She was only 18 years old when she went to Australia after her marriage. She used to be a homemaker there, maintaining a house and taking care of her two children.
After spending quite a few years together, both Fariha Chowdhury and her husband realised that it was not possible to carry on with the conjugal life anymore. Mutually, they decided to part ways in 2015.
Though it was a mutual decision and her ex-husband offered financial help to her and the kids, Fariha wanted to create her own identity.
And her struggle started there.
She, along with her kids, rented a one-room apartment. She took a job at an Indian restaurant. She started working three or four jobs at a time in several restaurants to support herself and her kids.
While working in restaurants, it often came to her what if she herself opened a cafe. The thought remained a mere idea as she was yet to become financially stable to do anything. She understood that she needed to work harder to reach a better destination.
So, she did a course in hospitality and hotel management. She even enrolled in Murdoch University for a bachelor's degree in education while continuing her job.
Basically, she was working, supporting her kids, paying her tuition fees and at the same time, trying to save a little bit for future.
"I was confused about what I should do. I started university so that I could at least become a teacher. But I realised this was not what I wanted to do. I wanted to organise. I wanted to lead. I wanted to be a boss." said Fariha.
But all she could afford to do was start working at 6am in the morning and returning home at 11pm.
Making the best use of an opportunity
It was four years of toiling day and night that finally conjured confidence in her to go for something she had dreamt of.
She came across an invitation to tender for Lodestar Waterside Apartments Hotel, a business that had gone into liquidation and needed a new owner. That advertisement shifted her vision of a cafe into a four-star serviced apartments hotel.
After doing an extensive research, she prepared a business proposal which got accepted in the bid. At that time, she was a highly paid employee in two restaurants and a resort, something that helped her qualify for loan in Australia.
"I applied for loan showing my business proposal and income in bank in February 2019 which got approved," she said.
She spent all her savings and the loan on purchasing the business from its previous owner and restructured it into her own mould. Sometimes, she would check in to four-star and five-star hotels just to study their services and systems.
"I wanted to come up with the best service in the market which will be convenient for most tourists," she said.
In her serviced apartments, there are 28 rooms and it is not obligatory for a family to pay for an extra room for kids aged above 13. She accommodates beds in one room if the customers prefer it that way.
She felt the need to have someone in the workforce whom she could trust blindly to share the workload with. So, she contacted her brother Shahedun Chowdhury who was working at Regent Airways and asked him to be her advisor. He accepted her offer and joined hands with her.
The serviced apartments hotel was inaugurated on March 22 last year. It did not take much time for the duo to become a name in the market with Perth Zoo, Swan River, Kings Park, and South Perth Foreshore all around their serviced apartments.
They started having customers, mostly tourists coming from Singapore, Malaysia, China, Europe, and India.
Within a few months, they reached the Australian Tourism Accreditation standard and earned silver membership of the Tourism Council of West Australia. The company enjoyed 46% growth by the end of last year.
Innovation during coronavirus pandemic
The siblings were happier than ever with their venture before the Covid-19 pandemic broke out, disrupting all their business operations. For a moment, they thought they were going to collapse with the stagnant economy.
But they came up with a plan and utilised the negative situation to their favour by letting the stranded tourists stay in their serviced apartments at a reduced rate.
"We opened our door for doctors and nurses for their isolation period when the virus was still a taboo. We know it was a drastic step where a little mistake could cause a disaster. I remained present in the serviced apartments the entire time, supervising every little detail of the service," Fariha said.
According to the online travel agent (OTA), at least 150 accommodation businesses had to shut down or went into hibernation in Western Australia during lockdown.
The risk was worth taking, thinks Fariha, as it generated revenues for them in such a critical time.
The vision for future
Her dream is to turn her serviced apartments into a franchise and making Bangladesh a part of it. She still dreams of having a small cafe.
"I do not know to what extent I will be able to fulfil my dream, but I would like to have a cafe alongside this serviced apartments hotel," she said.
"My suggestion for anyone would be to prioritise education above everything"
This correspondent asked her if she has any advice for immigrants living abroad who want to start a business.
"My suggestion for anyone would be to prioritise education above everything. After that, if someone wants to pursue a business, then market research and good observation skills are a must," she said.
She feels that if the calculation is precise, then hard work will pay off in any venture.