Joy Reveals Entrepreneurial Success Can Be as Simple as Pursuing What You Love
Born in Malaysia and growing up in complicated family dynamics, Joy fought depression within herself while holding space for family members who suffered the same. She followed a career path in the corporate world that placed her living from Australia to Singapore to Canada - and somehow, she ends up in Tulum, spiritually fulfilled with her wildly successful skincare brand - Wyld, which stands for What. You. Love. Doing.
Joy shares her story of resilience. She demonstrates the power in pursuing what you love can guide you through a journey of discovery and recovery.
Roots - Seeds - Love & Connection
Joy and I met at my favorite cafe in Tulum, Mexico - Italdo. Seating is all outdoors at this popular spot, with tables full surrounding ours. I greeted her with a hug. My arms were fully wrapped around her petite frame. But don’t let her stature fool you. As I’ve learned, there is a lot of fight inside her.
It’s surreal to be here in the mecca of wellness and spirituality, now knowing that it’s been a long hazy road for Joy. And as soon as we began, I honed into her voice, and the world around us faded.
Her story takes me to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where she was born.
“When I was a little girl, I would follow him everywhere.”
Joy’s father was an entrepreneur who owned several businesses in Malaysia. He had a chain of video stores where Joy would help at the cashier. A manufacturing company, where Joy would help with sanding blackboards, distributed to schools and universities in Malaysia. He also owned a karaoke bar where you’ll find Joy right on stage, singing song after song till the wee hours of the night.
Joy came from an enormous family. Her mother was the second wife and a business owner, running a chain of video stores that sold Chinese films, while her father sold Hollywood movies.
“My mom was a bad-ass entrepreneur. She would have me in one arm and my brother in the other while walking to work in her stilettos.”
But the realities of being the second wife were too much for her mother to bear. Often looked at as the mistress rather than a wife and mother; she was terribly unhappy. When Joy was nine years old, she left without saying a word.
Joy’s father had been in and out of depression, but when Joy’s mother left, he fell deeply into the dark and never returned from it.
I recognized the Malaysian accent in Joy’s English, which I have a soft spot for. Some of my mothers’ closest friends are Malaysian, and I only have warm and friendly memories of them. Joy’s story starts with sorrow, but her tone of voice is steady, comforting, and familiar, like an older sister.
“I was devastated. She used to take me and run away from time to time” - this time, she didn’t take Joy with her.
“Looking back, I understand, there was a lot of generational trauma - I would be the first generation in our family to be conscious of it and do the work to heal. It ends with me.”
At the age of nine, she stepped into the role of the nurturer, consoling her father through his depression. Every night he cried, and she would be the shoulder to lean on. Even though she had just lost her mother, she had no chance to grieve the loss.
“I come from a large family. When my mom left, I lived with my stepmom, three half brothers, and a half-sister. But growing up, I never felt like I fit into the family. I felt like an outsider. When I was 14, I was kicked out of the house by my brothers and started to live on my own.”
I was saddened and amazed. How did Joy overcome the childhood trauma and step into the strong businesswoman that she is today? The server steps up to our table, delivering her fruit and granola bowl. For a moment, I pulled out from her past and realized I needed to take a deep breath. I had no idea she had such a forsaken childhood.
From the age of 14, she cemented her reputation as the wild child of the family. She showed little interest in school, and all the temptations and distractions an unsupervised teenager can get into, she did. Ultimately, her rebellious phase subsided, and she began studying communications at University. Her passion for the subject grew and kickstarted a high-flying career in public relations.
“Though I seemingly had a successful career, I felt depressed, empty, and unfulfilled. I grew up in an environment where I felt I was never good enough - and as a child, you’re extremely impressionable. And I started to believe it. That’s why I am a big advocate of self-love, how to rewire and reprogram our subconscious beliefs so we can heal. Through my healing - now I’m thriving - It’s possible. Anything is possible.”
After graduating from university, Joy started to work for one of the top PR agencies in Sydney, Australia. One thing she thanks Australia for was the influence it had on Wyld’s marketing and branding. Women in Australia were fearless when it comes to starting a business.
“Beautiful brands, created and built by women, from scratch, they just had a knack for it, all through great marketing - I got inspired by that.”
Despite the inspiring women around her, Joy yearned to live in a culturally diverse community where people are celebrated for their differences. She went to a British international school back in Malaysia, a stark contrast from the culture in Sydney.
After five years in Australia, she had plans to go to Canada but took a pitstop in Singapore. There she took on an opportunistic job in corporate communications for Sony in the Asia Pacific and ended up staying in Singapore for five years.
