Nabila and Ilylia are pioneering sisters who are making waves in Malaysia’s growing STEM sector. Together they own and run Robotics Learning Malaysia, an educational company providing children and youth access to world-class robotics tutorials. Nabila and Ilylia’s vision is to equip the next generation with the knowledge to become the tech leaders of the future.
When they initially launched the company in 2009, their older brother was an important member of the team, leading all marketing and branding activities. However, after he tragically passed away in 2014, Nabila and Ilylia were left with the daunting challenge of keeping the company operational on their own. They quickly realised that they would need support not only from friends and family, but from experts as well.
Nabila and Ilylia joined the Mentoring Women in Business Programme in November 2014, seeking support to regain their confidence and build the skills needed to expand their enterprise and realise their dream of launching a non-profit robotics club for children from low-income backgrounds. Through a partnership between the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, Qualcomm® Wireless Reach™, Tune Talk and Sparrow Mobile, Nabila and Ilylia were each matched with a mentor and provided with 3G-enabled mobile phones to facilitate their meetings.
As Nabila’s role at the company is focused on strategy and events, she wanted to work with a mentor to expand the company’s client base. She was matched with Titilola, a national vice president at an international forum for business women in Nigeria. With Titilola’s support, Nabila prepared an effective business pitch for high-profile meetings, enabling her to meet prospective clients with more confidence and gravitas. They also worked together to improve human resources processes, as the sisters had just opened a robotics training centre and were keen to hire instructors. After working with Titilola, Nabila introduced a teaching component to the interview process, helping her quickly identify the strongest candidates.
Ilylia, meanwhile, was looking for support in marketing and fundraising. Ilylia’s mentor, Tara, a global client success manager at a business social networking service in the United Kingdom. Tara’s background in fundraising helped Ilylia explore investment opportunities, prepare funding proposals and create a financial strategy to help launch their new non-profit robotics club, Kelab Robotik Seri Menanti. Tara also guided Ilylia through the ins and outs of using social media and supported her with the development of a new company website.
Nabila and Ilylia have achieved so much since partnering with their mentors. They recently celebrated supporting over 5,000 children through their robotics programmes, and, with their mentors’ support, also hosted their first annual robotics competition for over 200 students – an opportunity which introduced them to numerous new clients and quadrupled their income. They have also hired eight robotics tutors.
After being inspired by their work, Ilylia’s mentor Tara successfully nominated them for a grant of $10,000. This funding has enabled the sisters to launch a new pilot programme called Kelab Robotik Seri Menanti, which offers weekly robotics classes to over 80 under-privileged children in Negeri Sembilan, a rural state of Malaysia.
The sisters are proud of what they have achieved. Ilylia told us, “I am glad to have found this programme. It has been a wonderful journey for me as an entrepreneur.” Nabila found that working with Titilola helped her become more positive and “narrow down my goals and upcoming plans.” Tara and Titilola also reported that they had not only developed their leadership and communication skills, but had also been inspired by Nabila and Ilylia’s hard work and dedication.
Looking ahead, the sisters are already embarking on a new venture, bringing together some of their most promising students to compete at the inaugural robot olympics in the United States. They hope their story will inspire other woman entrepreneurs who face challenges to reach out for support and discover the power of mentoring.
Nabila and Ilylia recently celebrated supporting over 5,000 children through their robotics programmes, and, with their mentors’ support, also hosted their first annual robotics competition for over 200 students – an opportunity which introduced them to numerous new clients and quadrupled their income.