Interview with Val of Nouri, on helping others look good

To kick off our “Inspiring Mumpreneur” series, I’m pleased to introduce Valerie De Costa, founder of Nouri Face and Body Concepts. I first got to know Val through a good friend, when I was looking around for a credible post-natal massage service provider. I learnt a lot from her regarding post-delivery care and certainly benefitted after going through some rigourous massge and weight-loss therapy with her. She’s hard-working and driven, and as you’ll find out, her family and children are her source of motivation and inspiration…

Val_nouri 1What made you take the leap of faith to start your own business?

Ever since my childhood years, I had always dreamt of being my own boss while being a part of something which I enjoy, which would bring satisfaction and a source of viable income.

I take great pride in making others look good and feeling their best, hence I decided to embark on my own journey in the beauty industry.

That was the sole motivation that spurred me to set Nouri Face & Body Concepts, then known as NouriSkin in 2001.

How do you balance your work and family?

When NouriFBC first started in 2001, I had just conceived my first child and lost my mother to cancer in that same year, so to even dream of achieving a balance between work and my personal life was unthinkable at that point in my life.

Without a trusted family member to assist in helping me with tending to my child while I was at work, it was a great challenge to keep on working hard at my newly set up business while making sure I could care for my child on a daily basis.

As with most service industries, my job requires me to work long and irregular hours. Clients mostly drop in for treatments after office hours, and quality treatments can take at least 2 to 3 hours each time. Hence, I sacrificed my personal hours to work late nights in order to build up my client base and reputation steadily.

In the past, I often had to rush for every single task. I would pick my kids up from the daycare centre, feed and bathe them, supervise them on their homework and then rush back to my job to attend to more clients. To say things were hectic is a great understatement.

When children reached the age of self awareness (around K2 or early primary), I got them involved in the business as well. I believe that training them at an early age to take on responsibility will go a long way in the future.

Of course, they only help out in simple tasks such as sweeping the floors, cleaning the rooms after appointments, etc. But their involvement made things easier, and the tasks helped foster responsibility ànd character in my kids. It also meant that I get to pack up and go home on time, without having to waste extra time on menial chores.

All those years of “drilling” my boys have actually bore fruit. I am glad that when I bring the kids out, many others have told me they are very well behaved.

Of course, I do wish they can perform better in school. During their formative years, due to my long working hours, I wasn’t able to read with them much, or encourage them to be interested in reading. Hence, they do not share the same love of books and reading as I do. I believe that good reading habits are extremely important, as it will help one gain knowledge and insight, with a desire to always learn more. That’s where I feel I could have done better as a parent.

 Val_kids

What was your most challenging period while building up Nouri?

There was a time when it was very difficult for me when I had my personal issues as a parent and a business woman. In addition to that, I did not want to worry my family and clients unnecessarily, so I kept my problems to myself.

Having to deal with high rental rates, high staff turnover, lack of reliable domestic help, and very young children to look after really took its toll on my mental and physical well being. I must have looked listless and troubled, because even my clients were starting to show concern and mentioned that I used to look good.

Getting the hint, I scheduled a trip to a hair stylist who revamped my style so much that I felt instantly revitalised and my confidence started to return. I resumed my work with a fresh new look and a vigour to match.

Everyone immediately noticed this change and said, “Val, this is the real you. Welcome back.”

I have since learnt that as women, we have to look after ourselves in every aspect. If we don’t, we can’t be a good provider to our loved ones and add value to our workplaces.

It is really not about carrying an expensive purse or jewellery, but simply put, you have to look your own personal best to perform your best. Many of my clients agree that when they look good and FEEL good, they tend to find that everything else just falls into place for them naturally.

Where do you think you got your fighting spirit? 


I attribute it to being born into a humble family background, where we made do with the little we had.

As a family of regular church-goers, Sundays were the only day we could put on presentable clothes to attend mass. Talk about looking your Sunday best, I only had two presentable outfits for outings and had to alternate them each week when I went to church. That simplicity never bothered me, but it served as the basis of my life’s motto to never take things for granted and be complacent.

