Meet Sha­zly and Is­mail Rasheed. They met and mar­ried in the Mal­dives, stud­ied their in­di­vid­ual crafts in Hamil­ton, and now they are driv­ing two flour­ish­ing en­ter­prises in Lower Hutt – both with very dis­tinct busi­ness mod­els.

Lo­cated in the mid­dle of the In­dian Ocean, the Mal­dives is the flat­test coun­try on earth – a se­ries of atolls where no ground sur­face ex­ceeds three me­tres above sea level.

By the end of the cen­tury, thanks to cli­mate change, it’s pre­dicted the Mal­dives will lose al­most 80 per­cent of its land area* – prompt­ing its pres­i­dent to an­nounce in 2008 an in­ter­est in pur­chas­ing a new home­land for the coun­try’s es­ti­mated 373,000 peo­ple.

For Sha­zly Rasheed, grow­ing up in the Mal­dives was a spe­cial time of fun, laugh­ter and long hot days on sparkling white beaches. But there were scarier mo­ments too, such as tidal waves flood­ing the streets of the capital Male, where she lived. For Mal­di­vians global warm­ing is very real. Through her brother-in-law Sha­zly met Is­mail. As soon as they mar­ried they be­gan mak­ing se­ri­ous plans for their fu­ture. With the coun­try’s un­cer­tain out­look, par­tic­u­larly around pol­i­tics, the econ­omy, and ris­ing Is­lamic ex­trem­ism, they could see no fu­ture there for rais­ing chil­dren.

Is­mail had trav­elled ex­ten­sively, spent time in the US and UK and, want­ing to study law, had been of­fered place­ments by uni­ver­si­ties in Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

“I chose to come to New Zealand [with Sha­zly] sim­ply be­cause I had friends liv­ing here.”

It was 1995 when they both ar­rived on th­ese shores he re­calls. “It was def­i­nitely the right choice.” When Is­mail was given the op­por­tu­nity to study at Waikato Univer­sity, Sha­zly saw the chance to train as a hair­dresser – a de­sire she’d car­ried with her since child­hood.

“I re­mem­ber my mum al­ways dressed us beau­ti­fully and took us to proper hair sa­lons to cut our hair. I was fas­ci­nated with hair and how the hair­dresser could mag­i­cally cre­ate dif­fer­ent cuts,” she says.

In Hamil­ton Sha­zly fin­ished top in her class and was of­fered an ap­pren­tice­ship. A nine-month bat­tle to get a work visa fol­lowed, cru­cial for com­plet­ing the ap­pren­tice­ship. She’s grate­ful for the sup­port and be­lief from her boss back then, who kept her job open, and whom she re­garded as a “father fig­ure”.

Is­mail knew it would be tough to break into New Zealand’s le­gal pro­fes­sion. So af­ter some mar­ket re­search he de­cided to fo­cus on the some­what un­pop­u­lar, but highly de­mand­ing and com­plex area of tax law. Af­ter get­ting an A+ in all tax papers, he se­cured a po­si­tion at In­land Rev­enue’s head of­fice – which ne­ces­si­tated a move to the capital, and a some­what reluc­tant one for Sha­zly.

Af­ter find­ing a home in Lower Hutt, Sha­zly be­gan work at a lo­cal hair sa­lon – a job ar­ranged through her pre­vi­ous em­ployer. Over six years she steadily built up a con­sid­er­able clien­tele. It was only a mat­ter of time be­fore she would open her own sa­lon.

Hav­ing grown up in a busi­ness fam­ily back in the Mal­dives, Sha­zly had seen the chal­lenges and re­wards of do­ing busi­ness. “So it’s re­ally in my blood,” she says.

With Is­mail’s en­cour­age­ment, Sha­zly stepped out of her com­fort zone and opened Sa­lon @ Sha­zly in 2005. It re­branded to Sha­zly Ex­pe­ri­ence Hair and Day Spa in 2013 af­ter she closed the doors on an­other pas­sion of hers – a cloth­ing bou­tique (Bou­tique @ Sha­zly) fea­tur­ing her own de­signs.

