Alexandria is a 6 years old rhythmic gymnast at CSRG. She is a 116cm tall as of 2017. Alexandria has been in CSRG for two years and loves doing warm ups and learning her new routines. Her favourite routine in rhythmic gymnastics is the ball routine. She likes that it is really fun for her!
Hui says: As a new parent, I have started to develop a different perspective on so many things. One of them is about how I would encourage my daughter to be active, and how much to encourage, motivate or drive her to be involved in competitive sport. Apart from just thinking about budget, type of activity, the question of how to inspire and encourage and instil discipline without pushing them too much.
Royce Cheah, Alexandria's father got in contact with ash be nimble to request for a photo of Alexandria and her instructor, Carolyn at a CSRG (Carolyn's School of Rhythmic Gymnastics) event. We were interested in Alexandria's story and spoke to Royce to find out more!
Do watch Alex in the video as she is being interviewed by her father, Royce. She also shows her skipping rope skills at the end of the 1 minute video.
We asked Royce a few questions about his journey with his daughter in helping Alexandria out with her decisions and how much of it is Alexandria's choice.
1. As a parent, how did you get Alexandria into rhythmic gymnastic?
One of my friends was in Carolyn's national team and that's how I was exposed to rhythmic gymnastic - and I figured, why not let Alex try it out. No harm, and everything to gain! :) If Alex wasn't into it, I have no issues in letting her follow another path until she finds something that she loves. It turns out that Alex loves rhythmic gymnastics - and at such a young age, she is starting to show some resilience and discipline required for such a technical sport.
2. What do you think is important about rhythmic gymnastic for Alex?
I think Alex has gained and will continue to improve on - coordination skills, listening skills in terms of taking instructions and executing the finest detail, taking criticism and not giving up, and confidence - as the sport requires performing in public. I feel these are all important life skills.
3. How do you encourage and inspire Alex to be active and enjoy what she does?
My wife and I will discuss with Alex every few months whenever challenges in the learning of the sport comes - whether Alex still loves it and wants to continue. We tell her that it'll become more difficult and if she wants to do something, do it well. Alex understands this and takes it in her own stride. She is also greatly motivated by learning from Carolyn and is excited about what lies ahead, i.e. wanting to do what her seniors are doing.
"and it caught my eye, mostly because of the fox logo. And then my husband picked up some things at the Malaysia Women’s Marathon, where Ash Be Nimble had a booth."
After 18 years at an MNC, Christina Chan decided to change her priorities. “At the time, I was working with a multinational IT firm in various roles, including sales and marketing, and managing business partners in Malaysia and the Asean region,” she explains. She left her position because she couldn’t find reliable help for her children, at that time aged 7 and 10. Now she’s the Sales Manager at Ash Be Nimble, a locally-designed sports apparel brand. “The kids needed someone to be around when they came home from school and to help with their school work.” For Christina, it just felt like it was the right thing to do to invest her time in her kids rather than the office.
Her taking up a job at ash be nimble was, in her words, ‘uncanny’. “First I saw ash be nimble products popping up on my social media, and it caught my eye, mostly because of the fox logo. And then my husband picked up some things at the Malaysia Women’s Marathon, where Ash Be Nimble had a booth. Not long after that, Hui (Matthews, ash be nimble founder) put up a call on Facebook, looking for a Sales Manager!” Christina laughs.
"It combines two of my favourite things, so sometimes it doesn’t feel like a job!”
She’s currently responsible for stockist sales in Malaysia and the other countries that the brand is expanding into, such as Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines. Christina admits that going into the interview, she had a lot of doubts, especially about her lack of experience in retail sales and marketing. But she also told herself that there was no loss in trying it out. After a successful interview, Christina decided to give it a go. After almost two decades at her old job, she approached her new job opportunity with a completely different mindset. In the corporate world, the job has to come first. Here, Christina told herself she would prioritise her children. “I no longer felt I had to keep the same job for 18, 20 years. I knew then that I had a choice to leave if my priorities could not align.”
Fortunately for both Christina and the company, things worked out. In fact, a lot of Ash Be Nimble's philosophies line up with Christina’s own. “Staying active is very important to me,” says Christina, who also teaches Gyrotonic classes, an exercise method described as ‘Yoga for Dancers’. “I am a female who loves to work out and also look good doing it, and that makes me passionate about my job. It combines two of my favourite things, so sometimes it doesn’t feel like a job!” Her first work meeting with Hui was on the trails of Kiara Hills, and they exchanged backgrounds, spoke about her role in the company and had a general discussion while sprinting through the hills.