It is this very motto that keeps the passion for my goals fiery and strong, to fight for what I want.

What would you say to a mum who’s thinking of starting her own business?

I would advise her to pursue her dreams and passion. Your kids will be your source of inspiration to be a better person and to strive harder for their sake.

Success is never guaranteed, but if any mum has the desire to make her mark through being her own boss – I do not see that as a bad thing as long as she can prioritise her goals and execute her plans properly.

Val & her clients

I hope you’ve enjoyed the first interview in this series. I’m on the lookout for more inspiring mumpreneurs to feature every month. If you are a mumpreneur or have an inspiring story to share, do email me!

Weekend wishes and musings on marriage

“Marriage is not simply the luck of the draw, or something that we get involved in which just unfolds before us like a long movie. Good marriage, like good individual lives or good art, are conscious creations. They are made.” – Kevin and Marilyn Ryan

I’ve been thinking about marriage and relationships lately. More specifically, on how much intentional effort and time it takes to achieve a deep understanding of each other, and to grow in intimacy and trust.

I confess that with three little ones, it’s easy to let the kids take over and steal the show. (And to let marriage subtly slide into second place.) Because their voices are so loud and their needs so immediate, everything about them comes first.

But what’s urgent may not always coincide with what’s important. And marriage is one of those things that can easily be shoved to a corner, while we’re busy fighting fires or changing poopy diapers.

I need to remember to place my marriage as priority, and to place my husband as priority. It comes second to none, except perhaps our personal relationship with God.

The weekends are usually busy and full of different activities, commitments.  But I pray that this weekend, you’ll make time to savour some sweet moments with your spouse, recollect some good memories perhaps, or even a funny incident. Hold hands, even as the little ones tug at your shirt. Share with him what’s been on your heart. Be ready to listen too.

Be humble, quick to forgive, and slow to anger.

Have a sweet and loving weekend, friends.

Dear Josh at 8 months

Dear Joshie,

I blinked and you’re now a roaring 8-month-old.

A couple of months back, I thought you were the quiet one, the thinker, the contemplative one. You were content to sit (in the rocker) for brief periods by yourself and play with whatever colourful, noisy or movable object you can get your hands on.

Today, you’ve suddenly found good use for your voice. When you’re on the high chair, you yell and make such a racket if I so much as pause for a moment in between feeding you. I started off with baby-led weaning, and you’ve had fun learning to feed yourself carrots, sweet potato, blueberries and steamed apples. But we’ve broadened your food repetoire, and now I also make porridge for you, and that means spoon-feeding. You find that slow and boring because you don’t get to grab food with your itchy fingers, and you don’t hesitate to show your impatience.

When you’re in the pram and you start to feel a little lonely / bored / just wanna disturb mummy, you turn in your seat and try to climb up the pram to reach me. Of course, you can’t really get out since you’re belted down, but you can get yourself in a precarious position, and I usually have to pick you up for a bit.

Okay, granted the world looks more interesting when you’re in my arms…But I also have to get errands done you know. Thankfully, I’ve found some secret weapons in the form of food. Yup, blueberries, the occasional bread – once I pop something into your mouth, you are happy to munch on whatever it is, and keep still (and seated) long enough for me to finish doing my thing.

You’ve recently started to crawl and cruise. This means that wherever you go, you leave behind a path of destruction. Big brother’s puzzles are torn apart and chomped on. Big sister’s lego creations has had to be moved to a safer “home” so that it’s out of reach. The “baby” toys keep you busy for a while but then you seem to tire of them and want to get your hands on the more exciting untouchable items. I can’t keep track of the number of times I’ve had to use my fingers to dig out all manner of paper and other unmentionables from your little mouth!

Your favourite game is peek-a-boo. Whenever big sister jumps out and scares you, you reward her with lots of chuckles. You also enjoy prying the rubber bumpers off the cabinet that sits beside our bed, and I think part of the fun is that you always get a reaction from me. You must find this game funny, since I keep sticking them back, and you keep pulling them off.

