Maleka Dattu: an enterprising life

Maleka Dattu is the founder of a new skin-care range, MERUMAYA. I have used the product and love it so decided to get behind the scenes with the founder, who like me, is local to Kensington and Chelsea. MERUMAYA’s unique integrative concept centres around the use of multiple, evidence-based active ingredients at clinically proven concentrations and aims to help you age youthfully. And it is made in Britain. I spoke to Maleka to find out more.

DN: What is your background?

MD: I worked from the bottom up at Clinique. I had success in Field Sales, Training, Marketing, Communications, New Product Development, General Management and had profit and loss responsibility on both sides of the Atlantic. I was part of the team that grew Clinique to a number one position in the UK. After that I established the market positioning and growth of Origins while General Manager UK/ROI; latterly, I was Senior Vice President/General Manager for North America, based out of New York City. At Lancôme, I provided a retail and consumer focus to revitalise engagement and the top and bottom line performance; I was credited by many for their most successful skincare launch (Genefique) in the UK’s recorded history. I am honoured to have been recognised by the industry that I love so much and to have been voted Cosmetic Executive Women’s Achiever of the Year in 2006 by my peers.

DN: What made you start your own business?

MD: I was compelled to start my own business to create a brand that made my heart race, that delivered extremely efficacious products at a fair price and that is truly customer centric. Throughout my career, no matter how exalted a title was bestowed upon me, I endeavoured to spend two days a week in the stores where our consultants interacted directly with customers – this is the heartbeat of any organisation and certainly I believe where you learn what customers really want. I had also grown a little weary of the decision-making process in corporate life, the idea that the next newest brand also tended to have the next highest price point, that natural & organic and ‘free-from’ statements were taking precedence over results, performance and focus on what is in the products that makes them work. I wanted to create something true that would make people happy, provide me with an income and be a viable global business. I also wanted to prove to myself that any success I have is about me, my performance, my understanding and closeness to the customer and not the might of the corporation that is behind me.

DN: What do you like most about running your own business?

MD: The freedom to do the right thing! The freedom to create highly efficacious and expensive formulae that don’t have to fit a financial model. Being able to do it my way, with the customer at the heart of everything we do. Living on the edge all the time. It is like every nerve ending is ‘on’ the whole time. Everything, every decision, every compliment or criticism is meaningful, charged with emotion and makes a real difference.

DN: Do you think entrepreneurs have certain traits that differentiate them from those in the corporate world?

MD: Yes, though it should be noted that many entrepreneurs come from corporate life. Within corporate life, we tend to be non-conformists, rule breakers, to take risks, go out on a limb, find unusual and creative solutions to problems, be high achievers and to be seen by some as ‘difficult to manage”! We can also be frustrated by slow decision-making and distance from customers.

They tend to find a way and in fact be excited by finding a solution to what others have given up on or cannot be bothered with. My favourite saying was ‘man has walked on the moon, don’t tell me it’s impossible, there is always a way’. Entrepreneurs are often bright, enquiring, ask a lot of questions, challenge the status quo. For them it will do will never do. They are intense and sometimes others find them intimidating. They are passionate…

DN: What are your top tips for mothers and other entrepreneurs out there who want to start their own business?

You need to be compelled to do this. Don’t go in thinking you will be able to manage this around the baby/children especially if you do not have help and support. If you think you are sleep deprived with a child, life with a child and a business leaves no room at all.

Know your strengths and weaknesses and fill the gaps in your skill set with those who are better than you so you can concentrate on doing what you do even better. Be prepared to ‘sell’ and communicate every step of the way, to customers, press, taxi drivers, in doctors’ reception areas, to bloggers, buyers, in your blog etc.

DN: What was your favourite skincare brand before you started your own?

MD: That is a hard one because I was getting free expensive products all the time from any brand in the portfolio. There were items I liked from many brands and some that were top of their game then, but have now lost relevance either in the market place or because I grew out of them.

DN: How do you manage your time as a mother with your time as an entrepreneur?

MD: This changes as my daughter Yasmin has grown older. I work during the day and we have a nanny Monday – Thursday and she used to spend Friday with my parents. Now she also goes to Montessori in the mornings and had various classes in the afternoon. From 6-9pm I am with Yasmin, and then most evenings I will go back to work upstairs and used to be up until 2/3am too many nights in the beginning. I grab time during her naps at the weekend. I might steal an hour or two during the weekends for pressing things. And, of course, we are all working on the go via our smart phones. The upside is, when she is in a school production or has a hospital appointment I can always be there. I also see her several times a day as I go in and out of the house so get many hugs and kisses – something that would never have been possible had I still been in senior exec positions in corporates. I am blessed.

DN: Who is your role model?

MD: I have lots of role models. My grandmothers, my mother and father, my first full-time boss, one or two bosses who were really mean to me (they taught me what not to do!), all successful women, my sister who has done an amazing job bringing up three boys. Everyone who has ever challenged what is possible, felt fearful and plunged in anyway. We are all capable of doing it in our own way, but sadly most succumb to fear.

DN: What gives you super-power or what is your super-juice that keeps you going?

MD: Knowing that my product is truly efficacious and true and that so many customers who reach into their wallets write and tell me that. My child and wanting to be a good role model for her. I had her at the age of 48 and I may not be around in her 30’s or 40’s so I want to make sure that I leave her a little ‘springboard’ of help to set her on her way. Truly wanting to make a difference, with my products and in people’s lives – I mentor and make presentations to help others achieve their goals. That the best gift I have been given is life and I must treat it with respect and squeeze every positive experience I can from it because my time is finite and there is so much to do and experience. Wanting to leave something good behind; to leave my footprint on this planet and for some people to remember me with pleasure.

*Deepali Nangia works as a freelance business consultant helping entrepreneurs shape their ideas into businesses and their businesses into bigger ones!  Deepali also provides career guidance and counseling services.  She is a mother of two, loves the arts and is a strong supporter of women in business.  She can be found on www.empowerbizsupport.com or nangia.deepali@gmail.com.  

 





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