“It was a memorable first meeting,” laughs Christina.
“It was really refreshing to literally have an outdoor meeting, with some adrenaline and sweat thrown in.” Although the transition from working at a multinational to working at ash be nimble’s office, or den as they call it, didn’t particularly phase Christina, she did face some concern from her former co-workers and peers. “They would ask me how I’m doing financially if I was alright. There’s still a stigma when it comes to working for an SME.” She admits that it’s difficult for some to adapt to the change when they are so used to having their personal identity.
It all started with an idea to make fashionable and affordable fitness wear for everyone to enjoy. Little did we know, it was the start of something much more than just an apparel company. ash be nimble(ABN) was a small passion project of Hui Mathews, who believes that you can have vibrant and well fitted sports wear without breaking the bank.
Fast forward a year later and ABN has become the brand known for challenging the odds and going the extra mile in whatever you do. The #gotheextramile series was produced from all the times she had encountered difficulties and challenges, but pressed on anyway. There are people who do not allow their circumstances to determine their outcome and they need to be celebrated. This is a campaign that goes beyond the person; it is also to encourage the people watching and needing that extra push to go further in what they feel called to do.
Where did the idea for ABN come about?
I was looking to train for half marathons and to do more trail running. I was looking at some of the booths that were set up at one of the races and I realised there wasn’t anything at RM100 or less in the style and quality I was after. If you’re looking to train for half marathons, you would need to commit to train about three to four times a week.
That means you’ll need at least three sets of outfits, each consisting a sports bra, a pair of shorts, and a top. Brands like Nike and Adidas would require you to pay about RM120 or above per item, and if you look at the average Malaysian salary of RM3000, spending that kind of money on sports clothing will cost you ten percent of your salary! I thought there must be something I can do to change that, and so I told myself that the next year at the same marathon, I’m going to come back and have something to sell that will be affordable for women who are into fitness like myself.
“… I told myself that it was okay to make mistakes and see how it works out…”
How did you manage a startup while juggling a full-time and very demanding consulting job?
It’s never easy to start a brand and work full-time. Juggling the two have made me super efficient and effective in everything I do. At the same time, I told myself that it was okay to make mistakes and see how it works out over the next 6 months. Whatever spare time I had whether it’s on the way home, during lunch breaks, or over the weekends, it’d be dedicated to researching designs and going through multiple iterations of it. I think I had an average of three to four hours of sleep a day for the whole of 2014 [laughs].
“You have to be willing to discipline yourself whether it’s waking up early to work out or researching on that business you want to start.”
What are some of the biggest challenges leaving a comfortable job to start up something on your own?
I’ll be very realistic and say that money is the biggest factor, followed by career progression. What if ABN does not work out? It’s going to be very difficult for me to reapply and get back into consulting. I had a previous employer who offered me to go part-time and that allowed me the flexible hours and I’d be able to focus on ABN. Everything that I was earning was going back into ABN and if I stopped, we’d no longer have that security.
Finding out that I was pregnant was also another challenge. Did I want to go back to a stable and predictable employment and be able to raise my child without worrying about whether I’m going to be able to pay my own salary? When you’re running your own business, so many things start and end with you. If you’re on leave or on maternity break, there’s a high risk that nothing will get done in a way that you want it to be. My husband and I had a discussion and we came to a realisation that so many people have done this with a lot less - whether it’s raising a family or starting a business. On the flip side, you have people who are in the corporate world and when their child comes along, they don’t have the flexibility to work from home or bring their child to work.
What are the challenges of running a fitness apparel company in Malaysia?
For me, it’s asking myself ‘how do we keep things interesting and affordable?’. Costs are going up, the ringgit is struggling which affects production costs, and now we have GST to worry about. When you sell something online, people tend to expect a huge discount even when we’ve always tried to keep our prices low from the start. We have to make sure we grow the business in a sustainable way where we’re not throwing huge budgets on advertising, marketing, or getting superstar celebrities to feature us. We’re doing a lot of grassroot work and figuring out ways to drive more people into the store and creating awareness about ABN. With more and more competitors coming in, we’re really trying to set our brand apart with the range of clothing that we have and to send the message across that we are a Malaysian brand and we’re proud of it.
