Teen entrepreneur fights disease with fashion

Sofia established the SU1 brand in July 2023. — Photos: KAMARUL ARIFFIN/The Star

DESPITE her tender age, Sofia Sacoor is determined to be an entrepreneur and has combined a personal cause with her first venture.

She was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) when she was eight years old, explained the 17-year-old from Lisbon, Portugal, who has been living in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), for more than a decade.

“I have learnt to deal with it and adapt my life around T1D, since it’s a lifelong condition.

“I’m the only one in my family with this condition, but they have helped me deal with T1D by making it a ‘we issue’ instead of a ‘me issue’.

“My family helps me watch out for certain episodes and even reschedules certain things when I am unwell,” said Sofia, who has two younger brothers aged 10 and 14.

T1D is an autoimmune condition where the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, leading to an accumulation of sugar in the blood.

Individuals with T1D require lifelong insulin replacement through multiple daily insulin injections, insulin pump therapy or automated insulin delivery system.

“I need five to seven shots of insulin per day, but that number could be higher depending on things like stress level, sports activity or travel,” Sofia said.

“My backpack always contains tools to measure my sugar level, and insulin shots to manage my condition,” she said.

Shoppers browsing through SU1’s range of athleisure clothing at the brand’s first pop-up store in Sunway Pyramid shopping centre.Shoppers browsing through SU1’s range of athleisure clothing at the brand’s first pop-up store in Sunway Pyramid shopping centre.

She prefers living an active life over adhering to a rigid schedule, and wanted to tap into the resilience built from dealing with T1D to achieve and surpass her personal goals.

When the Covid-19 pandemic and movement control order hit, Sofia came to know about children diagnosed with T1D but were unable to access life-saving insulin and subsequently died because of their families’ financial constraints.

“That inspired me to create a business that would also offer some financial support for children with T1D,” she said, adding that she was also inspired by her father, who is a businessman.

“Entrepreneurship is something that I have always wanted to do.

“I believe that one can take any passion to turn into a business, and I saw an opportunity to help those with similar conditions as me,,” said Sofia.

She established the SU1 athleisure brand in July 2023.

The ecommerce business pledges AED20 (about RM26) from each sale towards institutions that help children with T1D.

On why she chose athleisure clothing, Sofia said: “I love sports and comfortable clothes; athleisure clothing is something I personally like wearing.

“The clothes are easy to produce and distribute, and there is a huge demand for them. Even my friends approve of SU1’s pieces.

SU1 pledges about RM26 from each sale towards institutions that help children with T1D.SU1 pledges about RM26 from each sale towards institutions that help children with T1D.

“While my target demographic is Gen Z, the clothes are designed to be worn by anyone,” she said, adding that the clothing such as t-shirts and hoodies are made from natural fabrics and packed in recyclable packaging.

Sofia now juggles between pursuing an International Baccalaureate programme at school, with a special focus on Economics, Physics and Business Management, and her love for sports such as tennis and tag rugby, as well as running her business.

“I try to dedicate some time each day and weekends for business matters.

“I work with a team that handles the logistics and technical aspects while I focus on marketing,” she said.

“When I go to university, I hope to pursue either Economics, Mathematics or Physics as my main major and Business as my second major.

“I hope to gain the tools of business and knowledge of a tech whiz,” she added.

Sofia was in town last month to host the first SU1 pop-up store at Sunway Pyramid shopping centre.

She also presented a donation of RM15,000 to support children with T1D in the paediatric wing of Sunway Medical Centre, Petaling Jaya.

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