“I loved my time there, but I just don’t know, I wasn’t happy. I would just cry. I felt empty, unfulfilled, like a zombie.”
Joy pauses, her eyebrows pulled closer together, lips pursed, and I recognized that sadness.
I had been there - unconsciously walking through life, but what your mind can’t grasp, your body will tell you.
On top of this feeling, news came from Malaysia that her father had passed. He had threatened to kill himself numerous times before, and every time, he would reach out to Joy, and she would fly back, convincing him otherwise and try to get him help.
She knew this was coming, and when the day arrived, she felt as though parts of her died inside and became numb.
“We were always close, but we haven’t been in each other's lives for a while, and I had some resentment towards him. I remember I was in the supermarket the last time he called. I told him I was busy, knowing that he wasn’t coherent. I tried calling back, but no answer - a few days later, he was gone”
Joy looks back and sees that she was traumatized by his passing. For a long time, she held a lot of guilt and wished she did more to help him.
“I couldn’t get through to help him; I was young. Now I know, I had to heal myself first.”
Joy remembers coming back from being posted in the States, and Sony was about to offer her an expat package in Japan.
“I knew if I stayed, I would make a lot of money..”
But feeling unfulfilled and still devastated by her father’s passing, she decided to resign, packed up her life, and left Singapore for Canada.
“You know, there’s a difference between searching and seeking. I felt empty and was seeking to be whole, moving from one city to the next.”
After settling in Toronto, she went back to University to study for her postgraduate and started working full-time with a PR firm. During this busy time, she began to envision her ideal lifestyle. This vision led to the start of her entrepreneurship.
“I was always fascinated by skincare. I grew up with very dry and sensitive skin, so I was very mindful with what I use, and I would always look at the ingredients” And finding organic products and being in the world of clean beauty became a passion.
Wyld began as a side-hustle. It started with one product - the Charcoal Konjac Sponge, and now the company is valued as a seven-figure business.
The goal was to be in 20 stores in year one. By the end of the year, they were in over 100 stores.
“As a kid, people used to insinuate that I was lazy, unmotivated, not creative. But I really hustled. I was inspired and energized by the business.” Wyld gave her a kind of confidence she never had before and helped her break down limiting beliefs.
LOVE & CONNECTION
As we both smiled at this turning point in her story, we took a brief break and took a sip of our coffee. Her hand attracted my eyes as she picked up her cup. I’m reminded that she experienced a beautiful ceremony yesterday, and this delicate crystal hand-poked tattoo was marked on her right hand.
“The idea of spirituality didn’t even occur to me.” - until she met her dark night of the soul.
Throughout the days of successfully scaling her business, she had felt chronically alone. She didn’t feel fulfilled despite her achievements.
Being entangled in a couple of complicated “situationships,” as she puts it, only highlighted the heaviest limiting beliefs that she carried.
“I recall feeling like I didn’t belong anywhere” Believing this, she went to seek external validation from her relationships.
When the situationships crumbled, these beliefs came down on her like crashing waves—drowning her to a point where she felt a deep sense of meaninglessness and into the dark night of the soul. But from the dark comes a beautiful transformation when we let go of what we had identified with that no longer serves us. We begin to move in the direction of who we aspire to be.
Joy had a kind of spiritual awakening while in meditation. She saw clarity in her life and began to see her wellness practices as a spiritual one. Through meditation, plant medicine, journaling, yoga, and support from a compassionate, conscious community, she began to cultivate the love inside herself.
Joy rode the waves of childhood trauma, which led her to the shores of self-love.
Now, she lives in Tulum, surrounding herself with like-minded souls. Inevitably, with inspiration from the people around her, she will take her spiritual practice to new heights.
The relationship she has with Wyld has deepened as she incorporates her healing experiences into her business. Wyld’s next product, Moon Dew, draws inspiration from the moon phases and serves as a way to connect with the natural rhythms of mother nature.
It’s this kind of connection to nature and her self-awareness that guides Wyld to success. Joy shows an incredible amount of strength in her courage to be open and vulnerable. To me, Wyld is not just a name to her business; it’s a mantra that we can all live by. Remember, What. You. Love. Doing. can act as an inner compass to a more joyful life. “The search begins within ourselves. We are all born whole - it’s in our hearts. We need to follow our hearts.”
Nazieh Fazli on Perseverance
The story of Nazieh is one of perseverance. It teaches us that courage comes from walking through your fears, through all that’s uncomfortable, and ultimately letting yourself be seen.
