The Beauty of Women

Illustrations by Idea Ink

Nadia Chan is a passionate advocate of women’s leadership and empowerment causes. Through her company, she intends to inspire other women to pursue their dreams.

Sisters Sophia and Nadia Chan took a leap of faith in 2017 when they started Maiko, the Singapore distributor for Australian skincare brand Canvas. The reason? They fell in love with the formula of aromatherapy intelligence (a combination of organic plant species and aromatherapy oils) in every product. The sisters named the company Maiko after they learned about the Japanese heritage of apprentice geishas and were intrigued by their beauty, youth and purity which resonated with Canvas.

For this interview with Woman, Nadia stepped up as the company’s spokesperson. She calls herself a Jill-of-all-trades as she juggles her role as co-founder of Maiko; general manager of local public relations agency; and mother to a six-year-old boy Callum. 

How has the business grown since you started it? 

When Sophia and I first started Maiko in 2017, it was solely based on word-of-mouth to build brand awareness for Canvas and we collaborated with events to increase visibility. Fast forward two years later; we now have a loyal group of customers who absolutely love the Canvas brand. 

What were the biggest challenges in the initial stages of your business? 

Starting the business with no prior experience was definitely challenging. Sophia and I had to learn a lot of the processes by ourselves – and with both of us holding full-time jobs, that definitely added to the pressure. Each day is different and whilst it was sometimes tough, it was also fulfilling to watch the business grow. It gave me and my sister a lot of bonding time together. When we started the business, our intention was purely to educate people on the importance of practicing mindfulness through their skincare routine and I’m happy to say that many of our customers now enjoy what we call their nightly Canvas Beauty ritual. 

What are the lessons you’ve learnt from these challenges? 

The path to success is not easy and sometimes daunting. But we must learn how to look past short-term setbacks, embrace failures and see them as opportunities rather than obstacles. It is through these moments that we learn the greatest lessons, while keeping the purpose of our business and our vision close to our hearts. 

Understand your parents are business owners themselves, what advise did they share with you? 

Since young, my dad has always inspired me to dream, and was a constant pillar of support and encouragement as I pursued my dreams. I used to help him sell stuff he no longer needed and get extra pocket money from there. Both my parents have nurtured our entrepreneurial spirit and with their experience in running a business, they have been great at giving us advice. Till this day, one piece of advice that I hold close to my heart is overcoming failure – not only as an entrepreneur but in life as a whole. All of us may fail multiple times but we are in control of how we handle and react to it; struggle in the face of adversities, or pick ourselves back up, turn the situation into a stepping stone and be stronger. I’m grateful for how supportive they have been of our business. Sometimes when we do pop-ups, they will also help us out – it’s really a great family gig.

What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of working with your sister? 

Sophia and I have full-time jobs and I no longer live in our family home, thus running the business together allows us to spend more time with each other, discuss our vision and share about where we want to go as a team. Sophia has always been the quieter and good-natured one growing up, so being able to watch her step out of her comfort zone to try new things and venture into different areas of the business is something that I am tremendously proud to witness. 

I believe like any other sibling business partners, one of the disadvantages is having different views. It is not always easy to ‘agree to disagree’ but we strive to accept that each of us hold a different opinion and at the end of the day, we’re both doing our best for the good of the business. 

What would be your advice to women entrepreneurs? 

Don’t be afraid to leave your comfort zone because growth happens when we step out of it. Most importantly, believe in yourself and until you decide to do that, success will never come knocking on your door. I can’t promise you that the journey will be an easy one – there will bound to be some difficult days where nothing seems to go right no matter how hard we try, but despite it all, we owe it to ourselves to overcome our fears and stay the course even in the toughest of circumstances to follow our dreams and turn them into reality. 

What’s next? 

My sister Sophia and I are working on a new project and we hope to share more with you very soon.

Illustrations by Idea Ink