Kiwi mum’s million-dollar maternity leave project

Ima Asali certainly made the most of her time as a new mum!

Like a lot of women, Ima Asali is a busy lady – managing and caring for the three babies in her life. We should clarify that those babies include her sons Ario (3), newly arrived bub Adrian – and Mellow.

What or who is Mellow? That’s the make-up business she started from scratch only months after giving birth to her first child. Yes, she is very busy!

The mammoth task of launching a company with a newborn wasn’t something Ima (30) took on lightly.

After years working in retail and insurance, it was after Ario was born that the Auckland mum realised it was now or never to fulfil a long-held dream.

“I’ve always had that thought in the back of my head that I wanted to work for myself,” she says.

“I was also so determined that I wanted to stay home with my son instead of putting him in daycare full-time. I know that doesn’t work for everybody, but that’s what I wanted to do.”

While at home on maternity leave, Ima would spend hours watching make-up tutorials online, including New Zealand YouTube make-up star Shannon Harris, known as Shaaanxo. Then the idea came to her – having her own make-up brand.

“Make-up really empowers me and makes me feel really good, and it does that for women of all ages. That’s what I want to do.”

So Ima mentioned it to her husband Dan (31). The pair decided to take the plunge. Mellow was registered in 2013, about seven months after the birth of Ario.

“Deep in my heart, I knew this was the right thing for me to do. I’ve only made decisions like this a couple of times in my life – one was marrying my husband and the other was starting Mellow. It just felt right,” she laughs.

Emigrating to New Zealand with her family from Iran at the age of 12, Ima grew up in Auckland and has built a great support network. Her husband, family and friends have spent many evenings helping with postage and packaging.

“It was hard in those early days, having one income,” she recalls. “It took a good year for the business to pick up. I was learning everything as I went along – I had no idea!

“There were times where I had a few sales a week and I would wait in front of the computer.”

Then one day, Shaaanxo featured Ima’s products on one of her tutorials, reaching her three million followers.

“It was just like a bomb exploded,” Ima says. “Suddenly we were getting customers from all around the world. It was amazing and I’m glad when things were hard, I didn’t give up.”

Mellow has gone global with Ima’s eye shadows, lipsticks and lip paints selling in Australia, Canada and the United States. All of her products are paraben-free, cruelty-free and vegan.

“People who love make-up most likely love their animals too. I definitely do! So why use something that had been tested on animals?”

With interest growing from large overseas buyers, Ima has developed a million-dollar business. But she’s adamant that family comes first, especially with her newborn who is keeping her very busy!

Ima and Ario just before the family welcomed baby Adrian.

“Having children motivates you to do more. Ario inspired me to do this and if he wasn’t there, I would probably still be working in insurance.

“He’s going to grow up and say, ‘Look at what my mum can achieve.’ Even now, when he says he can’t do something, I say, ‘You can do anything.’”

That’s a message she wants to get out to all mothers who have a great idea but aren’t sure how to make it a reality.

“So many people have so many great ideas and they just forget about it because they aren’t sure if it’s going to work or can’t take the risk.

“But I say take the risk. We put everything we had into this business. Every product I launch, and even in my daily life, I get up and I say this is going to be a good day. You have to be positive.

“If something goes wrong, you just have to view it as a hiccup.”

Words: Ciara Pratt

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