BY: SANZANA SYED
When Abida Rahman walks into a room, in this case, a small Culture’s café located on University Ave, you can tell she means business.
The 33-year-old sports a simple blue, geometric necklace and another with an eye. Her strides exude power and a presence that indicates she’s got a good head on her shoulders.
“RAH is not just a product; it’s a brand to help you understand your lifestyle.”
It is a brand she believes in, one that sets herself apart from many celebrities and entrepreneurs. She doesn’t just sell her RAH skin care products, she shares knowledge, too.
The success Rahman has achieved so far did not come easy. Assisting her father with his own newspaper for the Bengali community in Toronto, Rahman understands what it’s like to run a business. However, her restless nature drove her to want more out of a job.
“I can’t work for anybody.” she admits. “I am not the type of person that can sit at a desk and answer to people and be micromanaged.”
The freedom and flexibility of managing her own company is something Rahman wants. Creating a brand was as simple as taking her last name and building upon ideas that worked around it. She cautions having your own brand leaves you vulnerable to what others may think of it.
Before her divorce in 2009, Rahman says she fulfilled the role of a dutiful, traditional wife. Pleasing her ex-husband for two years and making sure his needs were met first was what her life centred upon. Her creative side was blocked and she was left with a mental halt. Many of the things she is passionate about today (meditating, reading, and exercising) didn’t have the same desirable effect then.
“I was in a relationship where it was completely one-sided.”
Her ex-husband was a creative block for her, similar to when authors have writers block. It was a lack of attention towards Rahman’s wants and needs that prevented her from creating her brand as a married woman. Rahman says her ex came from an educated family, whereas her family is lower middle-class. He would show off his status to her constantly. Because he didn’t care about her, she felt that she shouldn’t care about herself either.
If anything, Rahman is grateful for her divorce as it helped her discover a new opening for her career. It was time for her to discover who she was.
She realized no one would listen to her talk about health and nutrition if she just worked for the city, which is her day job. Therefore, before her brand launched, Rahman wanted plenty of background experience and proper certifications to be an expert in her chosen business area. In 2015, Rahman became a certified yoga instructor, which helped inspire the three points in her brand’s mission statement: Body, Mind, and Spirit.
On her website, she posts many articles on health topics such as dealing with mental illnesses, the importance of drinking water, and how using microwaves are bad for warming food.
“RAH is about fueling your body, about developing your mind and it’s about freeing your spirit.”
HER OWN VISION
Rahman knew when she wanted to produce a skincare line, all the products would be made with natural ingredients. Originally, her body butter and lip balms were made at home using a stand mixer. Now she manufactures her products on Canadian soil in a lab in Kelowna, B.C. by two biochemists and two doctors.
Stella Mah, a dedicated customer of RAH since its launch in 2015 says it is not very often she comes across products with ingredients she can actually pronounce. “I try not to take that for granted.”
Mah is a case worker in social services and says that Rahman has had a positive influence on her life. Rahman actively shares her self-journey and discovery to health and wellness on social media, and Mah believes this is why customers appreciate the brand.
“You feel like she herself is personally invested in her own vision.”
Petra Kassun-Mutch has been an entrepreneur for over 15 years. She is the founder of Eve-volution, which publishes LiisBeth, a magazine focused on feminist entrepreneurs, and leads workshops in the GTA that empower women to learn how to start a business. She is also the founding chair of Women Entrepreneurs Ontario (WEO), a collective that proposed recommendations to help strength Ontario through women’s entrepreneurship and innovation. Kassun-Mutch says that entrepreneurship is personal.
After hearing about RAH, Kassun- Mutch noticed how deeply Rahman cares about her brand and has “translated” that into her products.
“Apart from producing skin care products, she has a philosophy.”
Although one of the good things about entrepreneurship is earning money, according to Kassun-Mutch, Rahman has another viewpoint.
“Knowing that I’m changing a person’s life through one pose at a time, that’s more than enough of a reward for me and if I get paid, that’s just a bonus.”
Kassun-Mutch encourages small businesses to raise the bar for higher earning though, if they want to make an impact on the world. Through WEO’s recommendations, Kassun-Mutch is pushing for the government to establish a $100 million women’s enterprise investment fund and a $1 million to $2 million seed-money grant to help support entrepreneurs like Rahman. Kassun-Mutch insists nobody can afford to stay in business for themselves without making an income.
“People after three years go, ‘What the hell am I doing this for?’ So you have to aim high. What makes me an expert on female entrepreneurs is because I am one.”
VERSATILE FOR TWO
For someone like Rob Hallewick, beauty care is not high on his priority list. As an industrial HVAC/R technician, coming across Rahman’s products was something that appealed to him as a man.
“The hand sanitizer is in my work truck and I frequently use the product.” Hallewick says. He works in many hospitals and nursing homes daily and finds that the sanitizers doesn’t leave his hands feeling dry; something most people face with jobs like his. “Smelling like alcohol would be very off putting to my customers.” Hallewick is one of Rahman’s many satisfied patrons for her brand.
RAH is a unisex brand and Rahman wanted to create products that could be used by anyone and everyone. She didn’t have to think too hard when it came to naming her men’s line: RAHman.
Sandy Silva, who is a beauty analyst from the NPD Group says that skin care being “naturalized” has become a popular demand. Natural skin care products are simple to use and works for everyone.
“Beauty trends are now more achievable than ever for the consumer and ultimately making luxury feel more affordable. No longer are high-end consumers and low-end spenders exclusive. Now, they are the same consumer.”
A healthy lifestyle is often dismissed when you have a large workload on a daily basis. With a huge database on the internet with many “healthy goals”, things can get overwhelming. Finding something right for you might become another challenge you don’t want to tackle.
Hallewick says Rahman’s social media posts reminds him to be healthy and to be active in a fun and easy way and like Mah, he agrees that her brand has made a positive influence on his life.
Rahman creates daily posts on Instagram titled RAH Affirmations where she declares something about herself that is not a what if type of statement. Five years from now, she sees herself expanding the product line, and possibly selling her brand to a larger company.
With emphasis, she asserts, “In five years I will be the cover of Forbes magazine. Come hell or high water, it’s going to happen.”