Updated: Jun 20
In recent years, the world has witnessed an incredible surge in the number of women entrepreneurs. These visionary women have shattered glass ceilings, defied stereotypes, and forged their paths to success. In this blog, we will delve into the inspiring stories of women entrepreneurs in our own network, explore the challenges they face, and celebrate their remarkable achievements.
Women entrepreneurs Breaking Barriers: Overcoming Challenges
Women setting up their own businesses encounter gender biases, limited access to capital, and the daunting task of balancing work and family responsibilities. We feature some of the stories of women who have disrupted industries with their creative thinking, passion, and unwavering belief in their ideas.
Creating Supportive Networks for and by Women Entrepreneurs
Building a strong support network is vital for any entrepreneur, and women have embraced this concept wholeheartedly. They understand the power of collaboration, mentorship, and creating spaces where women can uplift and empower each other.
We are proud to have some of these torch bearers as a part of the IBU network, proud of IBU members who also reach out to the network and support and nurture each other in their own ways.
In this session, we talk of Imelda, co founder of BreakFree Movement. And, by the logic of the best bakeries being closest to fitness centres in real life, we also feature Rolling Pin by Nur
Imelda, co-founder of BreakFree Movement
BreakFree Movement is the first MovNat® Licensed Facility in Malaysia in 2019. The method reclaims natural movement skills from ground up by purposefully integrating play into the BreakFree Movement’s practice. This is Imelda's story.
I started my career in a boutique event management company, and moved on to an Australian property investment firm as a Relationship Manager, followed by 11 years as a Group Marketing Director for a boutique consulting firm.
I lived a fairly sedentary lifestyle in my early years, climbing the corporate ladder at the expense of my mental and physical health.
My business partner, Dr. Elaine Hong who founded Breakfree Movement with me – she too, had lived a sedentary lifestyle in her younger days. She had spent 10 years building her career as a cancer research scientist.
How did you get started? Who did you have in mind when you first started?
As my mental and physical health took a toll on me during my corporate journey, I started getting “active” as the mainstream media portrays to be the “healthy” thing to do. I was forcing myself to “workout” at least 3 times a week with a personal trainer, lifted heavy weights and was determined to “look good”. I lived with a constant lower back pain, thinking it was normal (or at least I was told that it was), getting treatments from various physiotherapists – but the same pain cycle would repeat itself. This cycle lasted for years.
Until I met Dr. Elaine, now my business partner – at that time, she had steered away from mainstream medicine and took a career change by becoming a personal trainer. I went to her with an objective to find a solution to alleviate my lower back pain. She experimented the MovNat® method on me, and to my surprise in a matter of 3 weeks, my lower back pain was gone.
It was then we realised there was a gap in the fitness industry, where we have a spectrum of extreme mobility, all the way to extreme strength or powerlifting – but no exposure and education of going back to basic natural movement (MovNat®), building awareness, mobility and strength from ground up (just as babies start developing strength).
I was determined to bring this method in to Malaysia, and together with Dr. Elaine, we both got certified in 2018. I decided to take a leap of faith, quit my corporate life to start educating and spreading the need to move naturally again (due to our modern lifestyles today that lead to common chronic injuries, pain, and modern-day diseases), to break people free from the cycle of pain.
Any tips you would like to share to keep consistent productivity?
- Managing stress levels is the key to ensure you know your boundaries, know when your mind and body need to rest. Just step back and take a breather
- Acknowledge and address negative emotions. Have some alone time to organise your thoughts will help clear out the air
- Eat well with quality, nutrition-dense meals
- Sleep well by keeping our phones out of the bedroom or out of sight
- Enjoy what you do!
- Most importantly, stay active and move regularly
Will you encourage your child(ren) to be an entrepreneur, too?
If I ever have children in the future, I would encourage them to experience and explore life from their perspective. Find their purpose, be true to themselves and do what brings them joy and meaning in life. Whether this brings them down the entrepreneurial journey or otherwise, as long as they live a fulfilled and contented life.
How do you feel about living your passion?
Loving every single second of it. The satisfaction of advocating and applying an unconventional approach to break people free from the cycle of pain is rather satisfying and rewarding in every way.
Is there anything you wish you knew at the beginning of your business?
Interesting question. I can’t think of anything I wish I knew earlier. Of course there were “mistakes” made or ineffective outcomes as a result of our decisions, but it always comes with a lesson learnt. And the beauty of it is how we can experiment, learn, adapt and change the way we do things to make it better.
What is BreakFree Movement all about? Share with us!
Breakfree Movement is a natural movement fitness studio that empowers physical longevity through movement diversity and play.
Our clients include individuals with injuries or physical pain, pre-/rehab, chronic conditions (i.e. stroke, Parkinson’s, arthritis, scoliosis, etc.), Mothers (pre/postnatal), people with movement fear, seniors, individuals with a movement or strength goal, and anyone who just wants to move better for everyday life.
