Raja Jesrina Arshad and Stephanie Looi on Purely B's revolution
Two of Purely B's founders, Raja Jesrina Arshad and Stephanie Looi tell Lily Ong about their personal experiences that led to their mission of wellness.
Let me just say, you’d have to be living under a rock to not notice that there is a revolution taking place in KL. Our nation’s urbanites are swapping out sugary frappucinos for cold-pressed juices and are ordering healthy lunchboxes to be delivered straight to their desks or homes. Exercise options have now expanded beyond the typical gym visits or jog-around-the-neighbourhood variety. Taking care of one’s health is no longer seen as a luxury, it is now also a trend and necessity.
Leading the charge for this revolution is PurelyB, a digital enterprise that was launched in May last year. It’s too early right now to call PurelyB a unicorn business, like that of Uber, Airbnb or Snapchat. That being said, from this writer’s point of view, PurelyB ticks off all the checkboxes of what makes a great digital business in today’s day and age: it started off from a simple but brilliant idea (to be the leading all-in-one health and wellness business in Asia) and it has executed a well-paced and timely strategy so far (it expanded from a content-based focus to the marketplace) and is spearheaded by a dynamic and talented team.
In just a span of 16 months or so, PurelyB has grown at an astonishing rate that has even floored its cofounders Raja Jesrina Arshad and Stephanie Looi.
“It has been quite a roller coaster ride,” says Stephanie with a laugh. When we first met, I could not even tell that the chief operating officer of PurelyB was expecting her second child at that point in time; she just exuded so much verve and vitality. Her skin was certainly glowing—although I had attributed this to her good genes or the healthy lifestyle she was leading, rather than her pregnancy.
Jesrina joins us half an hour later for the interview, her honey-blonde hair streaming behind her as she walks and her eyes sparkle with life. She slips into the seat in front of me, looking every inch as glamorous in real life as she does in pictures.
While she has royal blood coursing through her veins, Jesrina’s upbringing has always been a sensible one. Hard work and grit are qualities drummed into her from a young age. Throughout her eight-year career as a corporate executive in a media broadcasting company, she struck up a friendship with Stephanie, whose career path and work ethics mirrored her own.
As fulfilling as her work was, Jesrina had her own struggles. She was coping with minor health problems that were cropping up on a regular basis. She suffered from indigestion, bouts of flu and rashes. Her sister, Raja Johanna Arshad, recommended her to visit Dr Adrian Lalani in Singapore, an expert in osteopathy, to look at her condition.
After a session of non-invasive testing, Jesrina discovered she was allergic to gluten, dairy, egg, wheat and shellfish. She was advised to remove these elements out of her diet—a herculean feat for this dessert-loving lady. After trying to sustain a diet of fish and veggies for a few weeks, she gave up because as she laughingly puts it, “I love food too much to give it up!”
An idle browse through the Internet in February last year was the catalyst of how everything soon changed for Jesrina. “I happened to come across some food bloggers who were vegans and experimenting with recipes. There were recipes for pizzas, burgers, cheesecakes, lasagnas and pavlovas, and everything they made were gluten-free!” says Jesrina. Intrigued by what she discovered, she went on a one-woman mission to try making these meals for herself.
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Photography: JC Photo; Styling: Liz Anne Bautista; Make-up: Irena Adam using Clé de Peau Beauté; Hair: Kay Tuan from Centro Hair Salon; Location: Barlai by The Big Group