“One for all and all for one” women-led networking and growth platform Tinted Wateva hails from culturally diverse Singapore. Led by Lavania Hajji and Shifaa Sheikh, the platform is making waves by empowering brown Asian businesswomen in their community, and beyond.
Empowerment of minorities is the driving force behind Tinted Wateva’s diverse and inclusive growth and networking platform, dedicated to brown Asian businesswomen, and their passion projects. Ever since its establishment in 2020, the platform has continued its efforts to encourage much-needed conversations on entrepreneurship, societal pressures on women in business, and how to overcome those challenges with the support of your community.
Tinted Wateva has fostered support for countless brown Asian women entrepreneurs in Asia, through their shared vision, knowledge, experiences, and resources, administrating mentorship and coaching programmes for their “tinted ladies” to set them off on their individual paths in pursuit of their business goals.
Celebrating their drive and passion, Hive Life sits down with Tinted Wateva co-founders Lavania Hajji, a proud founder of 3 businesses, and soon to be mother of two, together with Shifaa Sheikh, a social media guru and the creative mind behind the platform.
The dynamic duo discuss their journey in building a community of brown businesswomen in Asia, and how they began, revived, and scaled their entrepreneurial visions through their liberating networking platform.
Can you tell us more about your background?
Lavania started: “I identify as Singaporean Indian, and being a minority in the entrepreneurial field here, I decided to build an all-inclusive platform for brown Asian businesswomen. Prior to my newest venture, I started my entrepreneurial journey by founding the Dance Embassy back in 2012, as a freelance dance fitness instructor, and Haul Off Me, an eco-conscious fashion platform. I am also a proud mother of two, and my second one is coming soon in June, so it has been very empowering juggling motherhood and my three businesses alongside.”
Shifaa followed: “I am Singaporean Malay, and co-founded Tinted Wateva together with Lavania. I am also the founder of Shifaa Socials– that was when I first got introduced to the entrepreneurial world at the young age of 17. Upon graduation I worked in an advertisement agency, soon realised my expertise and capabilities in social media, and hence continued to build on audience engagement and offer unique experiences through my work.”
How did you come to establish Tinted Wateva?
Lavania shared, “As a minority in Singapore when I was contemplating my business idea, I uncovered the hard way that there were not enough organisations to support brown women in starting their own businesses. Seeing such a disparity, I was driven to offer a solution, and started Tinted Wateva, as a blog actually, to share my story and resources with other women facing similar struggles. Shifaa started as a social media manager, and with her amazing work and progress, she onboarded officially as my partner. Thereon, we shifted towards building a growth and networking platform for brown businesswomen, and eventually expanded into a community of like-minded personalities.”
Lavania continued, “Growing up I experienced and witnessed that with minorities in any community, their voices are often suppressed and opinions unheard. In the USA, important social movements and celebrity representations from women of colour like Priyanka Chopra and Lilly Singh being more vocal have prompted conversations and networking within communities. However, in Asia, we play down our struggles and often close ourselves off. Seeing that, I envisaged our platform to offer that safe space for women to put themselves out there, network, support each other, and showcase their true potential.”
Shifaa added, “Building on that, many networking platforms can be intimidating for first-time goers, as it was for me. We have created an inviting and safe space for ladies to share their struggles in the business field, where they can be vulnerable and honest without the fear of being judged and performing their best. Reminiscing when I first joined, the space was just as inviting and welcoming, and that is the energy we wish to preserve in our community.”
What inspired the name Tinted Wateva?
It was simply to encourage women of whatever colour and shade they are, they are always welcome to join us!
Who do you encourage to join your community?
Our target audience would be brown Asian women in business, and we actively encourage women who are looking to get started to join us as well- you do not need to be established or well-acquainted within the community to be part of Tinted Wateva.
We are inclusive of all, and through our community, we cater to and provide for the diverse needs of women on their entrepreneurial journey.
What type of events do you host?
We have hosted various networking events, the most favoured would be our monthly “Coffee Catch-up and Level-ups,” with a different business-related theme for our ladies to talk about and expert guest speakers who would advise them on the topic.
Additionally, we have initiated a masterclass for women to join and learn about specific topics, followed by a networking session, and something special for our ladies- a photography hour- as businesswomen, we need good photos too.
We recently planned a picnic and previously had also invited our community over for dinner.
Why is your work important in Singapore?
We believe in women and help them discover their shine.
We want to establish ourselves as an exemplary platform which offers women an open space to connect and identify with each other through shared experiences in the field.
