figures.
“After my bad experience, I became extra careful when it comes to advertising. At the same, I diversified my investments, putting my money in local dramas and films as well as several other businesses. In addition to sponsoring TV programmes, I am also sponsoring the Kelantan football team to a tune of RM16 million, but on the condition that they paint the stadium pink,” she said, laughing.
Today, she is more discriminating in marketing her products, as she had lost millions of Ringgit because of ineffective advertising over the years.
“That is why I write my own advertisements and star in it myself,” she said.
She said her glittery persona was in contrast to the person she really is - someone who liked to lounge around in caftans without makeup on.
“I am promoting my own products, so I need to make it catchy and memorable.
“This bling-bling persona is necessary to help sell my products, so that they will remember who Vida is and the products from her company, Vida Beauty Sdn Bhd,” she explained.
Throughout the course of her business, Hasmiza had had to encounter numerous setbacks including competition from counterfeit products, sabotage and slanderous allegations.
She is also acutely aware of the negative comments about her appearance.
“I know many people like to give me flak especially with regards to my appearance. I am used to it. They don't know who I really am or understand my goals. If I were to listen to all the criticism, I’d be going nowhere,” she said.
As someone who had had to work hard from a young age to survive, Hasmiza was determined to not let her children go through similar difficulties in life.
“My children are my inspiration and source of strength, but I have taught them quite a bit of the trade, and they both seem quite interested in running a business,” she said.
This year, her business calendar is packed with several new business ventures, including the manufacturing of her own range of mineral water and isotonic drinks.
She also plans to expand her business overseas. -Bernama