Personalities

Women Who Walk Ahead: Nina Ismail Sabri

Third and final on our Women Who Walk Ahead series is Nina Ismail, the brains behind the women-only salon Capello by Nina, SB Beauty, F&B joint Fluff Bakery and the preschool dubbed Peterana Kindergarten.
Reading time 4 minutes
Dress, Bottega Veneta.

Sifting through the chain of companies helmed by Nina Ismail Sabri (@ninaismailsabri), it becomes apparent that her business reach knows no bounds. From the women-only salon Capello by Nina to beauty mastermind SB Beauty, F&B joint Fluff Bakery and the preschool dubbed Peterana Kindergarten, Nina’s petite frame belies the scale of her drive and ambition.

The University of Queensland alumna puts her master’s degree in business and marketing to good use as she seeks to exploit the gaps of opportunities left behind by the bigger players.

Managing one company is demanding enough but you’re juggling four. How do you manage?

By having a wonderful team on my side. I’m blessed in that sense because the people who were there with me when Peterana first started in 2012 are still with me today. I treat my staff like my own family so that they also feel comfortable talking to me. That said, I will put my foot down when the time comes. I can be strict at times, but I make sure that they know that they can always talk to me.

But coming from a family of certain influence, some might say that you have it easier. How do you respond to this?

I have to say I was lucky because my father did give me a head start with the start-up costs, but it was a one-off thing and it wasn’t much. To me, starting a business is easy, everyone can do it, but it was up to me to sustain and to grow the business. As a matter of fact, I initiated my other three brands from the revenue I made from Peterana.

Being a spouse and a parent, on top of it all, how do you find that elusive work-life balance?

Family is very important to me because I come from a close-knit family, so when I married Jovian (Mandagie), I was happy that he also takes family life seriously. So we made a pact that no matter how busy we are, we will not work on Sundays to spend time with each other. We also make it a routine to have dinner together at least three times a week.

Your daughter Jeanelle is turning one soon. Will she be heading to Peterana too?

Oh, yes! For 16-month-olds, we have this thing called playschool that they can attend three times a week, and Jeanelle will be the youngest child enrolled at Peterana, ever. She really loves to learn. I own a lot of learning tools at home like books and sensory objects whereby she can touch different items with different textures, and she seems to enjoy them.

What is one piece of advice you’d give to aspiring female entrepreneurs?

When I first got married, people kept asking me “why is it that you don’t have a kid yet?” It’s strange but that’s our society. But at the time, Peterana and Capello were really taking off, and so was Jovian’s business. So we both decided to wait for a couple of years to have a baby. To me, if you want to do something, just do it; give it your all and surround yourself with people who support you.

Photography: Chintoo 
Styling: Jeffrey Yan
Makeup: Khir Khalid
Hair: Juno Ko
Hijab Stylist: Nazerul Anaz
Styling Assistant: Joyce Fan

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