“Each person has a different path but there are always ways that you can make for yourself in order to chase after your dreams and build what you’ve always wanted to do.”
How do you go the extra mile in your everyday roles?
I really try to coach my team to think about going the extra mile in everything they do. Even the little things like replying a customer’s email, it’s all about putting yourself in the customer’s shoes and giving them the type of service you’d like to receive. As for our return and exchange policies, we try to go out of our way to make sure the customers get what they would like to wear at the end of the day. From an entrepreneur's perspective, there are so many people out there who lack motivation and encouragement and I hope that through my own little battles like whether to wake up and go for a trail run, I’ll be able to inspire someone else. If I’m able to show someone that yes, you do have to make compromises and sacrifices but you can find ways to balance work and family, then hopefully it’ll inspire them to go the extra mile and take that extra step to start something or continue whatever it is they’re doing. People can tell if you’re doing it for show or if you genuinely believe that this is what you need to do. As a mother with a demanding baby, who is also running her own business and finding the time to keep fit, I can say that it is possible to discipline yourself and make choices to make things happen. Each person has a different path but there are always ways that you can make for yourself in order to chase after your dreams and build what you’ve always wanted to do.
You’re a living testament that you can have a career and a family at the same time. What advice do you have for mums out there who feel the need to give up what they love so that they can raise a family?
There is always going to be a compromise. For me, it’s my bank balance [laughs]. There’s no room for fancy holidays, pretty things, and luxurious dinners, but in return I get the privilege of building a brand that I believe in and I’m able to marry my passions for fitness, design and business together. You have to be willing to discipline yourself whether it’s waking up early to work out or researching on that business you want to start.
As we wrap up this series, we have learned that it takes more than an “a-ha” moment to get up and do something about what you’re passionate about. It’s pushing past the odds, challenging yourself, and being brave enough to say “yes”; these are what it takes to go the extra mile. Whether you’re a homemaker, an entrepreneur or even both at once, the only barrier between you and your goal is the limit you set for yourself. These individuals that were featured are the epitome of the word ‘passionate’, so who cares if you’ve been knocked down several times before? Just don’t stay down.
Family man, triathlete, businessman; these are some of the hats Azran Osman-Rani wear on a day-to-day basis. In case the name doesn’t ring a bell, Azran is CEO and COO of iFlix Malaysia with a strong and powerful zest for purposeful living. His first love was for Ultimate Frisbee during his Stanford University days when his team was ranked number one amongst the west coast states.
Azran’s idea of success is one we don’t usually hear. He isn’t caught up with the ‘musts’ and the ‘hows’ of getting it right; instead, it’s the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’ that’s more important. His high achieving personality triggered many lightbulb moments to be the best in whatever he sets out to do. We had the privilege to sit down with the ‘geek athlete’ as he shares on what motivates him to go the extra mile.
“You’ve got to know that every single hour you’re dedicated to training has to have a purpose.”
How did you get into endurance sports?
Before that, there was a little bit of drama [laughs]. Being a management consultant back then, work really preoccupied me. In a blink of an eye, after the national championship moment, I was a completely different person physically; I was overweight and looked much older than I do now. Sixteen kilos heavier, a round face, and a receding hairline of which I was in denial back then - just really bad! I joined AirAsia after that and in 2008, AirAsia sponsored the first inaugural Borneo Marathon. I signed up for the 10km and I thought the idea of huffing and puffing all the way to the finish line was just insane. Once I got there, I saw grandmothers and grandfathers completing a 42km marathon! I signed up for another 15km race and I passed out right at the end. I woke up to St. John’s ambulance trying to revive me. Interestingly after three years into it, there was hardly any physical change. I think the body takes a long time to undo all the bad habits you’ve accumulated. It wasn’t until I decided that I need a coach to understand specifically what I needed to do if I wanted to run properly.
How does living purposefully apply to you?
