Sharifah Sarah

Sharifah Sarah used to be a doctor. Today, she is the co-founder of By Sarah, a business she started with her cousin due to their shared love for the exquisite songket, a type of woven fabric in the brocade family of textiles of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

Episode 10

Written by

Krista Goon

Published on

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Womenpreneurasia S05 Sharifah Sarah

Sharifah Sarah

Sharifah Sarah used to be a doctor. Today, she is the co-founder of By Sarah, a business she started with her cousin due to their shared love for the exquisite songket, a type of woven fabric in the brocade family of textiles of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

Episode 10

Written by

Krista Goon

Published on

Share this episode on:

Womenpreneurasia S05 Sharifah Sarah

The first couple of years wasn’t easy. I think we spent more money than making it because the thing is, we’re doing something that’s very unique. We’re not reselling it. We’re not drop-shipping it. We’re trying to create it from scratch. So the first three years weren’t easy. We were making losses because we had to do a lot of R&D. And even when we were producing batches, most of those clutches weren’t saleable. It wasn’t up to our standard and we knew that we didn’t want people to have this or own this. It just didn’t feel right.

sharifah sarah

Today’s episode is with an entrepreneur from Malaysia, Sharifah Sarah. 

Sharifah Sarah used to be a doctor.

Today, she is the co-founder of By Sarah, a business she started with her cousin due to their shared love for the exquisite songket, a type of woven fabric in the brocade family of textiles of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. 

It is hand-woven in silk or cotton that is intricately patterned with gold or silver threads. The gold and silver threads create a shimmering and luxurious effect giving the songket sheer richness and opulence used for special occasions and festivities. 

By Sarah uses songket tenun in crafting all of its bespoke accessories and clutches by their team of local artisans transforming their products into premium gifts for embassies and celebrities. 

In this episode, she doesn’t just tell us a story of her business but also how she started the business as a university student and how she switched careers from being a doctor to working in a telecommunications company while managing her business. 

I enjoyed our conversation today as it was a conversation about being true to yourself and being courageous in your truth. 

Aunty Adik wanted a songket clutch for her foreign guests. She was looking online, left and right and couldn’t find one within her price range and the quality that she wanted. And she was quite frustrated. So me and my cousin, Dotty, were like, don’t worry, we’ll try to make one for you. So that’s how we started. Honestly, we just started designing.

She spoke about having a love for the songket tenun from a young age and how the business is as much about her love for her cousin as much as it is for the songket tenun. Clearly, the business is born out of passion and a rich love for culture, heritage and tradition permeates By Sarah. 

But our conversation travelled beyond entrepreneurship as we spoke about her own career journey from a doctor to a corporate woman and what it means to be true to yourself no matter what the circumstances are. 

​​I was studying medicine. So I was pursuing this business while training as a medical doctor. So it was quite interesting. I spent a few years in KL and then spent two years in Seremban for clinical training and then another half a year doing my housemanship. While I was doing all of that, I still remember travelling up and down [between KL and Seremban] to attend pop-up booths to make sure everything was okay. 

She holds dearly to this Maya Angelou quote, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” 

It is no surprise that she is most inspired by her older cousin and business partner, Dotty who is based in the United Arab Emirates. 

Two of her favourite books are Good to Great by Jim Collins and Secrets of Divine Love by A Helwa. 

Sharifah Sarah says she is most proud of “pivoting through different life challenges, health-wise and career”. 

Find out more about Sharifah Sarah through these links: