Making a difference in others’ lives is something that has always been close to Datin Dr Hasnorliza Abu Hassan’s (Dr Leez) heart. In a recent interview, Dr Leez as Founder and CEO of ADLA Group Sdn Bhd talks about her background, her passion for empowering women and the importance of entrepreneurship in today’s world.
Hailing from Selangor, Datin Dr Hasnorliza Abu Hassan’s father was a Selangor government servant turned politician and her mother was a nurse from Penang. “We used to follow our parents to many charity events as my family enjoys giving, so that’s probably where I got my charitable nature from,” Dr Leez shares in reminiscence. Upon completing the American Degree Program, she did an accountancy degree and a masters in business administration at California State University Sacramento and there she met her then future husband. Dr Leez got married during her last academic semester in California and returned to Malaysia where she undertook an accounting job at Caltex Oil Malaysia and then in business systems development at Shell Malaysia Berhad for a total of eight years.
When Dr Leez delivered her twins, she had to leave Shell Malaysia to be more focused and attentive as she had to deal with her first child’s learning difficulties as well. Later, she helped to manage her husband’s architect firm for another eight years. Completing her doctorate in business management from Warnborough College locally while working, Dr Leez founded Sparkleen, a premier dry cleaning and laundry brand in 2006. Soon after, Dr Leez formed the Advance Development Learning & Advisory Academy to train the laundry industry workforce but that did not take off as the local workforce comprises mostly foreigners who are not open to trainings. Then, she took offers to be a guest lecturer at Universiti Putra Malaysia and as a part-time lecturer at Binary University before launching the Leezarra brand in 2013 as a stylish modest clothing line for corporate women and millenials.
However, 2016 was a turning point as she change the name of the Advance Development Learning & Advisory Academy to ADLA Group Sdn Bhd and transformed it into an entrepreneur work-life balance school to support entrepreneurs in the region, complete with talks like ‘So Do You Want to Become an Entrepreneur?’. “Many jump into business without sufficient knowledge and many people also noticed my good work-life balance. I want to encourage millennial women to have high self-worth and a good work-life balance approach in doing the business they love, to positively impact their communities,” shares Dr Leez. “As women wearing many hats, we sometimes lose our sense of purpose. Hence, ADLA’s programmes like the Women’s Lifestyle Brunch to empower women is a platform for women to learn in a conducive environment besides pro bono workshops and collaborations for corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives,” Dr Leez explains.
Having garnered 20 years of experience, Dr Leez’s vision for ADLA comes from a place of wanting to be of service and to encourage lifelong learning. “When I went into business, I didn’t mind putting my career on hold to ensure my family is looked after. Starting out as a young mother of six, I wished there was guidance on building my business foundation and leading a balanced lifestyle, but there was none,” she adds. Furthermore, as an ambassador for ‘The Asean Work-Life Balance Project’, Dr Leez hopes to inspire more women and she passionately shares her inspiration in advocating women’s empowerment. “I have 5 daughters and a son. I want to raise them with high self-esteem, to be independent and to take charge of their lives,” she explains.
Dr Leez’s future plans include the release of her book in May this year – ‘The Millennial’s Guide to Building Business Right – A S.A.F.E.R System to Succeed in Today’s Business World’. The S.A.F.E.R Business System MASTERCLASS stands for Sustainability, Assessment, Feasibility, Execution and Resources. “Our signature course, S.A.F.E.R is on building successful business foundations and a lasting legacy. I strongly suggest that would-be entrepreneurs take it while starting a business,” shares Dr Leez. Moreover, ADLA’s 5 Pillars of Core Values are Honesty & Integrity, Systematic & Orderly, Peace & Harmony, Work-Life Balance Philosophy and Impacting & Giving Through Education. “It enables us to run from a heart-centered place and moulds the culture of my team, my clients and the community. It also allows me to execute my passion with compassion, my belief with empathy and spread my message with impact,” says Dr Leez.
Additionally, she believes entrepreneurship fuels a nation’s economic growth. “Women today are decision makers in organisations and in their households. Through entrepreneurship, children will be raised well as mothers can work with time flexibility and act as role models. The key is to equip them with the knowledge and skills,” she elaborates. Considering how active ADLA is, Dr Leez does not forget her two other businesses. To celebrate Leezarra’s 3rd anniversary, a ‘Leezarra SyawalRaya’ fashion show will be hosted and a concept store featuring sister brands Sharleez and SHE will be opened soon. “Leezarra has the ‘Spread Love Campaign’ where proceeds from certain collections are channeled into charity, the ‘Projek Memperkasakan Ibu Tunggal’ as a joint effort with ADLA and a few others. Plans are also in the pipeline to rebrand Sparkleen,” Dr Leez elaborates.
Regarding challenges faced, Dr Leez says raising six children and building a business simultaneously, is tough. “At the height of my career, I had to choose between career and family as I was pregnant with twins. I chose family and it was definitely worth it,” she shares. She adds that starting over after her first business failed is a challenge as well. “As someone ambitious, it’s difficult to put your goals on hold so striking a good balance is something I had to really learn and it was tough but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world,” Dr Leez adds.
On her greatest satisfaction, Dr Leez says she is happy to channel her passion for women’s empowerment and make a difference through her business. “I’m blessed being able to create job opportunities, do CSR work and experience self-fulfillment at the same time,” she says. Awarded the Women Excellence Award in 2014 under SME Category at the Excellence Achievement Awards, and Emerging Entrepreneur in 2016 by the Selangor Malay Chamber of Commerce, Dr Leez shares the key to her achievements. “The support of everyone around me and my work-life balance is instrumental as I put my faith and family first. I believe that’s why I am where I am today,” she says.
As a leader, Dr Leez balances between leading by example and being someone her staff are comfortable expressing their opinions to. “Again, a work-life balance is crucial and I believe in empowering them to take ownership of their positions. Having said that, I like order and discipline, so I expect that but I adapt when I need to,” she shares. On how she achieves her work-life balance, Dr Leez shares something personal. “I practise my five pillars of priority which are faith in Allah, my family, my personal self, my finances, and my business and community. My daily schedule is based on this,” she shares.
Dr Leez would encourage an attitude of moderation for young aspiring entrepreneurs. “Live life in moderation, have a work-life balance, learn fast from the right sources, never stop learning and never sacrifice your integrity. Strive daily to be the best version of yourself and leave a lasting legacy!”