If there’s one thing we learned from this interview with Datin Fouziah Gous, it’s to never be afraid of walking away from the crowd to carve your own path.
Granted it’s an advice we’ve heard countless times before but sometimes listening to life experiences of others gives you a better understanding of what that really means.
This Malaysian celebrity rose to fame around 2005 through acting after leaving her sky-high career working as a stewardess for Malaysia Airlines. She soon impressed the entertainment industry not only with her acting skills, but her looks as well. Tall and slim with long luscious locks (before she donned the hijab at the time), Fouziah became the subject of much admiration.
After tying the knot to the love of her life in 2013 and starting a family of her own, she slowed down on acting and ventured into entrepreneurship.
“I started toying around with the idea of starting a business about 10 years back. I love agriculture but there wasn’t much option out there for me to channel my passion towards that field, so I thought of pursuing a career as a housing consultant but that didn’t pan out well as I was still quite busy on set.
“I resorted to pursue my plan B which was a business in health and beauty because I figured those two things are always in demand.
Fouziah currently runs a company that produces natural health products made from bird’s nest called FG Walet.
Her idea to produce health products made from bird’s nest also stemmed from her eczema problem. Wanting to find something that will help to soothe her skin problem, she went on a quest to find a health product made from bird’s nest as it’s said to offer great benefits for the skin.
“I found that it was so difficult to find a ready-to-consume bird’s nest product. Everywhere I go, shops sell raw ingredients so you would have to buy it and cook at home.
“That was the turning point – I thought it would be a great idea to create something out of bird’s nest but make it easy to consume on the go. I started the R&D (research and development) progress immediately with my business partner,” she said.
FG Walet now sells two bird’s nest products in two ranges – premium and ready-to-consume drinks. Under the premium category, the company offers instant birds nest which is essentially made up of water, 100% pure bird’s nest made and rock sugar packaged into a small jar so you can drink it on the go.
The other variation would be the concentrated version. This is made from 90% bird’s nest and 10% rock sugar solution. “The concentrated one requires you to only consume two tablespoon daily however it is advised to be kept refrigerated and to be finished within 7-9 days.”
As for the drinks, she has introduced 4 flavours in the market and they are Longan with Honey, Aloe Vera with Rock Sugar, Red Dates with Wolfberry and Lua Han Guo with Longan Fruits. Customers can find some of her products across many convenience stores attached to petrol stations in Malaysia. She shared that the company is currently exporting the products to Circle K convenience stores in Vietnam as well.
Business is good, but of course it doesn’t come without challenges.
“When I first set my mind on starting this business, my family had doubted whether Malaysians would be ready for the kind of products I wanted to sell. But I told them I wanted to be the first one to do this.
“Undeniably, it was hard because I had no one to refer to. At the time, online shopping had yet to thrive as it does now. It was especially hard to educate people on what bird’s nest is all about. People kept asking, is it made from bird saliva?
But over time, the number in sales gradually increased and the company now has 10 employees in the management office and 60 factory workers who work to produce thousands of FG Walet products on the daily.
“Some of the benefits of bird’s nest is it helps to strengthen the lungs. This is why many pregnant women are encourage to consume bird’s nest as it will help to strengthen the baby’s lungs.
“Besides that, it’s a great energy booster and helps to maintain youthfulness. Of course, you have to religiously drink it as you won’t see results just after a drink or two.
“While we have gotten over the stage of educating people on the benefits of bird’s nest, now our challenge is to educate them to know the difference between pure bird’s nest products and ones that are not.
“With orange juice for example, you can easily tell the difference with a pure juice and a cordial version, but it’s not the same with bird’s nest and that is the tricky bit,” she said.
As they say, a woman can do it all. Among the many hats that she wears, Fouziah is also a part-time host for a popular home shopping television show called Go Shop where she sells products of other businesses as well as her own.
“Being the host of this show, it teaches me a lot of things on how to sell products. I don’t like to be overly aggressive. But the important things is to know the key selling points of the products, and then it depends on how you deliver it,” she said.
“I’m proud to say that FG Walet is the number one best-selling product from the show.”