For me, it isn’t just about going out to run. In fact, the very first lesson I got from my first coach was to work and adapt my body. For example, in the first few months I’d have to run a lot slower and allow my body to get used to certain things. After a while, I started to pick up and was able to go a lot faster, but coming in thirteenth place isn’t exactly inspiring. Then someone suggested competing in triathlons but the thing is, I don’t know how to swim. However, I was still quite intrigued and a light bulb moment came in. Forty years of avoiding how to swim and living with this fear of water, I really wanted to tackle and overcome it. I signed up for my first swim class and it was filled with five year old girls. First lesson; put head in water and blow bubbles. After six months, I still couldn’t swim a lap but I signed up for my first sprint distance triathlon anyways. Less than thirty metres into the water, I freaked out and started hyperventilating where I had to be rescued out. I got another coach and he tried to figure out ways to get me over my fear of the open water. Again, after a few months I thought I was ready and signed myself up for a race in Singapore. But again, I was overcome with fear and had to be rescued. This time I was really pissed off because I genuinely thought I was ready but my mind got the better of me. Then I got another coach who is a former national swimmer. We started lessons on January 1st 2013 and I immediately signed myself up for Ironman because once you have a stake in the ground, you know you can’t quit. In the first three months, we did five sessions a week, 5am start in the water. He got me out there in open water and I remembered thinking ‘I’ve survived!’. With regards to time, triathlons and Ironman competitions require an immense amount of preparation and that means you have to be extremely systematic. You’ve got to know that every single hour you’re dedicated to training has to have a purpose. It’s making sure to be in bed by nine and up and about by five so that means no more late nights or anything else that would get in the way of that.
How do you translate that to being specific with your work hours like how you manage your team and leading a business where everyone else works alongside you?
Firstly, it’s having a powerful and inspirational goal; work isn’t just work, it has to have meaning and purpose behind it. You’ve got to articulate that clearly no matter how insane the goal is. It may be scary to tackle it alone, but imagine how cool it would be to make it as a team - our lives change and we’re changing people’s lives. Secondly, it’s being very focused, very short-termed and action oriented. We don’t believe in having three or five year plans and we even laugh at doing twelve month budgets because as everyone knows, your budget assumptions are all out the window by the third month. I’m a big believer in two time horizons - thirty days and thirty years. Thirty years being the ultimate place you want to be at and thirty days in being super focused about what you’d like to execute for the day while adapting and pivoting along the way. That’s as simple knowing the three or five things you have to nail down for the next week or the next thirty days. It’s all about doing a few things, but doing them exceptionally well so that you’re not overwhelmed by everything else. Lastly, it’s about creating a sense of ‘teamness’ like the kind we experience in triathlons where you have the support of the community around you. That’s the same experience we should create in the workplace where the rule is there is no problem that’s someone else’s problem. We have collective ownership and responsibility over every issue.
“If you’ve succeeded in pumping someone up with the goal you have in mind, getting out of their way is a much better philosophy than trying to micromanage and get them to report back to you on everyday stuff.”
How do you manage time management and unexpected pop-ups on a day-to-day basis?
Here’s my little secret: Step one, hire really great people - those who are smarter than me, motivated and energetic and step two is to get out of their way. If you’ve succeeded in pumping someone up with the goal you have in mind, getting out of their way is a much better philosophy than trying to micromanage and get them to report back to you on everyday stuff. I’d rather be accessible when needed, but it’s entirely their call. When something goes wrong, for the most of it they feel that they have the authority to handle it on their own. Unless of course it’s something major, then I’m just a call away.
What are the key challenges you’ve faced growing iflix from scratch?
The challenge of starting a business like this is the different pieces of components that you have to bring together. Initially when all you have is an idea, it’s incredibly hard to get your business partners onboard. iFlix needs content but if you go to the Hollywood studios, their first thought is ‘what kind of fly-by-night type operator are you?’. There are doubts about our legitimacy and the resources that we have because they won’t have that assurance at first. And if you want investors to put in money, they ask if we have content agreements and a technology platform. With the technology partners, they’ll ask if we have both money and content. The biggest challenge is convincing everyone but ultimately the biggest person you’ve got to convince is the consumer. iFlix was an unknown brand built from scratch and you can’t just pay your way to create a brand because it takes time to gain that traction and word of mouth. What really keeps me going at that point in time is a sense of faith that somehow everything will fall into place.
Envisioning myself in a state where it might seem uncomfortable or almost impossible to achieve, but relying on that power of imagination makes everything suddenly real and approachable, simply by believing.
Complete this sentence: I go the extra mile by…
Envisioning myself in a state where it might seem uncomfortable or almost impossible to achieve, but relying on that power of imagination makes everything suddenly real and approachable, simply by believing.