There aren’t as many brown women leaders or mentors in our community to lead by example, we aspire to break that image by presenting a true portrayal of what successful women of colour could amount to, and inspire many others to walk down that road.
What has been the driving force behind executing and running your platform?
“I would have to say Shifa because I definitely would not have been able to expand this swiftly without all her hard work. She has struck a balance and is the executing force behind my countless ideas. I am thoroughly glad we get to grow this connection with many other women in our community,” shared Lavania
What change do you anticipate your platform will bring?
We envision for our platform to change the mindset of people who are positioned at higher ranks to recognise minorities and acknowledge the work being put in by our communities. Through our platform, we not just support the growth of businesses, but rather view this as an important work. As we drive to spotlight diverse groups and support their endeavours, we hope to continue inspiring and get inspired by like-minded individuals.
What role does Tinted Wateva play in breaking stereotypes or biases around brown women in business?
We want to break the stereotype of brown women being labelled as “lazy” by highlighting their capabilities and potential, and emphasising how women of colour are just as driven given the right opportunities and platform to rise and thrive. Since we first started back in 2020, we have witnessed a positive shift in society and its ideologies, as more and more women are stepping out of their comfort [zone] to seek the new and unanticipated. It honestly shows how they are taking the initiative to stand out, and represent the community as a whole.
What makes Tinted Wateva stand out from other networking platforms?
We are celebrated for our welcoming and inclusive space, rather than making networking a tedious task, we believe in socialising and making the most out of an experience. We have previously organised picnics, dinners, and even breakfasts together for the ladies to relax and enjoy connecting within our community. You work the best when you are relaxed.
What is an essential component for your business to grow?
First, would be consistency- in order for businesses to foresee growth they need to stay committed and consistent on the task at hand to yield measurable results and metrics based on their strategy. Social media, for example, requires one to stay consistent with their posts and stories to maintain and engage a rapport with their audiences in the long run. Additionally, creativity would be another factor in play, for them to stand out with value-added personalised solutions.
Most importantly, we encourage our community to be confident and assertive of their business models, in order to survive in a highly competitive market one needs to truly believe in themselves and their ideas.
As for our business growth, we measure it with our community’s joint success.
Why is networking an essential part of business growth?
Lavania shared, “As an introvert navigating her way through networking sessions, it had always been quite intimidating. Some of which were not as welcoming, where they would accept participation according to one’s business status for you to network.
I realised the role of networking in the growth of the business, but also the bias at play. It does come with a myriad of benefits from getting the right connections to bouncing off your business ideas, and if lucky enough, securing collaborations.
Networking remains a strong and powerful tool in the development of ideas and potential businesses, which is why I tapped into the market.”
In what ways has the pandemic transformed the networking space?
During the pandemic, our networking sessions were, in fact, quite popular amongst emerging women entrepreneurs, as well as women-led businesses. We believe as our platform and online workshops provided a space for women going through similar experiences, and in retrospect, conversing with our expert keynote speakers of similar backgrounds, played a major role in keeping them inspired while facing pandemic slumps.
Now that the restrictions are easing, we are encouraging women to come out of their homes and get back into building real-time human connections through our face-to-face meetings.
What’s the best part of running your platform?
Lavania started, “ For me, the best part would be that I get to reconnect with my connections. This space has closed that gap and brought our community closer, more than ever. I love connecting with women in the field and being able to reach out to them and invite them over as our keynote speakers, truly benefiting other women looking to get started on their own entrepreneurial journey.”
Shifaa followed, “I particularly enjoy the process of uniting like-minded women with whom I can connect, share, and learn from in a way that helps facilitate my personal healing and growth. It is about having those important conversations with ladies from all walks of life and being able to share honest and candid experiences, to which I’m truly grateful.”
What does the future hold for Tinted Wateva?
We aspire to expand our community globally, where brown women all over the world can come together, explore, grow, and benefit from each individual learning experience. We currently have our outreach overseas and are hoping to retain ambassadors in different countries, and hold similar events to what we are currently doing in Singapore.
Our ultimate goal would be to one day hold a ladies’ retreat for women of all creeds and colours to come together, but this time to unwind.
Are there any upcoming events for our readers to watch out for?
We just embarked on our first picnic! Down the line, we will host workshops every month which are in fact free for the first month. For newcomers, we strongly recommend joining us for a free trial for the first session.
Upon successfully becoming a member, we offer a one month free trial for our membership programme. If you are interested in becoming a part of our community, feel free to reach out to us on our website tintedwateva.com or our Instagram @tintedwateva, as well as on Meta @tintedwateva