School holidays housed some of Nizaha Bakar’s fondest memories – she was only 7 years old when she started learning about traditional spa treatments, following her grandmother around in a small village in Terengganu.
As the village midwife, her grandmother would visit homes to give comfort and support to pregnant women going through labour and help deliver their babies. But she also served as a herbalist, using traditional spa methods like steam baths with flowers and homemade body scrubs, and mixing together herbal drinks and pastes for daily use.
Now 40, Nizaha is finally hitting her own stride in traditional medicine – opening Zahra Callista’s (ZC) first commercial location in Jerudong after running from home and her clients’ for five years.
With about 100 regulars to her spa and another 2,000 who buy her growing range of products – ZC has been hitting $40,000 in monthly revenue.
Nizaha came to Brunei some 17 years ago to marry her husband who she met in Malaysia when he was in university – but spent the first ten years as a housewife, raising their two children.
As they grew older, she increasingly thought of returning to her traditional treatment roots, although she hadn’t conceived it being a full-blown business hiring six people as it does today.
She started off providing the treatments at her house or at the homes of her clients; offering traditional massages, a variety of baths (flower, milk, ice and aromatherapy salts), body scrubs and herbal saunas, much like her grandmother used to do.
Her most fateful turn came when she last saw her 114-year-old grandmother in 2013, three months before she passed away. Nizaha’s grandmother gave her one of the most precious possessions; a handwritten book in jawi detailing everything she had learned about traditional medicine – including time-tested formulations that she would give her clients.
Honouring her traditions, Nizaha concocted her first traditional beverage Jamu – that’s now become one of her staples – using a mixture of local herbs, turmeric, ginger and fruits such as pomegranate.
ZC now boasts 45 products ranging from herbal sprays, scrubs, bath salts, perfumes, oils and body masks – being sold at her spa, 30 cube stores and through 40 commissioned sales agents across the country.
“Even though there is a growing amount of operational work I still make sure I also do the treatments,” says Nizaha, with many of her most loyal customers becoming her closest friends.
Before she begins; she counsels her customers, seeking out what they want and need – and tailoring spa treatments with products to suit them. Nizaha credits a personalized approach behind ZC and their belief in natural remedies to be their distinguishing factor, recalling her grandmother – who was a healer and helper first, and businesswoman second.
“My grandmother would simply say “urut bukan kerana duit, urut untuk tolong orang” (massaging isn’t just about the money, massaging is about helping people),” says Nizaha.
“I always try to keep in mind that it’s not just about selling more, but make sure that what we sell and offer helps people.”
For more information, check out their Facebook and Instagram @Zahracallistahomemade_official or contact them at +6738969424 or +6738759424.You can visit Zahra Callista at No 8, Ground Floor, Block D, Jerudong Complex, Spg 508, Jln Jerudong, Brunei.