Our approach works towards reclaiming natural movement skills from ground up, by first establishing a strong foundation of mobility, strength and efficiency through the empowerment of movement in various contextual demands and environments. As we grow up, as adults, we tend to forget how to play – hence, PLAY is an integral part of our programs to achieve movement longevity. (more info https://www.breakfreemvmt.com/about-1)
Our services include Personal Coaching (1-1), Private Group Classes, Group Programs, Corporate Teambuilding and Specialty Courses.
Any plans for the future? Business expansion/ growing another brainchild etc?
As we were working with Breakfree Movement, we’ve experienced a lot of clients that come with pain, or clients who come with a certain movement fear that they want to overcome. And we’ve noticed that throughout the years or experience working with these clients, there are certain things stopping them from overcoming their pain or fear, which is not just a physical limitation.
And that’s when we start to realise a pattern where clients sometimes have either a mental or emotional block that needs to be addressed before they can expand their physical capability.
So, as a community we’ve decided to start this initiative, Breakfree Wellness, to come together as a holistic approach to address these issues or barriers.
Our bodies should work as an interconnected and integrated unit, and not in silos.
Hence, the birth of Breakfree Wellness where our intention is to set people free from their physical limitation through breaking their mental or emotional barriers that will get them to move better and have more confidence to achieve what they want to achieve, not live in pain anymore, and live their best life.
- Contributed by Mulyani Abu Bakar
Interested to find out more? Missed the wellness workshop we set up together? Check them out on socials!
The Rolling Pin by Nur
Entrepreneurial mothers have the opportunity to pursue their passions and create a business that aligns with their values and interests, that is meaningful to them.
Nur Hafizah runs a successful micro bakery “The Rolling Pin”. You may have sampled her brownies and other delights in different IBU activities! This is her story.
I grew up in Penang before moving to Subang Jaya and have also spent some time overseas in Houston, Texas while I was growing up. My mum has been a single parent all my life, so seeing a working mum is all I ever knew. I pursued a degree in Medicine before obtaining my masters in Business Psychology (MSc). I’ve been married for close to 5 years now, and am a mum of one.
I love a good cuppa tea (cha, it has to be brewed), reading (from journals to stories, it’s a rather wide range) and food!
How did you set up The Rollin Pin?
I’ve always enjoyed baking and would often bake for family and friends. Entrepreneurship was not something that came naturally to me as I (till date) struggle with pricing and marketing. I credit my husband to giving the nudge I needed to pursue setting up a “formal” micro business and begin charging for my breads/cakes. “
I got a lot of inspiration (and strength) to start my micro bakery from Sophia Sutton-Jones, a micro business owner based in the UK. She now has a full-fledged bakery, a dream I hope to realise someday.
Tell us a little bit about the business.
When I first started, I would bake (mainly breads and buns) out of our kitchen oven. Slowly, from profits I earned, I invested in stand alone oven and it became much easier to take larger orders/quantities of orders.
I included jams/spread and cakes. Presently, the menu offers of a selection of breads, spreads, cakes, cookies and jelly cakes – a new skill I’ve recently mastered after many days and nights of trial and error!
We also do custom orders for occasions such as Hari Raya and even wedding favours.
During the post-pandemic “bendera putih” time, we baked buns/bread to be donated through The Lost Food project and also YB Fahmi Fadzil’s office. In addition, we’ve baked free cakes and cookies to be distributed to the underprivileged for Eid. In 2020 we have helped Carefugees raise funds food baskets for Christian refugees.
How do you feel about living your passion?
To be honest, it’s hard work although I do enjoy it!
When you make your passion your profession, you have to take care not to make it a chore and enjoy what you’re doing.
Challenges as a mom entrepreneur
Sometimes mum-guilt creeps in especially during peak periods, it’s at times like that I remind myself that seeing me work hard for an income is something my son will remember and value for years to come.
Tips to stay productive
- Ask for help, there’s no way to do it all alone
- Personally, for me, writing things down helps a lot. I have a daily to-do list detailing even minute tasks like “take down laundry”, “reply to text from xx” etc “
What advice do you have for other moms looking to start their business?
Start. The worse case scenario is that it won’t work out, but at least you have given it a go!
That being said, please also consider financial ability. Scale up slowly, take your time, and reinvest your profits in your business so you aren’t taking anything out of your personal savings where possible. Reach out to other business owners for guidance (or friendship/mentorship) if you need it.
Entrepreneurial mothers are role models for their children. They teach their children valuable skills, such as problem-solving, time management, and financial literacy. The rise of entrepreneurial mothers is a testament to the power of determination and the importance of pursuing a fulfilling career while prioritizing family life.
Interested to find out more? Missed the bakes during our gardening workshop, or wish to savour them again? Check them out on socials!
- Contributed by Saima Umair
Women entrepreneurs are rewriting the narrative of business success, challenging traditional norms, and proving that gender is not a barrier to achievement. Their stories of triumph over adversity, groundbreaking innovation, and social impact inspire us all. By celebrating and supporting women entrepreneurs, we contribute to a more inclusive and equitable business world. Together, we can create a future where every woman with a dream has the opportunity to thrive and succeed.
Got a story to tell? Talk to us now!