Having a degree in Business Administration Datuk Emma Ibrahim, otherwise known as the ‘Boot Lady’, climbed the corporate ladder before stepping down to take on a more challenging role. She first started as a financial advisor for Bumiputera Commerce Bank. After a decade in the banking world, she left to become a Managing Director with GP Oceans, an oil and gas company based in Singapore, for their Kuala Lumpur branch office.
As one who loves to take on challenges, Datuk Emma left her post in 2005 to venture into the footwear industry and start her own business from scratch. Hence, that is how Red Profile Sdn. Bhd. was established. Wanting to contribute back to her local economy and the societies in Sarawak, Red Profile’s first office was set up at Kompleks Kilang SME Bank in Kota Padawan, Sarawak. Sixteen years later, Red Profile now has three factories in Malaysia, located in Kuching, Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bahru. It also supplies the majority of Malaysia’s armed forces, and uniformed bodies with comfortable and SIRIM certified footwear. The company continues to keep up with the reputation in boot making, expanding its presence into the world and aiming to strike a deal with Saudi to supply its armed forces.
Obsession With Shoes
Datuk Emma has myriad of the luxurious brand in her collection, including Prada, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Jimmy Choo, Chanel and many more. Sharing about her passion for shoes, Datuk Emma states that it had been that way since she was young. “Shoes are stunning, and everyone wears them. It comes in many colours, and some are just in black and white,” she said gleefully. Datuk Emma has also cleverly compared shoe designs with architectural designs, whereby every design is unique. “I like to look at shoes because of the unlimited designs it comes with. It is just like people who design houses. Every house is unique.
Datuk Emma is also one who is not shy to confess that she owns many pairs of shoes. To be precise, she has almost a thousand pairs of shoes, though she said most of them had been donated to charity. “I am a patron to Helping Shoulders, a non-governmental organisation (NGO). So, I sold my shoes and the money that I get from the sale are channeled towards Helping Shoulders. Now I’m left with a few hundred shoes in my collection.”
Out of her collection, her most prized shoes are a pair of limited-edition Christian Louboutin and a specially made Manolo Blahnik. “I bought it for a few hundred thousand pounds each, and I love it very much,” Datuk Emma shares.
Branching Out From Just Making Shoes
Besides running a flourishing shoe manufacturing business, Datuk Emma has also ventured into the beauty industry by providing image consultancy to people who need it. “Shoes are fashion, but I’m not into fashion as though I wanted to be a fashion designer. I cannot be a fashion designer because I don’t know how to design. However, I love to see people dressing nicely, looking good, dress well and all.” Her interest in providing image consultancy to people kick off when whilst she was staying in the United Kingdom. During her stay there, she took up image consultancy classes as she has too much free time on her hand. Eventually, she graduated and started providing the service to people around her. “I teach people how to transform themselves, how and what to wear when attending certain events. It was an opportunity overseas, but the complete opposite in Malaysia. Here, it is not mainstream m to hire an image consultant,” she laments. Currently, Datuk Emma has an image
consultancy company in the United Kingdom, which she started with good friends, and today, there have been clients from the UK who still consult her.
“Image consultant is a necessity now. You see people dressing as they please, even when they go to work. There’s a dress for every occasion.” Datuk Emma states that many people have considered the first impression as invalid nowadays, but to her, the validity still stands. Giving an example, she says that folks in Kuala Lumpur are more well-dressed than the folks in Kuching. “In my opinion, although the folks are not particular about it, there is still a need to normalize image for Malaysians,” she adds.
Playing Her Part in Protecting the Vulnerable
As the patron of Helping Shoulders, Datuk Emma has been helping the vulnerable communities by means of donating. Often, one can see Datuk Emma’s articles lending a helping hand to these communities through Helping Shoulders. She aims was to help children that their close friends or families molest. “We are committed into helping these children, but we cannot fully focus on this issue alone because it is still a taboo in Malaysia to teach children about sex education. It has been challenging.” According to her, Helping Shoulders and she has been going around schools to educate children about it (what type of touch is safe, how people should touch you and when to set the boundaries).
“Many a time, it is the media and the families of the victims that make our work so challenging. They do not want to talk about child molestation. It is still a taboo,” she says. Datuk Emma explains that these cases go unreported most times, or the family will retract the police report filed against the accused as they are afraid that they will lose their breadwinner. “They are afraid that if the perpetrators are sent to jail, in this case, if the father goes to jail, they will have no one to rely on earning the household income and nobody will help them. I think the government should be more outspoken about this issue.”
Helping Shoulders are not only present in Malaysia, but it has travelled overseas helping vulnerable communities around South East Asia as well. The primary purpose is to educate the communities about child molestation. She states that most cases of child molestation go unreported, more so in rural area. “We cannot blame it all on the government, because families play a very big part in this. Every family comes with their own problem, which might lead them to bury the hatchet. At times like this, we can only pity the victims.”
Being An Inspiration to Many Women
As a prominent business figure in her homeland, Datuk Emma’s successes have been an inspiration to many women in the state. “Most women in Sarawak are more business-minded now. At the end of the day, regardless of their occupation, most will venture into business sooner or later,” she says. Datuk Emma has observed that most businesswomen in Sarawak are daring, experienced and are willing to take the risk to venture into new things. She adds that Sarawak holds many potentials and opportunities for new business as it has lots of resources and new developments are coming up in the state. “Fashion is booming. All the local designers are coming up with their own like Borneo Fashion Week. I am proud to be Sarawakian. Last time we are left behind, but now they are more daring to try new things, which is very positive.”