Normah Ibrahim: The face behind the Emma Daniel shoe line
First Runner Up Business and Economic Reporting Award
Kenyalang Journalism Awards 2016
By Jude Toyat
Shoe lover Normah Ibrahim gave up all that she had in Kuala Lumpur – even her job as chief executive officer at a company in 2005 – to return to her hometown Kuching and start her own shoemaking business.
Back then, the hundreds of luxury brand name shoes including Prada, Hermes and Louis Vuitton in her possession wasnt enough for the driven and ambitious woman. Normah, better known as Emma, wanted to make her own.
After a friend assured her that opening a shoe factory would be a good idea back then as there was no such factory in Sarawak at the time, she decided to change her career path and explore the new business opportunity.
In 2006, she founded Red Profile Sdn Bhd (Red Profile), starting her business with a RM100,000 facilitation fund from Small Medium Enterprise Development Bank Malaysia Berhad (SME Bank) and setting up her factory in Padawan.
Even for the Kuching-based footwear manufacturer who believes in the famous Cinderella quote ‘One shoe can change your life’, getting into the shoemaking business was not as easy as some may expect because it demands high commitment.
“Our first order came from Sarawak Shell Berhad in 2006 for working shoes and safety boots for their National Day parade on August 31. We were extremely happy and proud at that time for getting such an order,” said Emma of one of her memorable moments in the shoemaking business.
Being a very ambitious, hardworking and determined woman, the mother of four boys enrolled herself in an intensive shoemaking course, completing the six-month course in shoe design and shoe making with a certificate from the International Shoemaking Design School in 2008.
“I remembered my teacher Miss Sissy told me that I was very creative and that I could go far in this industry. That was when I started to do heels which were first worn by a friend of mine.
“Today, my Emma Daniel footwear has travelled across the country and been loved by many including celebrities and beauty queens. Most recently, I made shoes for Miss Malaysia World 2016 contestant Francisca Luhong James,” she said.
To ensure that Red Profile remains competitive, Emma took in a skilled workforce, some from Indonesia, to help her produce high quality shoes at the factory.
“Red Profile emphasises on quality and comfort in a shoe, and this continues to be the preferred choice for our customers,” she added.
Her attention to detail and quality ensured that Red Profile became an ideal choice by the state government to make safety boots and working shoes for firefighters, police and nurses.
Red Profile was also named one of the SME 100 Fast Moving Forward Company Awards from 6,000 entries on October 23, 2015 in Kuala Lumpur.
Emma looks up to Jimmy Choo as her idol.
“I am inspired by many shoe designers but Choo will always be my number one choice. I also love brands like Chanel and I incorporate some of the designs into my own shoe line. These kinds of fashionable footwear sells like hot cakes today, especially those in black,” she said.
Even though Red Profile has become a successful venture, she always takes the opportunity to take part in programmes organised by government agencies in her effort to strengthen her business.
“In 2013, we applied to become one of the companies under Bumiputera Agenda Steering Unit (Teraju) and Red Profile Sdn Bhd was accepted. We were then called to follow several programmes under Teraju including the Facilitation Fund Committee Meeting, as well as the exclusive training by the National Entrepreneurship Institute (Insken) in collaboration with the Malaysian Directors Academy (Minda),” she explained.
The Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade) has also assisted Emma in promoting her products in the Middle East.
“Currently, we are in the midst of penetrating the Middle East market and we hope that our products will be accepted well in the region,” Emma added.
Besides the factory, Red Profile also has a retail outlet under Emma Daniel, located at Bangunan Baitulmal in Kuching.
Emma also donates her shoes to the less fortunate whenever she has the chance, especially since she has a large collection of luxury brand shoes.
“I have always been thankful for having this opportunity to become a shoe designer.
“One of the most memorable moments for me as a shoe designer was when I was awarded the Usahawan Ikon Karnival Usahawan Desa (KUD) 2016 Peringkat Negeri Sarawak by the state government,” said Emma.
Red Profile has also been awarded the Anugerah 50 Wanita Inspirasi Nona Malaysia, The Prestigious ISO 20374:2004, has had its shoe products examined and checked by the Science and Technology Research Insitute for Defense (Stride) and received a 5S certificate from the National Productivity Council.
“Im not only learning about shoes, but also handbags. Its just that I am not really into designing handbags as much as I am into shoes.
When asked to describe herself as a person, Emma said that she was not afraid to reach for the things she wanted in life.
“Although it may seem like I could collapse under the pressure, I will always try to work for it and make sure that I accomplish it. That is the motto that I have lived by until now and I have never failed to reach for the things that I want,” she said.
On her future plans and goals, Emma said that she will strive to create more designs and open more branches in the near future.
“I plan to open more branches for my Emma Daniel brand across the country, as well as in Jakarta and Dubai,” she said.
Emma said that she was extremely proud to be a Sarawakian who runs her own shoe factory.
“I am very proud to be a Sarawakian who is also considered successful in making shoes.”
To aspiring shoe designers, Emma advised: “Show people that you can actually design shoes. Utilise social media well and expose your designs to the world.
“Design with heart and sincerity. You have to be sincere, and then you can go far.”