At a glance
By Katie Langmore
At a time when the cost of living is on the rise and charities are struggling to raise funds, the burgeoning world of social entrepreneurship offers a powerful philanthropic alternative.
Dayana Reza CPA developed an interest in social entrepreneurship when she was young and this interest, coupled with her love for numbers, spurred her into studying accounting – a decision she’s been grateful for since.
“I really believe that CPA does give that platform for individuals like myself to be groomed into a mini-CEO. You have everything. I am already an accountant on my own; I already know the ins and outs of how to start a business,” says Reza.
“It's easy when you have all those skills already with you, especially when financials are key in keeping the business profitable and sustainable in the long run.”
Reza has put her financial skill set to good use in her social enterprise Nyonya Kain, a handmade batik collection of clothing and goods that Reza designs and sells through her online store and stockists.
Reza began the company in late 2018, while working as a regulator in the Malaysian capital markets. “I was always looking for a side hustle to feed my creative and entrepreneurial interest as well as earn additional income, given I was working in the main city and costs of living were pretty high,” she explains.
Reza initially tried working on the side as a professional photographer, but she shifted her focus to batik fashion and crafts after a visit to the Malaysian state of Kelantan, a region with a rich history in textiles and the local arts.
“I never thought my actual idea of bringing just 20 pieces back to Kuala Lumpur to resell would blossom into the enterprise I am currently running on the side at this moment.”
Reza began designing batik goods, which she has made by local producers, and sourcing others from local artisans, with a focus on fair trade and empowerment.
While Nyonya Kain is a for-profit company, in addition to supporting local artisan production Reza has supported multiple causes through the company in various ways, such as donating a percentage of sales.
“There was one [initiative] that was really successful. I noticed that there were a lot of roadside workers and delivery riders who were reusing their disposable surgical masks, and they were all black and dirty.
That sparked the idea of giving customers the option to buy two batik face masks for themselves and have a Nyonya Kain mask donated to a delivery rider.
“I found people to collaborate with, and within two or three months we had actually donated 1500 masks, not only to delivery riders, but also to others in need in the community.”
Reza says she has always felt a strong drive to give back to the community. “For me, being in Malaysia and being a Muslim, we always believe the more you share with others, the more you'll get it back.
The world has gone through so many downtimes and in these periods, I always think to myself what else can I do.
I may not be able to change the world, but I can certainly use my time to do something good and hopefully by doing that, others can emulate and also do their own initiatives and find other ways to help others in any way possible.”
A chat with Reza highlights her incredible energy, passion and drive – which explains her ability to run a successful company outside a full-time career – but she shares that in mid-April she was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) or Lupus.
In addition to changing her lifestyle, Reza has shifted her philanthropic focus, now focusing solely on raising funds through Nyonya Kain for the Malaysia Lupus Society, an NGO which aims to provides financial, emotional, and health support to SLE patients nationwide.
The entrepreneur certainly hasn’t been quelled by her diagnosis. “I will continue to fight and be strong for myself... I aim to create awareness on how important it is to remain resilient, strong and be in the presence of people who truly support you and want to see you happy.”
Nyonya Kain– meaning textile lady – is a social enterprise that produces and sells batik fashionwear and collectibles. By empowering local artisans and supporting charitable causes, Nyonya Kain gives customers the opportunity to give back to the community while purchasing beautiful fashion statement pieces and handicrafts.