Through all those years, while Sha­zly was win­ning nu­mer­ous hair­dress­ing and busi­ness awards, in­clud­ing Best Small Busi­ness award from the Hutt Val­ley Cham­ber of Com­merce in 2009, and Most In­spi­ra­tional Role Model award from Her Busi­ness in 2010, one ma­jor con­cern still weighed heav­ily on her mind. Sha­zly had never for­got­ten the dev­as­tat­ing im­pact of global warm­ing on her tiny home­land. The dam­age to the Mal­dives from the 2004 tsunami pro­vided a stark re­minder.

Last year when the 41-year-old mother of two de­cided to move Sha­zly Ex­pe­ri­ence to new premises in Lower Hutt’s re­fur­bished art deco Post Of­fice build­ing, she had al­ready spent a year in­ves­ti­gat­ing how to set up a ‘green’ sa­lon – work­ing with the Sus­tain­abil­ity Busi­ness Net­work and the eco-team at Hutt City Coun­cil.

The new sa­lon would be New Zealand’s first pur­pose-built sus­tain­able sa­lon.


The burn­ing ques­tion for Sha­zly when de­sign­ing her new sa­lon was ‘ why can’t we meet the needs of our gen­er­a­tion with­out com­pro­mis­ing the abil­ity of the next gen­er­a­tion?’

Thanks to ex­ten­sive plan­ning and re­search, the en­vi­ron­men­tal cre­den­tials of the new sa­lon, which opened late Fe­bru­ary this year, are com­pre­hen­sive.

En­ergy ef­fi­cient LED light­ing, wa­ter-sav­ing de­vices, and a zero-to-land­fill pol­icy are some of the more ob­vi­ous ini­tia­tives. Less ob­vi­ous is the com­post­ing of all hair, the use of re­cy­cled tin­foil, re­cy­cling mag­a­zines and, most im­por­tantly, choos­ing an en­vi­ron­men­tally-friendly range of eth­i­cal hair prod­ucts, in­clud­ing CHI hair colour – ‘the first am­mo­nia-free colour in the world not tested on an­i­mals’.

“We were look­ing for not just nat­u­ral, but sus­tain­able prod­ucts as well,” ex­plains Sha­zly. “So we spent sev­eral months of test­ing and tri­alling on dif­fer­ent hair types and skin types.”

She be­lieves the hair in­dus­try is slowly work­ing to­wards more nat­u­ral, sus­tain­able prod­ucts. Even the big­ger brands are get­ting on board. “I truly be­lieve it’s the fu­ture of the in­dus­try.” Her eight staff, all trained in-house, are en­thu­si­as­tic about the changes. They ap­pre­ci­ate the ab­sence of nasty chem­i­cals in the new prod­ucts. And it goes with­out saying that clients are ex­tremely pos­i­tive about the sa­lon’s plans to go green too.

Sus­tain­able sa­lons are al­ready big in Europe and ex­pe­ri­enc­ing growth in the US. Sha­zly hopes to be a role model in New Zealand and en­cour­ages other hair sa­lons to go down the sus­tain­able path.

“If ev­ery­one does a tiny lit­tle bit, such as re­cy­cling, it all helps make a dif­fer­ence to the wider com­mu­nity,” she says. “It also helps grow your busi­ness be­cause peo­ple are now much more con­scious of what they’re putting in, and on, their bod­ies.”


While Sha­zly was de­vel­op­ing and build­ing her own busi­ness over a decade, Is­mail was her num­ber one sup­porter. But when Is­mail started his own spe­cialised tax and im­mi­gra­tion law prac­tice, IR Le­gal, in Oc­to­ber 2015, the ta­bles were turned and it was time for Sha­zly to wave the sup­porter’s flag for her hus­band.

Is­mail knew he would never reach his full po­ten­tial in his govern­ment job.

“Lawyers need chal­leng­ing work and need to be cre­ative for them­selves and their clients,” he ex­plains. “Whether you’re in­ter­pret­ing a case in a novel way, try­ing to grow the pie in a ne­go­ti­a­tion, or re­fram­ing a bad fact sit­u­a­tion, you need to hone your cre­ativ­ity. You can­not do that if you are work­ing in a large or­gan­i­sa­tion un­der the di­rect con­trol of mi­cro-man­age­ment, or em­ployed as a staff so­lic­i­tor in big law firm.”

