This Women’s Day, the Perspective team got in touch with a number of women who beat the odds to establish their business ventures and became empowering examples of women entrepreneurship in Pakistan. Mariam Gohar Rabbani of Studio M was one of them. An up-and-coming hair, nail, and beauty salon in Islamabad, Studio M is promising quality services to the people of the capital city.
We asked many things about Mariam’s journey, including the challenges that came her way and how she was able to cope with them, and how she is successfully managing her home and business at the same time. Continue reading to learn about her formula of success.
Q. Please begin with telling us something about yourself? How would you describe yourself as a person?
I always find this question difficult to answer. Well, my mother is from a medical background and I always wanted to become a doctor or a surgeon of some sort, but that was overpowered by my love for the arts.
I pursued fine arts and then did my bachelor’s in fashion designing, I worked as a fashion designer for many years, I also worked in advertising as well.
When my youngest son turned 4 years old, that’s when I realized that I have time on my hands to work on something else as well. That is when I thought of Studio M.
I feel that I have a good business acumen and I am a sort of a perfectionist.
Q. How did you start off as an entrepreneur? Could you navigate us through your journey?
As I said earlier, my youngest son had just turned 4 and I had time on my hands to work on something else. My husband Gohar, has a great business mind and we both thought this was the kind of work that we could excel in.
I have always been very fond of make-up, I used to do courses all the time, every time I used to go abroad, I would spend hours at places like Sephora.
I thought there is an extreme gap in the market, people were not getting the same standard of work as I had witnessed in foreign countries. I always used to wonder, why such stuff is not easily available in Pakistan?
My husband was the support that I needed and we decided to open Studio M.
Q. What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced as a woman entrepreneur?
Honestly, I would say I haven’t faced as many challenges as I was expecting at first. Yes, it is very difficult as a mother of five children to look after your business. But now I feel I am a mother of 25, I have 20 people working for me and looking after their needs is one of the challenges.
When women are bosses, it is a bit more difficult to be bossy. I personally feel that is not a strong trait of mine, because I am very soft and mellow where I should be strict.
I’ve come to the realization that this particular industry is very social media centered. It’s about who is portraying themselves better in front of a camera, and neither I nor my husband have been very camera friendly.
I try it in my own way but frankly, I don’t have the time to look after it. I have an 18-hour workday.
The best and most important thing is that I enjoy it.
Generally, as an entrepreneur, who is looking to enter this market, there is a lot of jealousy, rivalry, and petty issues between people in the same line of work. Those are some of the challenges that are faced in this industry.
I feel in our country it is very unfortunate that women don’t lift up women as much as they should.
Q. What is the biggest pre-requisite for a woman to take initiative and start a business of your own?
Of course, having the right kind of business acumen and the money to start such a business. I feel that there are plenty of women in this country that have great business acumen but unfortunately, they don’t know exactly where to use it.
For me, the biggest pre-requisite is having the support of your family. If I didn’t have the support of my family, there was no way I would have started a business of my own. Even when I was working as a fashion designer, my family’s support was the most essential aspect that kept me going.
Q. What is one lesson that you learned as a woman entrepreneur that you would like to impart to those struggling?
I honestly don’t have an answer for that, I have just entered the industry and I am still in the learning phase. For other business owners, I would just like to say that commitment and consistency are really important. Consistency is key.
I personally feel that women face a lot more challenges in running a business as compared to men. I am of the opinion that a salon and a restaurant are two of the hardest businesses to open, as they require a lot of time and effort. It’s mentally draining, it is very difficult. You have to give in all your effort and stay a hundred percent committed to see your business flourish.
Q. How did Studio M started?
Studio M is a joint venture of my husband and me, we are both business partners. My husband stumbled upon an opening in the market, it was situated in a great location.
I was so passionate about my own salon that I did the interior design of the studio myself. Our original plan was to open the studio in March 2019, but due to a lot of work, we opened in July 2019.
In the meantime, I was training and hiring girls at my salon, they were trained from top training institutes in Karachi, including, L’Oréal and Pivot Point Academy. Four of the girls are certified Dermalogica therapists.
People were impressed with the standard of our work and that’s what has made this studio a success, people found out that we are providing them with services that others aren’t.
Q. Amid the pandemic, what measures or SOPs did Studio M adopt to provide their clients services that were safe?
It has been difficult, especially since we were not getting any guidelines from the government. We were following international guidelines, which were set by international beauty salons.
We have always tried to keep the place hygienic by using the proper sterilization method, so it wasn’t such a big transition for us.
We got disposable towels, capes, we were using new kits on every client. We did not use any sterilized tools, we asked the clients either to buy them from us or bring their own tools to be used. I think that really made a difference.
We were getting some backlash as well as we opened after we got the go-ahead from the government, but there were a lot of clients that were happy with the services we provided, adhering to the Covid-19 protocols.
There was a scare as one of our clients contracted Covid, but we made sure that all our employees that had come in contact with the client were safe. We have been very lucky in this sense and Alhumdulillah everyone working at our salon has been safe from Covid-19 until now.
Studio M, Allah Waali Market, Street 33, F 8/1, Islamabad
Contact: 0345 5180111