[EXCLUSIVE] Beauty Chat With Dahlia Nadirah, Founder Of SO.LEK Cosmetic

Dahlia Nadirah is more than just a star in the beauty world—she’s a bright, burning supernova. The self-made entrepreneur successfully turned her passion for beauty into building her own brand, SO.LEK Cosmetics, a brand she hopes will bridge the gap between the urban consumers and those living outside of the city. Through the #gincugang movement—which has amassed over 28k followers on social media—Dahlia alongside her brother, Luqman Hakim, help to motivate and empower women to embrace the uniqueness of multiculturalism in Malaysia. 

 

Warm, thoughtful, maternal, and alluring—this devoted mother of three shares her perception on the beauty diversity in Malaysia, her fondness of Peranakan culture and the power of female leadership in business.

Related article: 6 Affordable Beauty Brands Founded By Malaysia’s Own Girl Bosses

Before leaping to the e-commerce route, you worked in the bank sector for almost 8 years—what exactly was the driving force behind SO.LEK? Tell us about your journey. 

Long story short, one day, I needed a break and went to the US with my family and fell in love with their local cosmetics brands that were sold in their drug stores. And it got me thinking, why can’t we have good quality Malaysian made products that are affordable. I came back from the US and started working on the product right away. And it has been a 4 year-break for me from the corporate world since then!

Tell us more about SO.LEK? How did you come up with the name of your company?

I have already had the name SOLEK in my mind as I want something that is straight forward, easy to remember and easy to pronounce. Along the way—somewhere in July—I approached my brother, Luqman and asked him to be my partner. And then I realized “OMG, SOLEK is so apt for the brand name!” as both my brother and I love to annoy each other and when one is annoyed, the other one would ALWAYS say SO?? LEK LAHHH! (meaning, so? Relax laaaa..)

This is just one of my responsibility as a Malaysian to preserve them and infuse them, (well at least their names, look and feel) in my business so hopefully that the next generation would know a little bit here and there about them

Married to Khairil Ridzwan aka Loque, a well-known local musician —together, the pair makes a very passionate couple due to their fondness of Malaysian culture. She even took artistic inspiration from contemporary dance like Zapin, Inai and Asyik to named her products, as well as flowers like Anggerik and Seroja, (which was named after their daughters—Anggerik Dang Jelita, Seroja Dewi Harapan and Melor Pelangi Merdu.)

You’re so passionate about advocating Malay and Malaysian culture through your products. Why is this important to you?

Not just Malay, but anything relating to Malaysian culture. In fact I am completely head over heels in love Peranakan Culture. I study them, I learn about them amd I read about them. Basically I take them seriously, not just because I love the fashion aspect of it. I feel that with how fast the world is moving, culture, heritage and tradition are slowly dying. So many urban youngsters now know more about Western culture and history than our own. And so many of us take them for granted which is so unfortunate as we have such a beautiful and rich culture. 

The world of beauty is more diverse now in Malaysia and more inclusive than it was just a few years ago. Which changes make you feel positive—and where is there still room for improvement?

I think the biggest positive change is that now we are more accepting. We don’t view beauty as what we used to; like a sharp nose, fair skin, round eyes etc. We now can accept that scars are part of the beauty, as an example. We appreciate the differences in beauty such as skin tones and skin type, sizes and what not. However, there is a lot more to improve though, especially on skin whitening products. 

I believe SO.LEK will turn four years old this year? What is the most surprising thing about the experience so far?

I can’t tell you how much I have had shed tears over the years, facing challenge after challenge. I feel like the most surprising thing would be that there is something new to learn every single day in this beauty industry. Either a new trend, new color, new formula or new product.

Describe your first ‘’beauty memory’’?

My late grandma I fondly called Mek. She is the epitome of elegance. She has never looked ‘selekeh’ or ‘messy’ not even once in all the 23 years we had together. She had lipstick on every single day, literally. SO.LEK is created in her memory, and is dedicated to her.

What do you now believe about beauty that you didn’t when you were younger?

That you should really take care of your skin as early as you. I remember my mom nagged me to wash my face, wear a facial mask (bedak sejuk) since I was probably 10 but I’d usually rolled my eyes. Now I feel like kicking myself hard for not following her advice! Also, drink a lot of plain water to hydrate yourself so that your skin will look healthy.

I had moments myself where I feel like I want to quit and just stay at home and watch Netflix, and I give myself a day to feel the emotions. But I will get up next day and move forward, no matter what. Always give yourself a day before jumping into anything

What kind of beauty advice or information do you, your mother and your grandmother share with each other? Also, what advice do you wish to pass to your daughters?

I hope that my daughter is comfortable with her own skin. I know I own a beauty brand, but I believe no amount of beauty products could conceal your energy and aura. If you have a beautiful heart, you are beautiful no matter what! And never sleep with your makeup on, no matter how late you go to bed. 

If rifled through your makeup drawer, what would we find? What are some of your favorite products?

Lip products! I have so many lip creams, lip serums, lip scrubs…anything relating to lips. I have super dry lips, so I’d try everything that would help ease the dryness. Hence why our main ingredient is olive oil as our products and are not drying on the lips due to it. I do hundreds of tests to make sure it is not drying, before I sell them. 

What are three must-haves products from SO.LEK?

Lip creams (Joget, Erhu and Keronsang, and maybe Anting and Sanggul too), Kilat (our breathable, water permeable and peelable nail polish. All colours), and Mekar (our blusher cushion)

What have you learned about leadership, entrepreneurship and mentoring others?

To be a leader, entrepreneur and mentor, you need to show a good example to your subordinates and followers. I learned that I need to believe in myself and my product then only I can lead and mentor them. With entrepreneurship, I have learned to be really patient. You can’t expect to just sit, and the money would rain on you. You have to go through a lot of trial and error—fail hundreds of times, and get up even when you just want to crawl in the bed.  To be a mentor, you must be willing to learn, to listen, to accept and to share your knowledge in that mentoring journey. 

Human management is the hardest thing ever. Each one of us is unique and what makes us the same is the common sense. But dealing with individuals without common sense and ‘adab’ are the hardest for me but it makes me stronger and more empathetic towards others.

As a beauty entrepreneur, how did you learn to recognize your own worth?

I always believe in self-love and self-care. With SO.LEK, we always believe and make a point that our product would help to enhance your own beauty, not to alter it or change it in any way.

What tips do you have for other women who would like to start their own businesses?

Take that first step. Be it to register your company, to place an order of a product or just to create an Instagram account. I get excited when I see women around me starting their own journey in this entrepreneurship because I feel like we have so much to offer. And I believe that God’s rezeki is so huge, and there’s a piece of cake for everyone.

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