Veena Rajee, a Founder & Director, describes herself as an ambitious individual, self-sufficient and a go-getter. When she sets a goal in her mind, she works towards achieving it no matter how long it takes. She is also an aesthete, loves beauty in all forms, and has a keen eye for the finer things in life. At the top of her list, she is looking forward to traveling to every corner of the world, as she craves for new experiences. She is all set on building herself to be successful enough in both personal & professional life, and she hopes to make it through.
What were your initial years of growing up like? Tell us about your life before starting your corporate journey/venture/initiative.
I come from a simple middle-class family in a small town. As a little girl, I watched my mother as a single parent worked hard for minimum wages to make ends meet. We didn’t have much growing up. We never had the luxury to be able to dine at restaurants or go for holidays. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a support system, both financially and emotionally which was very difficult. Growing up and knowing the financial struggle, I always knew I wanted to change that and there’s never a day I go by thinking I’ll settle for an average life. Nothing wrong with that, but when you have experienced it firsthand, you know what it feels like and it’s not fun. Over the last decade, I worked extremely hard to constantly improve my quality of life. I bought my first car at the age of 22 and my first property at the age of 30. But as with most working-class populations, those commitments are not easy, and you must keep working to sustain and pay bills. With the exposure I had in Singapore, I slowly built my confidence and took the leap of faith to move forward on building my dreams with my hard-earned life savings. When I got laid-off from my well-paying corporate job in Mar 2021, I knew there’s no turning back and I’ll have to do everything it takes to make it work because chances are I might not get a 2nd chance again because it takes a long time for an average working-class adult to have that kind of savings I did. At the end of the day, my motivation is to achieve financial freedom while creating something that could directly impact women’s life positively. We live in a time where financial security is extremely important for every woman. As a woman who comes with no support system, that itself is a motivation to keep going because quitting isn’t an option.
My goals for this year is to get back to a full time job, achieve financial stability while looking for ways to navigate my business, do my MBA and finally put myself out there to meet new people. The long term goal is definitely to build a successful business and a beautiful family.
I don’t have a specific role model, I take inspiration from people around me as well as public figures through their personal stories and how they navigate through life’s struggles and challenges.
My interest would be in the creative space : I absolutely love designing clothes for women, I am also passionate about interior designing, building contents, writing scripts & on a more serious note I’m keen to learn about investments and eventually become a savvy investor in the future.
Was there any turning point in your life that changed your journey? If so, what was it? Please tell us the backstory behind it.
At the age of 24, I was caught up in a very toxic relationship. I was too young to understand at that time, but I did acknowledge later on I was suffering from domestic violence. Over time the abuse got from bad to worse and I knew I had to get out of it, but I was caught in a time loop. During that time, I had resigned from my job, only with the intention of taking a 1-2 months break before I resumed work again, so it wasn’t such a major decision. However, eventually my partner started manipulating the situation and would not allow me to return to work. Gradually within a few months, I was completely isolated from the outside world, I lost contact with friends and had no social life & my savings were drained. The mental abuse was constant, so I came to a point I wasn’t sure which directive I should take. He was on the verge of proposing to me and was serious about marriage, but I knew well enough that I had to get out of that relationship. It took me many years later to realize that I was dating a textbook narcissist who would also manipulate my finances and left me broke, knowing so well I didn’t have a support system. It was only then I came to realize how important it is to be financially secure and I knew I will always have to look out for myself at every step of the way. Since then, I’ve never let my guard down.
Every industry that is now a large-scale, top-notch business once started as a small idea in the minds of entrepreneurs. What was that idea or motivation that made you start your business /initiative? What motivated you within to say “YES, go for it!”
My dad was a businessman himself. When I was little, I would follow my dad for his client meetings and watch him negotiate and secure deals. At the age of 18, I knew I would someday want to run my own business and I envision myself not being part of the corporate world once I hit 30’s. However, over the years I didn’t really know where to start and what I could possibly do because I’ve always been someone who’s truly committed to doing what I do and if I think it’s not something that would add value for myself, I wouldn’t take it on even if it’s a well-paying job. I like to approach my work with passion because that’s when I can perform as I take pride in every work I do. The last 6 years I was working in Singapore, I was managing UHNW clients from various backgrounds. These clients were some of the most successful individuals ranging from millionaires to billionaires including Forbes listed. I formed a great professional relationship with my clients and sometimes would have the opportunity to talk about their success story. Imagine your daily job is corresponding from morning to night with CEO’s and Chairman’s of the most reputable firms around the region. For many years, working with these highly successful individuals inspired me to want to do something different, I wanted to be where they were. Those few years had a great influence in my life. The turning point came at the onset of the pandemic when we first started WFH in Feb 2020. The e-commerce boom was making headlines and almost every day I would read an article about e-commerce start-up. I knew it was time for me to take a baby step and I had substantial savings to help me get started. At that time, I knew my job was at risk. As with most large organizations, the post recovery would require restructuring, so I knew my job was at stake and I needed plan B. That’s how FEMININE started and we’re just only beginning. I was laid off from my corporate job in March 2021, but I never looked back.
Everyone has their own set of challenges when starting an entrepreneurial journey. Still, the most essential part for others to learn is how you deal with those. Would you like to share with us your challenges and your coping mechanisms?