Is­mail had the ex­per­tise, ex­pe­ri­ence, con­fi­dence and en­ergy; he also had a pas­sion for two spe­cialised ar­eas of law – tax and im­mi­gra­tion.

“Tax is a very spe­cial­ist area. Most ac­coun­tants are not qual­i­fied to of­fer tax law ad­vice and most lawyers do not prac­tice in that area. In fact, very few law stu­dents study tax in law school be­cause it is too hard,” says Is­mail.

Although he im­mi­grated to New Zealand 22 years ago, Is­mail still iden­ti­fies with the hopes and dreams of to­day’s mi­grants. “I un­der­stand their cul­tural needs and the feel­ings of dis­place­ment they ex­pe­ri­ence when re­moved from the fam­ily sup­port, so­cial val­ues and cul­tural habits they un­der­stood. How they miss the com­fort and se­cu­rity of­fered by the coun­try they’re leav­ing be­hind.

“It’s very sat­is­fy­ing to know that I can help peo­ple who are in search of a new life and a new home.”

IR Le­gal can be de­scribed as a ‘ new-school’ law prac­tice. Is­mail quickly re­alised that most of his po­ten­tial clients were so­cial­is­ing on so­cial me­dia. He had seen re­search in the US on the ben­e­fits of so­cial me­dia mar­ket­ing for lawyers. In the US at least one-third of con­sumers are in­creas­ingly re­ly­ing on so­cial me­dia – with Facebook, In­sta­gram and Twit­ter the most pop­u­lar – to make their pur­chas­ing de­ci­sions. And that in­cludes sourc­ing the ser­vices of a lawyer.

Is­mail de­signed his own web­site, tem­plates and Facebook page. The day the Law So­ci­ety ap­proval came through, Is­mail ‘went live’ that night.

His mar­ket­ing strat­egy paid off in­stantly. Start­ing from scratch, in his first week, just through Google AdWords and Facebook, he se­cured nine clients – three pro­fes­sional firms, one Maori trust, two cor­po­rate en­ti­ties and three in­di­vid­u­als.

“Af­ter 12 months my law firm gen­er­ated more rev­enue than I earnt as a se­nior so­lic­i­tor at In­land Rev­enue. That’s more than the aver­age bar­ris­ter or a part­ner in a medium-size law firm would earn in a year.

“So yes, busi­ness growth re­ally ex­ceeded ex­pec­ta­tions. It’s ‘holy gua­camole’!”

Is­mail runs his cloud-based prac­tice from home, but has ac­cess to ser­viced of­fices in cen­tral Welling­ton and Auck­land, and an­other ‘vir­tual of­fice’ at an as­so­ci­ate law firm in Lower Hutt. He also part­ners with sev­eral spe­cial­ist con­trac­tors as and when nec­es­sary.

He’s par­tic­u­larly proud of his on­line pres­ence which he per­son­ally feeds through daily post­ings on In­sta­gram and Facebook, which af­ter 18 months al­ready has 3000 likes.

Search ‘im­mi­gra­tion lawyer’ or ‘tax lawyer’ on Google and “nine times out of ten” IR Le­gal comes up num­ber one.

“You must re­mem­ber that web­sites are static – whereas so­cial me­dia sites are ac­tive,” he says.

Is­mail is also sat­is­fied by the re­sults he achieves for his clients. “In the past year I saved seven busi­nesses from bank­rupt­cies or liq­ui­da­tions. Those clients in­structed me af­ter their ac­coun­tants and lawyers failed to ne­go­ti­ate an ar­range­ment with In­land Rev­enue.”

He has also clocked up many suc­cess­ful res­i­dence visa ap­pli­ca­tions, and has a dogged de­ter­mi­na­tion to achieve a pos­i­tive re­sult in im­mi­gra­tion cases that at first may ap­pear daunt­ing and com­plex – even if he has to work late into the night.

