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…
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.
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.
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!