I embarked on this journey at the onset of the pandemic as I needed some kind of diversion to cope with the global lockdown situation as I was literally living in isolation for months, in a different country without any family. I didn’t know a lot of things when I started, a lot of it was based on research and findings from online resources which I relied on entirely. I didn’t really have friends who have done it, so I couldn’t turn to anyone for advice. The biggest challenge through it all was that I always felt alone without any support system and I must admit it was all very stressful but at the same time the excitement of doing something new kept me going. I took on the challenge of doing the product creation online with the manufacturers. It was extremely challenging, stressful and at times frustrating. I must admit though, in the first year I made a lot of mistakes, I overlooked some of the important aspects of brand building on top of dealing with the pandemic delays. I still had my full time job at that time, so financially I was doing fine, however taking the leap of faith would go down at the riskiest move I’ve made in my adult life as I was actually betting on my life savings. There were days I would feel like giving up, so I would just allow myself some time to sit back and relax and get back to it when I feel better and I still do that today. When I feel down or I would say like a failure, I go back to listening to stories of those who have done it all and just how many times they failed along the way before they got it right. So that in some ways helps me to keep going, knowing it’s indeed a long tough journey and I’ll get there soon. Managing emotions however at times is tough, I’m not going to sugar coat on my emotional struggles. I’ve had so many sleepless nights, I have cried myself to sleep some nights and I’ve also stayed in bed some days. But I’ve made it a point to workout, meditate and journal regularly, so that has also helped in regulating my emotions on difficult days. I’ve also reached a point where I understand and accept that my current struggles will not be acknowledged until I finally make it. It’s just the way it is.
While the global pandemic of COVID-19 is associated primarily with adversities, it has also brought about a true boom in startups, with successful entrepreneurship in many countries. The pandemic has impacted all of us in one way or another. Would you like to share your experience on a personal and professional level?
Personally for me, the pandemic has actually impacted my life in a major way. From having a stable job, I ended up losing my job, I had to move countries and at the same time I was also starting a new venture all on my own. It was all happening at the same time in Apr 2021 and I didn’t have control on much of these events around me. I had no choice but to return to my country in May 2021, to only go straight into a 6-month long lockdown right after serving a 10-day quarantine. I was once again caught up in total isolation, I couldn’t meet anyone during those 6-months and my business progress was halted because I couldn’t move forward with the marketing materials as these were things that can’t be done online or remotely. I had no choice but to wait it out and by then it was the end of 2021. So in 2022 I geared up to pivot and try different strategies. I was fortunate enough to be able to make some steady progress and onboarded a team of multiple nationalities where we all worked remotely for several months. It was truly a stepping stone from 2021, but very quickly we realized that the digital space has evolved drastically that now we find ourselves in a Limbo because we had limited resources to spend for our marketing needs. Despite doing it right, we saw almost no progress and that became very demotivating for myself and the team. We tried multiple approaches which met with little success. The year 2022 was a very challenging year for me both personally and professionally. My finances took a hit when I lost all my remaining savings in an online scam in Feb 2022. However, I continued to move forward while navigating my personal challenges, to make a difference and unfortunately we didn’t get to where we wanted to. Emotionally it’s been a roller coaster these past years and I did experience severe depression from time to time, but I keep reminding myself this is a phase and it’ll get better eventually. I sure learned a lot during this time and am determined to pivot, make changes where necessary and keep moving forward.
Your journey and your vision are very inspiring, but are there any achievements or accomplishments you would like to mention?
I undertook my first ever project at the age of 25, back in 2014 when I needed to work on a fundraiser project to give back to the community as part of my commitment for winning a local beauty pageant. It was my first time organizing an event with no contacts, resources & experience or any kind of support at all. Mind you I was also extremely broke as I had just come out of a toxic relationship and had just landed a job. I recall working on this project on my own for months, rushing to go out to meet partners & suppliers right after work. Despite the obstacles, I managed to pull off a successful event through collaboration & partnerships and raised a 5-figure sum to give back to the community. The final event was assisted by my cousins, so fortunately I had a small team by my side at that point. It’s amusing to think about it that i was doing a fundraiser to give back to the community at a time in life when i was at a rock bottom and had nothing for myself, I barely had any money and some days I would actually skip meals so I could make it for meetings with suppliers & partners as I hadn’t gotten my first month pay check. Nevertheless I am proud of my accomplishments.
Along the way, I had also won several awards both global & national awards and was also featured in Business Times during my corporate days in Singapore which I am equally proud of.
The most significant recent accomplishment would be my venture since I started it out on my own without any help financially or emotionally and I took a gamble on myself.
Would you like to share with our young budding women entrepreneurs the change you would like to see in the world if given an opportunity?
Every woman should equip themselves with knowledge and education, because it’s the only way towards building a quality life. Financial security should be non negotiable for every woman. Secure yourself and don’t rely on anyone even if you are privileged because you will never know when life can turn around or against you.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your personal life and professional journey? What is your personal motto in life?
My personal motto in life is : Life should be a constant progress & upgrade, never look back, only look forward.
Women are a growing force in the workplaces worldwide, standing shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. There are cracks in glass ceilings everywhere, with many women breaking through to carve out a space right at the top of the pyramid. What are your thoughts about women’s leadership today?
Women were always capable, they weren’t given enough chances in the male dominated workspace globally. However, we have seen gradual shifts happening with more female counterparts proving to be just as capable and reliable and we can see this happening globally with countries like New Zealand and Iceland having a female premier and the US having their first female VP. The shift has been happening for a while now and I am sure we can expect to see more women emerging to top positions, be it politics or corporate sectors in years to come.
With your grit and determination, you are making a considerable impact, breaking through, and serving as role models for many budding entrepreneurs. What would you want to say to our young women leaders/audience reading this?
We can make a change, but everyone in this world needs a support system and not everyone is fortunate to have one. If you know someone who is ambitious, has a dream, be courteous and support their dreams. Be their cheerleader and watch how women rise to the top. When someone is struggling, don’t forget to tell them how well they have done for themselves through it all. It would make a lot of difference to be appreciated during tough times.