It doesn’t take vast resources to effect positive change in a community, just a bit of passion and a sincere desire to help others.
This is what motivated Baitulhusna Ahmad Zamri to found Nazkids, a social enterprise that empowers women in Jitra, Kedah by training them to make and sell clothes online.
The new economic opportunities it has opened up have dramatically improved the quality of life for more than 100 participating women – known as “beneficiaries” – since the initiative launched in 2015.
“Our main objective is to help them become independent. By teaching these women how to make a product, how to sell it and how to find new customers, they have the tools to become entrepreneurs.
“And if they continue the cycle by teaching others, the positive impact on society will be enormous,” shared Baitulhusna, 34, who is leading the effort with her sister Khairunnisa, 36.
His path to the Nazkids came by chance. Born in Johor Bahru, she studied biotechnology at university and then worked as a personal assistant and marketing coordinator for several companies in the Subang region.
But she always wanted to follow in the footsteps of her parents, who ran a family sewing business in their hometown of Jitra. So, in 2014, she left the corporate sector to start her own t-shirt printing business.
Unfortunately, the venture did not pay off and she lost most of her savings. This prompted her to take a sabbatical and volunteer in neighboring countries like Laos and Vietnam.
“That’s when I realized that I love helping people. And I wanted to bring positive change to my fellow Malaysians.
“At that time, many businesses in Jitra were struggling, and my parents’ shop was not spared. Product prices did not match rising costs and many struggled to be profitable.
“I came in and turned the business model into Nazkids – with Naz being an acronym of my parents’ and children’s names referring to me and my sister.
“It’s still a family affair, but it has allowed me to earn a living while doing something I’m passionate about: empowering young people and women,” Baitulhusna explained.
In her conversations with women in the Jitra region, she found that many had no higher education. They quit after high school, which made it difficult for them to find jobs.
Many were also married in their late teens or early twenties. Some husbands also discouraged wives from working and preferred that they stay at home to take care of the family.
“Having only one source of income made it difficult for many families to support themselves. But there was a small plus – most women here have basic sewing skills.
“We decided to take advantage of this by hiring them to work at our establishment. For those who couldn’t work full time, they could still do so from home and we even provided them with everything from sewing machines to fabrics, needles and scissors.
“All they had to bring was their skills and their time. We pay the women based on the number of pieces they produce each day, week or month.
“If they finish their quota of Nazkids ahead of time, they are also free to use our sewing machines to place orders for their own customers. This allows them to generate income from multiple sources.
“Our parts are sold online through our social media platforms and website, as well as e-commerce sites like Shopee and Lazada. We also recently entered the Brunei market and are working with a partner there to sell both online and offline,” Baitulhusna said of their model.
The reach of these platforms greatly expands the potential customer base and provides recipients with marketing opportunities that were previously unavailable to them.
“Jitra women are skilled and can make all kinds of products. But they would usually only sell it within a 5km radius of their home, mostly to friends, relatives or locals.
“Once they exhaust their customer list, they also don’t know who else to sell it to. They lacked marketing reach and that’s where we came in,” she added.
Nazkids currently has around 10 women working full-time and another 10-15 working from home part-time. Their main products are traditional Malay clothing.
The focus is on baby clothes for toddlers under 3.5kg, such as mini baju Melayu sets with matching sampin and tengkolok (headwear).
Unlike mass-market clothes, their smaller sizes are more suitable for Asian toddlers – and orders especially flood in during festive seasons like Hari Raya Aidilfitri and Aidiladha.
“Customers love our wide range of styles and colors. They like to dress their babies for the Aqiqah, a celebration where a Muslim family welcomes their newborn baby and shows it to relatives and friends.
“We also have a return and refund option for those who change their mind. All this keeps customers coming back,” Baitulhusna pointed out, adding that they also did not lay off any beneficiaries during the pandemic.
Instead, they innovated and offered a range of face masks, lanyards and keychains made from traditional songket fabrics. Sales actually skyrocketed as many bought the special masks for Nikah ceremonies.
Some of the beneficiaries also make their own hijabs or kain telekung (for prayers), which the Nazkids help them sell.
Baitulhusna said they regularly hold free sewing classes to identify potential beneficiaries they can onboard. They have found that by doing screenings in a more informal setting, women feel more comfortable and can open up about their life story.
“A social enterprise is like the front line of a community. It can change the whole economic cycle, generate opportunities and provide a platform for people to improve their quality of life.
“I hope our efforts will inspire others to launch similar initiatives,” she added.
To check out their products, visit www.mynazkids.com or shopee.com.my/nazkids. For updates, follow “nazkidsent” on Facebook and “nazkids” on Instagram.