How Fitness Has Enabled Me To Pursue My Dreams Fearlessly
We spoke to "accidental entrepreneur", Nadia Hasbi on overcoming negative experiences through fitness
and starting her own fitness apparel line for women.
Nadia Hasbi is the Founder and CEO of Fit Rebel, an online store that offers attractive and affordable activewear for women, Before becoming an entrepreneur in the fitness fashion industry, she was a corporate suit from the oil & gas and transportation solutions industry.
As an advocate for active and healthy living, she launched SENI by Fit Rebel in August 2016, a line of leggings that features hand crafted designs by traditional batik artists - the first ever sportswear to merge trendy athleisure with traditional prints.
Nadia is a motivational speaker and has spoken on platforms such as TEDx. She is also the author of the bestselling novel “The Misfit Rebel” which is a story about pursuing your dreams fearlessly.
When Nadia isn’t designing pretty activewear or busy working out, she indulges in desserts, catches up with friends and family and travels the world for inspiration.
1.How did you get into starting Fit Rebel?
I would almost call myself the accidental entrepreneur. All my adult life, I assumed that I would work and retire within the corporate world. Never in my wildest dreams did I realize that I would become an entrepreneur, let alone one that is doing what I am doing now!
It’s a pretty long story which involves the death of my father and an engagement with my (then) Brazilian fiancee which didn’t work out. In my darkest of days, exercising was the only thing which made me feel happy. Once I got over my ‘funk’ I decided to EFF being normal and boring and to pursue my dreams fearlessly.
Exercise helped me get over some of the most painful episodes of my life in a positive way. I decided that I wanted to advocate for women to lead more active and healthier lifestyles, to be happier and the best version of ourselves that we could possibly be.
While I was doing market research for Fit Rebel, the feedback which I kept on receiving was that having cute and attractive activewear makes women excited to work out - and to even enjoy their workouts more! Based on that, I decided that I wanted to create the world’s most beautiful activewear to encourage women to lead more active and healthier lifestyles.
2. What were you doing before that?
I was doing Business Development for Scomi Engineering Berhad in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Huge change, isn’t it?!
3. What inspired Seni?
While I was coming up with ideas for my own activewear label, I knew that it had to be something different. Something truly special and unique as I would be competing against the likes of Lululemon, Under Armour, Nike, Adidas, Puma, etc.
I asked myself, what is it that I could do as a Malaysian to create the world’s most beautiful activewear? I spent weeks thinking about it!
The one day, it was as if the clouds parted, the skies opened and a ray of light from above shone down on me sending me this idea from the heavens “Nadia, try putting batik on activewear”. When I got that idea, it was a light bulb moment, almost as if there was an explosion in my brain. Whenever I get crazy excited about something, it’s usually a good sign and I went about the business of creating my first prototype.
“Once I got over my ‘funk’ I decided to EFF
being normal and
boring and to pursue my dreams fearlessly”
4.What is your fitness routine?
I enjoy a lot of things, so I don’t have a specific routine, per se. In 2014, I was into weight lifting and I was hitting the gym 2-3 times per week. In 2015, I got bitten by the climbing bug and made CAMP5 (Asia’s premier indoor rock climbing gym at 1Utama) my second home. In 2016, I got into running and participated in the Penang Bridge Marathon for the first time ever. To prepare for it, I ran every day. So yeah, no particular fitness routine, it really depends on my mood and what I am into at that particular time.
5.What is your biggest challenge in getting fit?
Getting out of bed in the early mornings to go running, haha! It gets hot by 8am, so if I wanted to go for a longer run (at least 10km) I would have to be up by about 6:15ish. Urgh. It can get painful but what really helps is to have running buddies. I doubt I would do this if I were alone!
6. What are some women-specific challenges you’ve dealt with in fitness and business?
The challenge is to try and please everyone. I pour my heart and soul into the business and I really do try my very best to give the best service and products to customers. That being said, when it comes to women and fashion in particular, it is very subjective and personal. Some women absolutely adore my products. Some don’t. Regardless of what I do, some women will never ever be caught dead wearing Wolf inspired leggings (from the Game of Thrones inspired collection launched in July 2017). I’ve had to learn that it’s ok and to focus on becoming better and better for the customers who do love my products. In fact, that would be the best use of my time and efforts
7. Whats your inspiration for fitness?
I started to exercise every day when I was at the lowest, weakest, saddest point of my life. I wanted to feel strong again, even if just physically. Interestingly enough, as my body got stronger, so did my mind and my soul. Now I exercise daily to be the strongest, best version of myself. And this is what I wish for everyone.
8. Whats your inspiration for business?
To create gorgeous, wearable works of art that women can wear while they work out. My ultimate goal is to evoke a sense of wonder within my customers when they lay eyes on my pieces for the very first time, followed by excitement to purchase to wear to their next workout.
9. Whats the biggest challenge in your business?
Trying to figure out what it is that will surprise and delight my customers. I released a Game of Thrones inspired collection in July 2017 which did really well. The artworks featured included Dragons, Wolves and Ravens. Then, in December 2017 I decided to release a feminine and pretty Floral Collection. Much to my biggest surprise, the Floral Collection isn’t selling as well as anticipated. Maybe it is because flowers have been featured extensively on activewear of other brands, so it wasn’t quite as unique or special.
I don’t know what it was. I will never know. Every collection is a gamble because you will never know what sells and what doesn’t. So I have to set the bar high for myself and keep on asking myself, “What can I do to make eyes pop out and jaws drop?”. If I have a good feeling about a particular theme, I pursue it relentlessly, but then again, there are no guarantees that it will be a success.
10.How has fitness helped you in your business and to navigate other challenges?
This is going to sound cheesy, but I will say it as it is. When I first started out, the thought of even creating a fitness wear brand was overwhelming, to say the least. I have a Marketing Degree and a MBA! What did I know about fashion and design? NOTHING!
This mirrored my experience when I decided to run my first half marathon (21km). For the record, I am not a runner!
I decided that I would take it one step at a time. I will start with running 1km. The next week, it will be 2km. The week after that 3km, and so on. After 21 weeks, I completed training for my first half marathon a month before the actual race.
Through this experience, I realized that nothing is within our reach. Our impossible goals are possible! The secret is to break the monster tasks down into smaller tasks and work on those. You’ll be surprised what you can accomplish in 6 months by doing just that. I created my own brand and ran my first half marathon, didn’t I? *wink*
11. Most difficult moment you’ve had so far?
When my father passed away under the most unfortunate circumstances in 2012. He was always so supportive of my business, which is why I decided to make it a priority, for me and for him, in his loving memory. Maybe that is why failure (in my biz) was never an option.
12. What are your products most suited to?
Prototyping took up to one year and I can proudly announce that you can wear my leggings to do anything, including outdoor rock climbing, surfing, and even SKIING at the Alps! See photo below as proof!
“Our impossible goals are possible! The secret is to break the monster tasks down into smaller tasks and work on those. You’ll be surprised what you can accomplish in 6 months by doing just that”.
Check out Nadia’s batik inspired activewear at: fitrebel.com.
Use the voucher below to receive a RM50 discount. Hurry before offer ends!
ash be nimble is an online journal that focuses on sharing real and relatable fitness stories of everyday Malaysians! We are your one stop guide to everything sports, fitness & health. If you have an inspiring story to share? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org