She even set a new record when FG Walet sold 3000 boxes in the span of nine hours only.
“Since the product entered the show in July, the sales have accumulated to RM3 million,” she said.
“The response has been incredible,” she added.
Back in August, Fouziah Gous was awarded Top Young CEO of Woman In Business award in a prestigious award show held at a leading hotel in Kuala Lumpur.
While she was honoured to receive the recognition, she did not expect it at all. “I found out that I was to receive the award from my husband.
“But it happened as we touched down in Kuala Lumpur from a work trip. I remember him looking at me and congratulating me. I said for what?
“When he told me about the award I was like.. are you sure? He said “yes!”
“Off we went home to find an outfit for me to wear – my husband was super excited,” she said.
Earning the award marked an honourable moment for Fouziah but she also credited her staff for working so hard.
“When I received the award, they were over the moon because they know how hard we work. We don’t overly hard-sell to our customers and our marketing approach isn’t too aggressive (as I prefer it that way) but at the end of the day they knew that the award was well-deserved,” she said.
“Winning the award definitely motivated me to work harder. People think that being an entrepreneur is easy. Most of the time they only see the success, but what they don’t know is the long journey which involved a lot of sweat and tears to get to where I am,” she said.
“No doubt, my status as a celebrity helped to boost sales but the journey isn’t exempted from challenges,” she said.
When asked for words of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, Fouziah said to start a business, you must know what you want to do. Don’t simply take the plunge without doing your background research.
“Say you want to venture into the fashion industry – you have to know how the market works, what is in demand and the challenges that you can foresee coming your way. Once you have digested all that information and you still want to pursue, go ahead.
“To be successful, you have to be different. You have to do something out of the ordinary because that will make you stand out.
“But it’s important to not give up. Managing a business is not easy. It’s important to manage your expectations. You can dream big but be realistic about your expectations and don’t focus too much on perfection because that will only disappoint you.
“As a leader there are many challenges I have to face. Sometimes, certain things might not turn out the way I want it to but that’s okay. I choose to stay positive and look on the bright side,” she said.
BACK ON SCREEN
After years, fans finally got to witness Fouziah back on the small screen recently as she currently stars in a television drama series titled ‘Sara Sajeeda’. The cast features a mixture of Malay and Pakistani cast and follows the story of a Malay girl who falls in love with a Pakistani man.
Fouziah plays a supporting role who falls in love with a younger man. “Going back on set was a little bit awkward for me as it has been a while.
“But I agreed to take on the job as it didn’t require long hours of filming, I could still juggle my business and family at the same time.
“Besides that, it was my first time playing someone who falls in love with a younger man. I love a good challenge, so I didn’t mind taking up that role,” she said.
As a mother to two young boys, Fouziah still finds time to keep her fitness in check with Muay Thai. She actually owns a Muay Thai gym complete with its own ring and equipment imported from Bangkok, Thailand.
“The gym welcomes people of all ages. Both kids and adults can come train at the gym. Since the gym is located in a residential area, a lot of families come and train together.
“I used to train frequently, but with two kids and a busy schedule, it can get difficult, but I make time for it,” she said.
You can check out her gym here @fightersdenmalaysia.
Behind the Face of Salam
- Face of Salam : Datin Hajjah Fouziah Gous
- Project Manager & Co-ordinator : Shah Shamshiri
- Text: Syahirah Mokhtazar
- Editor : Ili Farhana
Photographer: Bustamam Mokhtar, White Studio
- Graphic Designer: Asyraf Tamam
- Art Director : Zura Ahmad
Stylist & Hijab Stylist: Zura Ahmad, assisted by Shireen
- Make-up Artiste : Bobo Cinta
- Outfit 1:
- Hoodie jacket & pleated skirt’: The Hashtag
- Inner: Blancheur
- Stilettos: Datin Fouziah Gous’ own
- Outfit 2:
- White dress: Hans Hussein
- Red jacket: The Hashtag
- Inner: Blancheur
- Padded blue hairband: Simply K
- Stilettos: Datin Fouziah Gous’ own