I Am Her: Muhaini Mahmud On Working Mums & Entrepreneurship

Her journey from corporate life to entrepreneurship

Our “I Am Her” series features the female movers and shakers of the industry to learn how femininity and power coincide beautifully and seamlessly together.

If you had encouraged Muhaini Mahmud 10 years ago to go into entrepreneurship, she would have probably given it a pass. Back then, she never imagined owning a thriving business. Now, she’s the co-founder of Southeast Asia’s first babysitter-on-demand app.

A working mum herself, Muhaini knows the challenge of having to budget your time between parenting and furthering your career. And so, together with her business partner Nadira Yusoff, the two set out to create Kiddocare, an app that would empower working mums and at the same time give career opportunities for women in the childcare industry.

Get to know how Muhaini was able to transition from her life in the corporate world to entrepreneurship below.

Muhaini Mahmud

Fill in the blanks: I'm an entrepreneur, __________ and __________.

A fitness enthusiast and Turkish TV series lover. I love working out; I run every other day and I took up personal training also recently. And during this lockdown, I discovered that in Turkey, they make really really good TV shows. I recommend Diriliş: Ertuğrul (available on Netflix) and Magnificent Century; both are about Turkish history. I visited Istanbul so many times, and I wish I watched this series before I visited because now I know more about the history and significance of the historical sites even more.

What does women empowerment mean for you? How does Kiddocare App empower women?

To me, empowering women means giving them the means to be financially and intellectually independent. Kiddocare was built as a support system for families so that women will be empowered to generate income, learn and acquire knowledge and have time to pursue their interests. At Kiddocare, our flexible working time and income-generating opportunities have provided plenty of hope and empowerment for women from the B40 community. Just to give a background, in Malaysia, there is an income classification system and B40 means Bottom 40 percent which is the lower-income group.

We have a lot of success stories from our carers and how Kiddocare has transformed the lives of these women to be the best they can be. One “Kiddocarer” even shared her story with us that she can finally afford a motorcycle of her own. To her, that was something really big.

And it’s not just the B40 community. On the other end, we also help a lot of working mothers. Working mothers tend to quit their jobs because of childcare. So this is where Kiddocare comes; we want to support working mothers so they can go back to work. It’s also a support system for stay-at-home mums. Being a stay-at-home mum is a 24/7 job, it’s not easy and sometimes you just need me-time.

What motivated you to co-found Kiddocare app? What's the story behind its creation?

My business partner Nadira Yusoff came up with the idea. She’s an entrepreneur and a very busy woman. One day, she’s working late, and she got a call from her youngest daughter’s teacher asking if she’s gonna pick up her child from the nursery. She totally forgot to pick up her daughter. She loves her child, but it just really slipped her mind. And that’s how the idea came up — to help fellow working mums to prevent these instances.

After that, she approached me about the idea. Back then, I just got out of a divorce and was a freshly minted single mother who had to take care of her child on her own. I thought it was a great solution because I’m a single mother myself and so I said yes and that’s how Kiddocare started.

You studied electrical engineering and actuarial sciences in university and had a corporate career, what made you decide to dive into entrepreneurship? How was the transition? Were you already knowledgeable in running a business or did you learn on the job? How were you able to raise funds?

I was in the corporate world for 14 years, and you just come to a point where you feel that it’s already enough. The job was getting too mundane, everything has become a routine, and I’m doing the same thing over and over again. I just wanted something more challenging. I also realised after a while that when you work for someone, you’re spending the best years of your working life helping to fulfill someone else’s vision. But even so, when Nadira asked me about the idea, I didn’t say yes on the spot and it took awhile to make the decision. Ultimately, I decided that I want to work on my own vision and my own dreams. Further down the road, it felt more fulfilling even if you have to work twice as hard.

Coming from a corporate career, I was so used to the process of getting instructions and then executing them. The transition to the entrepreneurial mindset wasn’t easy. Suddenly, I had to come up with my own ideas and solutions. For me, being an entrepreneur is being like an elite athlete. You need to draw from your inner resources, you gotta have strength, intelligence, courage, resilience, will and grit to build something. You will encounter a lot of fear, self-doubt, and distractions; and to be a successful entrepreneur, you need to overcome these. I learned a lot of things on the job.

Thanks to my partner Nadira who has been an entrepreneur for many years, my transition became smoother. One of the things I learned from her is that when you run a business, you need to have an attitude of “no-envy” and you must always be prepared for disappointments.

As for the funding, we pulled from our own funds at first because we knew it was difficult to even raise an angel investment with an idea that was unusual for childcare in Malaysia. People we talk to had a lot of concerns that the idea might not be a hit. But we persevered and after we managed to break into the market and we had traction and we can show that people are actually using our service, we did crowdfunding. We chose it for several reasons: we want investors who can relate to us, we want to reach people who believe in our cause and as we’re running on a tight budget we wanted our ECF (equity crowdfunding campaign, a type of investment that allows interested individuals to invest in a company) to also be our marketing campaign.

What are the entrepreneurial lessons that you've learnt since co-founding Kiddocare app?

The first one is to believe in yourself. My motto is: To believe it and achieve it, I have to see it, hear it, feel it, smell it and taste it. Your intuition is very important. So this requires an upgraded mindset. You have to think about the energy of a child — adventurous, fierce, unapologetic. Sometimes entrepreneurs lose that spark after a few setbacks because they view failure as inescapable. But the moment you fail is the most crucial time to reprogram your mindset so you can pivot and learn from your failure and move on towards success. We pitched so so many times and got rejected so so many times before we finally got a yes. The key is to trust your vision.

Second is to value your team. I believe in the saying that, “Companies win in the marketplace by winning at the workplace.” It’s very important to keep our employees and our “Kiddocarers” happy. No matter how big you get, remember you’re nothing without your team. You cannot grow or succeed if you cannot take care of your team.

Lastly, never give up. The word “giving up” doesn’t exist in an entrepreneur’s vocabulary. As an entrepreneur, you will find yourself in unfamiliar situations more than you would like. Things won’t go as expected. But if the reason why you started still lives strongly within you, no matter the obstacles, you will find again the motivation to achieve your goals.

What motivates you to do what you do? What is your 'why'?

As a mum, I want to be able to work and have someone reliable who can take care of my child and I want to offer the same solution for other parents. At the same time, I’m also committed to providing opportunities for women to generate income.

Name your 5 Clozette essentials.

As a fitness enthusiast, I do a lot of outdoor sports like running and golf, and for many years, I didn’t use sunblock protection. I intend to change that in 2021 and now one of the essentials that I carry in my handbag is Eucerin Sun Creme Sensitive Protect SPF 50+. I like it cause it’s not oily. And then, for lipstick, I like the Armani Red. For fashion must-haves, I love a white tee and LBD. Last but not the least, I have my Nike Infinity React running shoes.

This interview was edited for clarity and brevity.

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