Run­ning his own prac­tice makes Is­mail not only a lawyer, but a busi­ness owner, and that makes him more sym­pa­thetic and un­der­stand­ing to­wards clients’ needs, he be­lieves.

“You must con­stantly think about risk man­age­ment, fi­nan­cial man­age­ment, em­ployee is­sues, up­skilling staff, reg­u­la­tory com­pli­ance is­sues, client care and con­duct rules, mar­ket­ing and busi­ness sus­tain­abil­ity, just to name a few.

“It is a huge chal­lenge that a lawyer who works for a govern­ment depart­ment or large or­gan­i­sa­tion, or a staff so­lic­i­tor in a law firm, can hardly imag­ine.” Is­mail’s goal is to build a lawyers’ net­work on so­cial me­dia. “I have a grow­ing num­ber of US, UK and Aus­tralian law firms fol­low­ing me on In­sta­gram. Even­tu­ally, I’d like to form a strate­gic al­liance of in­ter­na­tional lawyers who share the same val­ues and ethos as me. I know it’s am­bi­tious, but I can do it.”


With two suc­cess­ful busi­nesses and two boys (aged nine and eight), the Rasheed house­hold has ev­ery rea­son to be chaotic – but Sha­zly and Is­mail’s expert plan­ning and or­gan­i­sa­tional skills en­sures ev­ery day is struc­tured and ev­ery­thing runs with al­most mil­i­tary pre­ci­sion.

“I al­ways look at what’s on for the boys for the week, such as pi­ano lessons or cricket, and plan who is do­ing what,” says Sha­zly. “I also put the jobs that Is­mail has to do in his diary so there’s no con­fu­sion.

“We both like to be in­volved in the boys’ ev­ery­day life, so we plan our life to en­sure that one of us is al­ways with them. I work two late nights a week, so in the week­ends I pre­pare ex­tra meals to leave in the fridge.”

Her recipe for a suc­cess­ful mar­riage is spend­ing time to­gether and com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

“We al­ways have one com­plete work-free day in the week­end to spend to­gether as a fam­ily. We love lunch­ing or din­ing out in the week­end and it’s re­ally nice to just sit at a table and talk with­out dis­trac­tions.”

Of course, talk at home can some­times turn to busi­ness, and the cou­ple are al­ways happy to share mar­ket­ing ideas and opin­ions with each other.

What is ob­vi­ous is the mu­tual ad­mi­ra­tion between Sha­zly and Is­mail around each other’s busi­ness skills and tenac­ity.

“What I’ve learnt from my as­so­ci­a­tion with Sha­zly is that small busi­ness isn’t for the faint hearted,” says Is­mail. “It’s for the brave, the pa­tient and the per­sis­tent. It’s for the over­comer.

“I would not have gone out as a sole prac­ti­tioner with­out that busi­ness ex­pe­ri­ence. So, I thank Sha­zly for al­low­ing me to be in­volved in her busi­ness un­til I started my own.”

Both be­lieve their life and busi­ness chal­lenges have been cru­cial to mould­ing their skillsets and char­ac­ter. And the key to achiev­ing their goals has been plan­ning – the cou­ple has al­ways writ­ten down six-month, one-year and three-yearly plans since the day they were mar­ried.

As for the suc­cess of her brand (and her name is her brand), Sha­zly puts it down to hav­ing never com­pro­mised her ser­vices, her pas­sion for learn­ing, and the de­sire for on­go­ing ed­u­ca­tion in or­der to be the leader in the hair and well­ness in­dus­try. Her short-term goal is to train and ed­u­cate more peo­ple on the ben­e­fits of sus­tain­able hair and beauty. Long-term, she hopes to open “a few more” sa­lons around the coun­try – maybe one in the Mal­dives.

Clients al­ready travel from as far away as Levin for the Sha­zly ‘ex­pe­ri­ence’ – which in­cludes such ex­tras as a free neck and shoul­der mas­sage with ev­ery hair wash. Her ad­vice for other bud­ding sa­lon own­ers? “Plan well, work hard, be de­ter­mined – and when things get tough, don’t quit.

“And never ac­cept ‘OK’ as a stan­dard.”

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