Turning a hobby into a source of income

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Updated 12 August 2013
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Turning a hobby into a source of income

This young lady is still in her early 20s pursuing her studies at King Saud University, but she has already carved a niche for herself in the field of accessories designing. Her designer products are sought after by the young and the old alike in the Kingdom. Meet Malak Al-Saleh who is fast emerging as a role model for girls her age. From using beads initially, she graduated to using technology to develop her hobby, now a flourishing business. She spoke to Arab News about her hobby, her passions and how it transformed her life.

Q: How did you enter the world of accessory designing?
A: I used to watch my mother work on her handcraft, making accessories for us at home and also for relatives and friends. I would help her choose material needed, keeping up with the latest trends on TV and the Internet. I became hooked to this hobby and started to make my own collection. My relatives and friends admired my work and there was a demand for my accessories, so I started selling my products to them and to others. That’s how I started my business.

Q: How did you develop your work and how did you market it?
A: Whenever I made any piece of accessory, I would photograph it for authentication. I also noticed that many girls and women were advertising their various products on Twitter and Instagram. I then opened a dedicated account for my business and started uploading pictures of my products with their prices.

Q: Do you also sell your products through a shop or do you just depend on advertising through social media?
A: I started off by selling my products directly to my friends and acquaintances, but right now I sell mostly online.

Q: What raw materials do you use and what steps do you take to produce your accessories?
A: It depends on the design, but mostly I like to use crystal and pearl beads that are rich in color and a joy to look at. After I collect my raw material, I start off by drawing various designs and once satisfied with them, I begin to implement my designs.

Q: Do you have an assistant to help you with your work?
A: No, I make my accessories with my own hands, but I do seek other opinion, and sometimes customers have their own particular tastes and requirements.

Q: So, do you accept exclusive orders? How is that done?
A: Yes, I do receive special orders, and that’s usually through the Whatsapp application.

Q: How are your prices?
A: My prices range from SR 15 to SR 70, depending on the size of the piece and raw materials used.

Q: What is your target group of customers?
A: I don’t really target a specific group, because the range of my accessories can be used by anyone — from children to teenagers to adults.

Q: What is your ultimate goal and who is your inspiration and role model in this field?
A: I am very ambitious; also, as a member of my community I would like to add a creative touch to my surroundings. My ultimate goal is to become a famous accessory designer both locally and internationally. As for inspiration, it is everywhere, and I admire anyone who is talented in this particular craft.

Q: Which celebrities would you like to wear your accessories in the future?
A: Julianne Hough and Jennifer Lawrence.

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TheFace: Dr. Lama S. Taher, the successful fashion designer whose one dream was not enough

Dr. Lama S. Taher (AN photo by Ziyad Alarfaj)
Updated 20 April 2018
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TheFace: Dr. Lama S. Taher, the successful fashion designer whose one dream was not enough

  • Lacking in financial assistance but armed with grit, perseverance and passion, a young Saudi woman fashion designer launches her own brand while pursuing further studies, and succeed in both

I was born and raised in Riyadh and moved to London in 2004 to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree, followed by a Master’s degree in Mental Health.

Eight years ago, when I started on my Ph.D. in Psychology, I felt compelled to go into fashion design. Armed with grit, perseverance and passion, I took the plunge and launched my own brand, LUM, in May 2010.

I had no financial assistance and no fancy business plans — but I believed in it. No one else did, except my older sister who stood by me.

In spite of its humble beginning, the brand was well-received in the Kingdom and the Gulf region. But my father, a physician, was not convinced. I placed a bet with him, vowing to make substantial sales and revenue within one month. On July 1, 2013, I won that bet, making him my number one supporter.  In 2016, I achieved my academic dream, obtaining a Ph.D. in psychology at City University London.  

But it was not easy. Enduring sleepless nights and homesickness, I persevered to meet high academic demands. Meanwhile, the LUM business continued to flourish.

People asked why a successful fashion designer would pursue a doctorate in psychology. I was constantly asked to pick one — but my heart was in one and my mind was in another. 

Few believed I could achieve both. At times, I too doubted myself.

Today, I am an assistant professor at Dar Al Hekma University in Jeddah, supervising award-winning researchers. I am also a Saudi designer and manager of a successful fashion brand sold in the GCC, New York and Los Angeles.  I share my story to empower women to pursue their dreams, to believe in themselves, to fight for what they want.

People still ask: “Why both?” 

I reply, smiling: “Because one dream was not enough.”