SASHAYING HER WAY INTO THE WORLD – DATO EMMA IBRAHIM, THE SOLE OF RED PROFILE SDN BHD
Marilyn Monroe once quoted, “Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.” And that is precisely what this Sarawak born woman is doing. Dato’ Normah Ibrahim, or more popularly known as Dato’ Emma Ibrahim, a well-dressed and cheerful lady, sitting in her office in Damansara is known as the ‘Boot Lady’.
The corporate world was not challenging enough.
With a degree in Business Administration from Maine University, Dato’ Emma began climbing the corporate ladder as a financial advisor for Bumiputera Commerce Bank. After ten years in the banking world, she stepped up the ladder to become a Managing Director with GP Oceans, an oil and gas company based in Singapore, for their KL branch office.
Being a person who loves a good challenge, Dato’ Emma could not linger for too long before making a change and move forward. She made up her mind in 2005 to exit the banking world and start her own business, from scratch. A self-professed shoe lover, Dato’ Emma decided to venture into the footwear industry. Why shoes? “I love shoes. I love their vibrant colours, their interesting shapes and contours,” her face lights up when talking about it. Thus, Red Profile Sdn. Bhd. was born.
When asked how the name of the company came about, Dato’ simply answered, “My favourite colour is red. I love red. And Profile as in high profile.” An elegant and distinct name, just like the CEO. Deciding on the location to open up her factory was an opportunity for her to contribute back to her local economy and the society in Sarawak. She set up her first office at Kompleks Kilang SME Bank in Kota Padawan, Sarawak. When it was established, the company started with less than ten workers. Red Profile currently has three factories in Malaysia, the first one being in Kuching, and two others in Kuala Lumpur and the most recent, in Johor Bahru. Red Profile continues to grow, making their mark and becoming a prominent name in the footwear industry, especially among the uniformed bodies.
From catwalk to the marching band
A shoe aficionado, her luxurious collection includes famous brands such as Prada, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Jimmy Choo, Chanel and lots more. However, when asked about her most memorable shoe, Dato’ Emma did not hesitate to admit it was the stiletto that she made herself when she went to the United States to study shoemaking. “It was an amazing experience,” she added. She was the first student from Malaysia to learn shoemaking at that school, and after six months, she completed her course and returned to Malaysia with more determination than ever, to create her shoe brand.
Dato’ Emma highlighted that breaking into the footwear industry was not an easy ‘feet’. With the variety of choices available online, at a lower price, even her own locally made brand, Emma Daniels, did not make it through. But, nothing can deter this strong-willed woman. A chance order from Sarawak Shell Berhad to supply them with working and safety boots was just the break she needed. Although it was a different form of footwear than the elegant and slender stiletto heels she is used to, the ever so ambitious “Boot Lady” saw this as a significant opportunity. With some financial assistance from the SME Bank, Red Profile Sdn. Bhd. is now supplying the majority of Malaysia’s armed forces and uniformed bodies with comfortable and SIRIM certified footwear.
Swapping the pointed toes to the well-polished rubber soles, Red Profile continues to keep up with their reputation in boot making, expanding their presence into the world, aiming a stomping deal with Saudi to supply their armed forces.
Fashion is her obsession
From her stylish groomed hair to her voguish pantsuit, to the tip of her matching stilettoes, the ever-fashionable career woman, Dato’ Emma is always seen smartly dressed, whether it is for a business meeting, to a formal event or just in her leisure time. She pays close attention to her appearances, as it not only represents herself but the image of her company. With that in mind, she and a good friend set up their image consultant agency to help others find their inner self-confidence. DEL Image Consultant aims to provide an image consultancy and etiquette service to help those in need of a makeover, to bring out their self-esteem and brighten up their lives.
A businesswoman with a charitable heart
Dato’ Emma believes in giving back to the community. Setting up Red Profile in the state of Sarawak was one of the opportunities for her to share the wealth with the people in her home state. Being a single mother of four herself, employing single mothers to work in Red Profile, is not only providing them with the means and stability necessary to care for their own families, in doing so, it is also giving these women the self-esteem, confidence and assurance that they are not doing it alone.
Keeping herself busy, Dato’ Emma is also a patron with the NGO Helping Shoulders. The organisation focuses on helping to bring attention, information and awareness about crimes against children, including single-parent households, paedophilias and abuse. Helping Shoulders and Dato’ Emma has been going around the country, educating the public about safety and how to protect their loved ones from the dangerous world we live. It was also through this activity that Dato’ Emma began to delve into the world of Information Technology, as many young ones are now tech-savvy yet are unaware of the predators lurking just around the next clickbait. Realising this, Dato’ Emma turned her focus into using technology to help provide an extra layer of protection for the innocent.
The recently launched MyCemas mobile application is another project she is involved in. MyCemas stands for Malaysia Centralised Emergency Mobile Alert System, a collaboration between Red Profile and an IT company, to enable help to reach victims or those in need of emergency assistance. The original idea was to provide a mean for children or anyone who finds themselves in a dangerous or difficult situation, to be able to reach out and get help. The app links the user with their next of kin, relative or friends, who can come to their assistance in an emergency. By just pressing the power button three times on their mobile phone, the user can send out the alert signal to their registered emergency contact numbers, with details of the users’ location and surrounding environment to help in locating the user. Currently, the application has been launched and is already available through several NGOs, and is set to be fully up and running in January 2021.
Advice for young entrepreneurs
Like many others, one of her main struggle when she first started was financial restrictions. Her experience in the corporate world helped to prepare her in facing these difficulties. Looking back, securing a financial assistance was a crucial element in gearing up for a successful business. Her determination in her pursuit is what sets her apart from many others. As a person who bravely leapt from a high paying job to becoming an entrepreneur, starting again from scratch, Dato’ Emma Ibrahim has one thing to say to those young, ambitious entrepreneurs who are looking to create their product and brand. “Study the market and state your goals. That is the most important thing. And just do it.” She also added, “Be certain and confident with your project. Confidence can overcome everything.” Coming from a woman who travelled thousands of miles to learn shoemaking, overcome financial difficulties and always strutting to do her best in everything she ventures into, elegant, bold and confident is undoubtedly a way to describe her.
It seems that this energetic woman is not going to stop anytime soon. With the recently launched MyCemas project, as well as newly established her image consultant firm, DEL Image Consultant, under her belt, Dato’ Emma Ibrahim is ever searching for new challenges and opportunities, with a hint of hope to become a grandmother too.