From Jungle Keva, a luxury boutique hotel in Tulum, Mexico, we will experience Nazieh's story together. Her path towards stepping into her own was fraught with risks. Ones that she bravely took, despite the cultural boundaries and expectations. From her arrival in Iran with her family as refugees to immigrating to Australia. And eventually, against her parents' wishes, she ventured out on her own to London.
Here, in this beautiful place, Nazieh is a prominent entrepreneur. CoWorking Tulum is the membership-based community she founded. Its purpose is to provide a premium CoWorking experience and community to remote workers in Tulum, many of which moved to Tulum alone due to the pandemic, creating a sense of belonging in a foreign place.
"I ended up having a life that I couldn't have ever imagined for myself,” she says in awe as she cups the side of her face, eyes wide, moving her head from side to side.
Roots - Seeds - Love & Connection
We begin on a Saturday at Jungle Keva, a luxury boutique hotel in Tulum, Mexico. A tranquil oasis of a space that was the ideal place to start our conversation with Nazieh.
I had arrived a little early to prepare and went over questions I thought may be needed to keep the story moving. However, as Nazieh begins to tell her story, it was like listening to a well-edited podcast. Every second I was engaged! Perhaps it was because I resonated with her as a first-generation immigrant, growing up with strict traditional rules and minimal means.
She began with a hook, "A lot of people look at my life, living in London and New York independently, and now in Tulum, they wonder how is it possible I end up where I am today. Especially Afghans, they would tell me - your parents must be the most chill Afghan parents on earth because look at your life! And my parents are amazing, but they also had stringent rules. I was never allowed out of my house to do anything."
Nazieh pauses and tucks her long black hair behind her ears; an expectant pause hangs in the air. I fill the gap with a question about her childhood and where her parents were originally from.
She explains that her parents are from Afghanistan, and this is also where her older brother and sister were born. During the Soviet-Afghan War in the 1980s, the family decided that they must flee their country.
"All the men were expected to go to war. My father was the breadwinner, and him going off to war, leaving my mother with my siblings, was just not a viable option."
So, her mother took the children and began their journey towards Iran, telling people they came across that she was a widow.
In reality, her father had to disappear to be safe from the military. No one heard from him for months.
"We all thought he had died; we even had a funeral for him."
Shortly after a year, her father returned and reunited with his family, and soon Nazieh, her younger sister, and her younger brother were born. The family lived in the outskirts of Tehran under refugee status in an apartment. In Afghanistan, her father had been a psychology professor at Kabul University; in Tehran, he worked his way up from factory laborer to management. When they were granted asylum, the family immigrated to Australia. Nazieh was then five, and she still remembers what life was like in Tehran.
"There was a store close to our apartment, and it carried this gum that I loved, and I can still remember the taste; it's very nostalgic." Nazieh described her memories of Tehran as comfortable, but it was time for her family to move again. Like so many, as she grows into the pre-teen and adolescent years, she is confronted with the conflict that many first-generation immigrants face—finding her own identity and sense of belonging.
I can relate to moments in Nazieh's early days of schooling in Australia. The guilt of wanting to participate in school-organized activities but being unable to pay the fees. Or the first time I felt embarrassed for just being myself.
Nazieh's voice rises and falls as she engages her past emotions, and her story tumbles out. Her breakfast of chilaquiles lay barely touched between us; to take a moment to eat seemed of little importance as we connected over her words.
"I'm not sure why they make kids do this, but the teachers made us show what we're having for lunch. 90% bought lunch from the cafeteria, and I had rice in a lunchbox - not a chicken sandwich. It really highlighted that I was different, I'm not the same, and all you want to do as a kid is to be the same. Till this day, rice in a lunchbox makes me cringe - I love rice, though, love rice, always."
Because of this, she refused to eat her lunch, and soon her parents succumbed to the pressure and packed her Nutella sandwiches.
"We went for fast food and to food courts, yes, but can you imagine us, a family of seven, going to a restaurant, never. The first time I ate at a restaurant was after University as an intern for a company."
Hers was a tight-knit family. Her father had tried to look for all sorts of labor jobs, but he turned to entrepreneurism when working for others did not pan out. He began modestly buying and selling second-hand items, eventually bringing in Bali and Thailand items to sell in markets. The 10-year Nazieh helped alongside the whole family to make the business thrive.
Even though Neziah was a good daughter, following the rules laid out by her parents, she also developed an independent streak and questioned everything.
Throughout her childhood, she was repeatedly made aware that her reputation is tied to her family, and if she does anything to tarnish that, there would be significant consequences.