You mean I shouldn't be eating veggies?

Of course, you always welcome the company of your noisy siblings. You greet them with a look of curiosity and wonder, and turn your head excitedly when you head them coming. I can almost see you running along with them and wanting to do all the cheeky /fun /mischievous acts that they get up to.

These days, when you’re excited, you start waving your little butt up and down, like you’re doing a jig. Cuteness overload.

I’ve always secretly wondered why you’re different from your brother and sister (you’re generally quieter and don’t tend to cry except for when you’re hungry or when you need attention or help), and why God finally decided to give us a kid who’s more like mummy. But I guess no matter how you turn out to be, boisterous or contemplative, whacky or serious, thunderous guffaws or dry wit sort, it won’t take away from the fact that you’ll always be my little boy.

May you always have that sweet, peaceable disposition. May you always reserve your special, happy, gummy smile for mummy.

Ahh…Joshie boy, you’re such a joy to behold.

The best of June

I can’t believe the June holidays has come to an end. Time flies by when you’re having fun huh? Here’s a peek at what we got up to this hols.

We kicked off with a Chinese holiday programme at Ed-Quest Chinese School. Food was the theme for this holiday programme, and Vera had loads of fun exploring food and learning the language at the same time. From the photos, you can see that she had a taste test with blindfolds on, and made ice-cream with the red ball-like gadget (bottom pic). Obviously with such fun and engaging activities, Ms Vera loved attending class, and I didn’t hear a single complaint. She kept telling me she wanted to go back and attend more classes! (Now, I think that alone speaks volumes about the sessions!)

Ed-Quest chinese school

We visited the National Museum masak masak exhibition. The kids had fun “cooking”, making and decorating cardboard houses, admiring miniature toilet roll cut-out artworks, and even exploring the laws of physics with eggs and other interesting materials. And don’t forget the bouncy castles at the front lawn! (PS. Exhibition runs till 3 August.)

Play @ National Museum

We took advantage of I Love Museum’s Children’s Season, and visited the Police Heritage Centre for a quick tour. The tour turned out to be more suitable for older kids (less interactive and engaging for those below 5 or 6 years old), but the highlight was dressing up the kiddos in uniforms at the end of the 1-hour session!

We also went for the Central Fire Station’s Open House and had fun learning more about our civil defence force and exploring fire engines and testing out water hoses.

We also visited KidsStop the week that it opened (Below, top right: playing doctor), and found that it’s one giant indoor playground. The kids had fun pretending to be paleontologists digging for dino bones in a sand pit, playing with giant musical instruments, and acting as construction worker, supermarket cashier, and doctor for a day. (More pictures here.)
play-pretend

During the last week of the hols, I decided to take it easy, and just had some playdates out at MacRitchie Reservoir (we wanted to see the monkeys!) and at nearby playgrounds. Somehow all the playgrounds we went to were really quiet and I guess it could be because most families are still away on holiday.

We made random words with leaves and twigs, collected pine cones for painting, had fun feeding fish, admiring butterflies and building sandcastles. The weather was kind to us, and thank God (while crossing fingers and toes), no haze!

outdoor fun in Singapore!

The holiday programme and the activities were great. But I think the parts I enjoyed best was being able to spend quality time with Vera and JJ, just going about our daily mundane things like grocery shopping, stopping for a cuppa (this one is for me of course), and also getting to explore our own backyard in Singapore.

This quote describes it all…

“The wonderful thing about having kids is that we become tourists in our own country again.”

You

You with the tidy tucked in ears
You with the softest sweetest purrs

You with the funny furrowed brows
You with the cutest drunken smiles

You with the hearty appetite
You whom we love to kiss goodnight

You with papa’s pointy nose
You with the tiniest twinkle toes

You with the crazy karate chops
You with the forever flying socks

You whose eyes are like dreamy stars
You whom I seem to have known from afar

You, our newest littlest one
You, our precious God-given son

You whom I will love and care for day and night
You whom we will not let out of sight

You who make our lives topsy-turvy
Yet bringing such great joy and delight.

You.

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