Speaking to Azran gave us a whole new perspective of how we manage ourselves and to question the reasons behind what we do. It’s uplifting to hear it from someone who’s got a crazier schedule than either of us combined. It’s not simply about trying to be the best, but to smart when going about it - something that people tend to overlook. Azran’s determination to overcome his fear of deep water is a perfect metaphor for us to exemplify. If you fail, take a deep breath and try again.
Consultant at Ernst & Young by day, and yoga guru by night, Shidah Mohamed’s passion for yoga began by accident after she was dragged by a friend to her first yoga class. Ten years on and she is determined that her contributions as co-founder at YogaOneThatIWant (YOTIW) will ultimately advance the community of yoga participants throughout Malaysia one small step at a time.
While many of us might have our own views on yoga and its representation, Shidah believes that it goes far beyond than just healthy living - that it can bring together people from whatever backgrounds, age and fitness level to holistically improve every aspect of their livelihood. We sat down with the 27 year old at her Shah Alam studio on a warm Saturday morning as she took us through her experience.
“It’s not so much about telling people that yoga isn’t about religion, but showing what it is otherwise.”
Why do you think yoga is not as big here as it is in other countries?
At one point, people thought yoga was banned due to religious beliefs. When we started YOTIW, we also set out to break that misconception about yoga and religion. It’s about breathing, exercising, losing weight and gaining strength. No doubt that it came from the Hindu belief, but we have positioned it in a way that shows that it goes far beyond religious aspects. It’s not so much about telling people that yoga isn’t about religion, but showing what it is otherwise.
How do you get your students from various backgrounds to bond and feel motivated together?
It’s important that everyone who comes for class feels settled in properly because if their first impression of yoga is a negative one, then they might not return. I set my students as a priority; I tend to each and everyone of them. Communication has also been key to ensuring their needs are met and that the students are comfortable in being sociable with each other so as to encourage a close knit family and growing the community.
You have people who work in the corporate field who are constantly overwhelmed with different things that they don’t even have time to take up a hobby let alone attend class. What advice do you have for them?
I have met plenty of people in the workforce experiencing these problems and I totally understand that they have family commitments and other things that they need to prioritise. However, I would encourage them to try something new and different that promotes healthy living. Even if it’s doing it as scarcely as once a month, that’s a start. Eventually you’ll get the hang of it and gradually build the momentum. I started yoga simply as a hobby at the gym. I’ve noticed that my asthma improved tremendously and I no longer needed to rely on my inhaler.
“In the absence of passion, you’ll feel forced doing something just because you have to do it.”
What is the vision you have for YOTIW?
We hope to see the company expand throughout the whole of Malaysia. We currently have seven studios in our schedule and we’re looking to develop classes for corporate companies as part of our efforts to endorse a work/life balance. Overall, we’d really like to see the yoga scene in the country grow to be something that benefits the society.
Travelling is a huge part of your life and there is always a benefit in getting to know the world around you - how has travel affect the way you run your class and handle people?
I spent a year in Germany because my father was working there. I was placed in a public school so that allowed me to pick up the language. I was sort of “forced” to learn German because my friends only spoke to me in English for two months before they abandoned it altogether and started speaking to me only in German. In my travels, I meet new people and in a way it changes how you think or even how you react to certain things. It’s made me a more tolerant person.
“Overall, we’d really like to see the yoga scene in the country grow to be something that benefits the society.”
What is going the extra mile for you and how do you apply that in your daily life?
I guess it’s the question of ‘how much would you do in order to push your passion?’. In the absence of passion, you’ll feel forced doing something just because you have to do it. For me, it’s sacrificing ‘me time’ to do yoga, whether it’s teaching or managing the studio. Many people perceive what I do as just teaching a class, but there’s so much more to that than what it appears to be. It’s about putting proper thought and preparation in what you’re about to teach. Even after class, I take the time to speak to my students to get to know them a little better or even if they have any issues they need my help with.
What would you do to push your passion?’ Shidah poses (pun intended) an interesting question that I believe we’ve privately asked ourselves at some point in our lives. The road to embracing healthy living may not be exactly round the corner, but it’s not dormant either. It’s never easy juggling two jobs, but I admire her persistence and sacrifice to see the fruits of her labour all for the name of passion.