"To this day, I try to keep my life super private. Back then, I'd go to the mall with my friends, and six people would report to my parents. I'd try not to make eye contact with any guys. I dressed very conservatively."
In her mid 20's, Nazieh had the opportunity to visit Afghanistan for a family member's wedding. She was stunned to see her female cousin wearing what she wanted - a spaghetti-strapped dress. Nazieh looks back on this moment and realizes now that her parents had kept her family enclosed in a time capsule.
"When my parents left Afghanistan, they took the culture they knew of with them. They then tried to keep that alive with my siblings and me, and I get that, but what I saw is that our country and people have evolved - and in some ways, we were stuck in the past."
After many years of study, Nazieh was accomplished academically, and she began a job with PWC (Price Waterhouse Coopers) and was soon in management. When a transfer opportunity arose, Nazieh jumped at it and relocated to London. She was both ecstatic and hesitant. For all the joy it brought her, she knew telling her parents would be terrifying.
"Early in my career, I was asked to go spend one night in a city outside of Sydney for a conference. I still remember the exact words from my father when I told him, 'I can't believe you even have the courage to ask me that, a daughter of mine, is this a joke, you're quitting tomorrow, you don't need this job."
This was not just one night - this was moving her life to London. So what did Nazieh do? She gathered her courage and chose to move.
LOVE AND CONNECTION
Her whole life, Nazieh was told that she needed to live by certain rules and to make her way down a pre-paved path. But it didn’t feel right. She felt there was more to life than what she saw. So, to prove this, she chose to take a different path.
"They thought I was leaving for a couple of weeks. I only packed for a couple of weeks. When I got to the gate, so much went through my mind - what are you doing? They’ll never forgive you."
While she cried and her parents cried, she kept her secret and bravely walked through the gates towards security, leaving for London. For every ounce of exhilaration, there was fear of regret. She pushed out of her mind thinking about how her relationship with her family would be once they found out she had defied them.
"When I was young, I wanted to be a flight attendant. I desperately wanted to explore outside the 5km that we lived in."
Not only was she traveling outside of the 5km radius, but Nazieh knew she was taking the first powerful and significant step towards becoming the woman she knew she could be.
"As soon as I landed in London, it felt so good, so right, I was like Dora the Explorer - it was pouring rain and snow, and I was like 'this is heaven. I didn't have to worry about people seeing me on the street; I can wear what I want; it took me two to three years to really become more comfortable."
"The funny thing is, a lot of people seek freedom in doing all of these things, partying, drinking, but actually, even though I wanted these things growing up, I didn't want to anymore." She had a mission to prove to herself that she's capable of taking care of herself. And she did just that and even more.
Today, Nazieh lives in Tulum, Mexico. During her first few weeks in this seaside town, she worked remotely for Brookfield Asset Management as a Vice President in their Corporate Finance team.
Each morning she would wake up and begin an internet search for the best locations to access wifi and then set off to begin another 'day at the office' in paradise. Perhaps it is the 'energy vortex' that Tulum is known for, but one day as she went through her daily motions that Nazieh formulated the concept that would create CoWorking Tulum.
Soon her brother would join her from London to grow this incredible opportunity. Together, they began scouting locations, pitching restaurant and hotel owners, and organizing social and networking events for members.
Witnessing the ease with which Nazieh navigates through a crowd of members, I would never have guessed that she came from a confining upbringing. She greets everyone with a warm hug and gives them her undivided attention.
"My entire life - I've been told I cannot do things. Not just you cannot go out, but also, you do not have the ability to be a certain person - to be independent."
As our conversation comes to a close, Nazieh quickly takes the last few bites of her breakfast. She has the first of many daily meetings. For an entrepreneur like Nazieh, there are no days off, as she works hard to rapidly scale her business while also maintaining her position as Vice President of Finance at Brooksfield. She is passionate about the life she has built, and working seven days a week does not deter her enthusiasm.
From her humble beginnings to where she is standing before me in Tulum, Nazieh shares one final thing with me.
"I wanted to prove that I can be by myself and survive - and wanting to prove that - was the ultimate thing that pushed me to risk everything - to prove that I don't have to be dependent on anyone."
I am proud to say I am a member of CoWorking Tulum and have been since the beginning. Being involved in this venture has truly changed the way I feel about life and 'being.'
The community surrounding me is one that Neziah has built and has brought many of us a sense of belonging in a foreign place.
To give ourselves the love we deserve, we have to dare to set boundaries, even when we risk disappointing others.