KUCHING: Shoe lover Normah Ibrahim gave up all that she had in Kuala Lumpur — even her job as chief executive officer (CEO) at a company in 2005 — to return to her hometown Kuching and start her own shoemaking business.
Back then, hundreds of luxury branded shoes including Prada, Hermes and Louis Vuitton in her possession were not enough for the driven and ambitious woman. Normah, better known as Emma, wanted to make her own.
After a friend assured her that opening a shoe factory would be a good idea as there was no such factory in Sarawak at the time, she decided to change her career path and explore the new business opportunity.
In 2006, she founded Red Profile Sdn Bhd, starting her business with RM100,000 facilitation fund from Small Medium Enterprise Development Bank Malaysia Bhd (SME Bank) and setting up her factory in Padawan.
Even for the Kuching-based footwear manufacturer who believes in the famous Cinderella quote ‘One shoe can change your life’, getting into the shoemaking business is not as easy as some may expect because it demands high commitment.
“Our first order came from Sarawak Shell Bhd in 2006 for working shoes and safety boots for their National Day parade on Aug 31. We were extremely happy and proud at that time for getting such an order,” said Emma of one of her memorable moments in the shoemaking business.
Being a very ambitious, hardworking and determined woman, the mother of four boys enrolled herself in an intensive shoemaking course, completing the six-month course in shoe design and shoe making with a certificate from the International Shoemaking Design School in 2008.
“I remember my teacher Miss Sissy told me that I was very creative and that I could go far in this industry. That was when I started to do heels, which were first worn by a friend of mine.
“Today, my Emma Daniel footwear has travelled across the country and being loved by many including celebrities and beauty queens. Most recently, I made shoes for Miss Malaysia World 2016 contestant Francisca Luhong James,” she said.
To ensure that Red Profile would remain competitive, Emma took in a skilled workforce — some from Indonesia — to help her produce high quality shoes at the factory.
“Red Profile emphasises quality and comfort in a shoe, and this continues to be the preferred choice for our customers,” she added.
Her attention to detail and quality ensured that Red Profile became an ideal choice by the state government to make safety boots and working shoes for firefighters, police and nurses.
Red Profile was named one of SME 100 Fast Moving Forward Companies — out of 6,000 entries — on Oct 23 last year in Kuala Lumpur.
Emma looks up to Jimmy Choo as her idol.
“I am inspired by many shoe designers, but Choo will always be my number one. I also love brands like Chanel and I incorporate some of the designs into my own line. This range of fashionable footwear sells like hot cakes today, especially those in black,” she said.
Even though Red Profile has become a successful venture, she always takes the opportunity to take part in programmes organised by government agencies, in her effort to strengthen her business.
“In 2013, we applied to become one of the companies under Bumiputera Agenda Steering Unit (Teraju) and Red Profile was accepted. We were then called to follow several programmes under Teraju including the Facilitation Fund Committee Meeting, as well as the exclusive training by the National Entrepreneurship Institute (InSKEN) in collaboration with the Malaysian Directors Academy (Minda),” she explained.
The Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade) had also assisted Emma in promoting her products in the Middle East.
“Currently, we are in the midst of penetrating the Middle East market and we hope that our products would be accepted well in the region,” Emma added.
Besides the factory, Red Profile also has a retail outlet under Emma Daniel, located at Bangunan Baitulmal here.
Emma donates her shoes to the less-fortunate whenever she has the chance, especially since she has a large collection of luxury shoes.
“I have always been thankful for having this opportunity to become a shoe designer.
“One of the most memorable moments for me as a shoe designer was when I was named the state-level ‘Usahawan Ikon Karnival Usahawan Desa (KUD) 2016’ by the state government,” she said.
Red Profile had also been awarded with the ‘Anugerah 50 Wanita Inspirasi Nona Malaysia’ and the prestigious ‘ISO 20374:2004’ recognition. The company had its shoe products examined and checked by the Science and Technology Research Institute for Defence (Stride) and received a 5S certificate from the National Productivity Council.
“I’m not only learning about shoes, but also handbags. It’s just that I am not really into designing handbags as much as I am into shoes.
“I also love doing make-up, but I do not intend to become a make-up artist,” she said.
In describing herself, Emma said she was not afraid to reach for the things that she wanted in life.
“Although it may seem like I could collapse under the pressure, I always try to work for it and make sure that I will accomplish it. That is my motto that I have lived by until now — I have never failed to reach for the things that I want,” she said.
On future plans, Emma said she would strive to create more designs and open more branches.
“I plan to open more branches for my Emma Daniel brand across the country, as well as in Jakarta and Dubai.”
Emma said she was extremely proud to be a Sarawakian running her own shoe factory.
“I’m very proud to be a Sarawakian, who is also considered as being successful in making shoes,” she said.
On advice to aspiring shoe designers, Emma said: “Show people that you can actually design shoes. Utilise social media well and expose your designs to the world.
“Design with heart and sincerity. You have to be sincere — only then can you go far.”