SME Champions is a series featuring the people behind Singapore’s homegrown enterprises. It tells the stories of their relentless pursuits towards success and the things that keep them going.
One of Rabia’s fondest memories as a child was to watch her grandmother, Alfya, sew and tailor clothes for her clients.
“My grandmother was not only a seamstress – she was a caterer, masseuse and teacher. Her entrepreneurial spirit inspired me to open my own business,” Rabia said.
When Rabia left her job in 2017, she took a leap of faith to open The Alfya Atelier as a tribute to her grandmother.
Together with her mother Latifah, and aunt, Mdm Khai, they started the business by providing sewing and craft classes.
Within a year, the atelier gained popularity as their courses were claimable with SkillsFuture credits.
In 2018, they moved their operations from a humble space in Changi Rd to a three-storey workspace at Pahang Street.
Aside from classes, they also began to provide tailoring, embroidery, prototyping, alteration services and fabric tours.
In July 2019, the trio launched “Sewcial Pantry by Alfya Atelier”, an arts hub where creative individuals can connect and create their art pieces over coffee and cake.
During the day, the atelier was home to students and artists. At nightfall, it transforms into an event space for calligraphy classes, workshops and even weddings.
With an autistic daughter under her care, Rabia believes in the importance of creating an inclusive environment for everyone.
The “Alfya Gives Back” programme allows beneficiaries recovering from mental issues, or those from low-income backgrounds to learn how to sew for free.
The team hopes to empower these individuals to become financially independent and useful members of society.
If you are interested in supporting the beneficiaries, you may purchase the handmade items sewn by them here.
When the atelier started to experience some success in their business, they had to deal with more challenges that lay ahead of them.
In 2019, the government placed more stringent requirements for SkillsFuture certification renewal, which caused a drop in the number of class sign-ups.
This year, they also had to limit their number of classes and participants due to COVID-19.
In addition to that, they could not secure enough funds to tide through this period of uncertainty.
“Even when the grant that we have applied for has been approved, we still have to pay upfront before we can get reimbursed,” Latifah said.
Nevertheless, these challenges they faced didn’t stop them from making the best out of the situation.
You can now have your clothes picked up, altered and sent back to you easily and effortlessly, like the Malay word, “senang” which means easy and effortless.
Creativity never stops and there’s always something brewing in their Senang Crescent workspace.
Besides the normal sewing and craft classes, the atelier also holds customized classes according to your needs.
“Our sewing services are available for kids and adults. You can let us know about the type of classes you want, and we can customize it for you,” Mdm Khai grinned.
On top of that, they are trying to create a mobile app for their ‘Sew Senang’ service.
Using AI technology, users can see a virtual version of themselves wearing the clothes that they have customized on the app.
As they stride forward, the all-women team is hoping to redefine the art of sewing and share it with more people in Singapore.
Before the interview session, I’ve had difficulty engaging someone to embroider my friend’s birthday present.
Most places require a minimum order quantity for customized items and charge a high price for their service.
After spending some time searching, I was elated when Mdm Khai told me that the atelier provides the customization service I wanted.
“We focus on how to make customers satisfied with their purchase and explore what more can be done for them.”
It was their genuine hospitality that made it such a memorable experience for me.
Address: 28 Senang Cres, #06-08, Singapore 416601
Rabia: +65 9636 2182 (Business & Events)
Khai: +65 9833 0885 (Tailoring & PR)
Latifah: +9632 0301 (Space Rental)
Lina: +65 9826 8385 (Class Enquiries)
Opening Hours: Tues - Sat 10am - 8pm
Jennifer loves helping SMEs in their business growth journey. She is also an epicurean and has perpetual wanderlust. During the weekend, she weaves poems out of thin air and buries herself in books.