Exclusive Interview: Datin Jeanette Tambakau on Motherhood and Jari Jari Spa

Interview by Eve Bandusena

Between being an entrepreneur and a mom, Datin Jeanette Tambakau is a powerhouse that shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Join us as she sits down and takes a retrospective look back on her career, on balancing motherhood and work, and insights on why self-care is important.

On Jari Jari Spa’s Inspiration.


Every achievement and marvelous feat always begins with a spark in the beginning. We ask Datin Jeanette what was the spark that inspired Jari-Jari? 

According to her, it comes from the unique and diverse cultures that Sabah has to offer. “We want to put the local culture element in our spa. We did a lot of research and we went into a lot of villages to find out what a lot of locals do when they have a long and tiring day out there in the paddy field and some of the local folk women showed us that they have a technique in their massage.” Other than that,  it’s not just about introducing their customers and clientele to Borneo massages, it’s also about preserving the identity of culture and tradition. “So, most of these local folk women are from Dusun tribes and we discovered that they do a lot of massages on their elderly and community. We realized this tradition has never been documented, and we thought that it would be very good to preserve this as it’s been passed down from generation to generation. We can share it with the youth that this can be preserved.”

On Jari Jari Spa’s Challenges & Rewarding Moments.


Next, we spoke of challenges which is an inherent factor in running any business. “The obstacles were many especially when we first started in 2005 because, at the time, the perception of the spa industry image wasn’t good. A lot of people had the perception that a spa is like a massage center. It took us a lot to convince people that, in actuality, a spa can be a legitimate business and that’s how we worked towards it.” However, where there’s a will, there’s a way. Datin Jeanette and her business partner found a workaround to promote their day spa in Kota Kinabalu. “We couldn’t get any support from our friends. We got our break by going to tour agencies and promoted our spa packages to them and I’m proud to say that we were the first-day spa in Malaysia to promote our spa packages through tourism. The spa industry is now very well-recognized and it works well with the hospitality industry.”

Ending on a high note, she gushes to us about her rewarding moments which isn’t focused on awards or achievements but rather the progress of her employees. “For us, what’s most rewarding is seeing our staff grow, personal growth and see that it builds confidence. Also, when guests give us good feedback on the service provided, testimonials. I think those are the most rewarding part for all of us as we work as a team. Seeing through Tripadvisor and reading that the guests speak highly about us, and how good our service is great because we focus a lot on our services to make sure it stays number one and current and always on top of everybody.” Datin Jeanette adds that the combination of these interpersonal growths and wonderful reviews makes it satisfying. “In business, I believe we need to empower our team”

On her philosophy of motherhood, proudest moments as a mom and advice to parents who are starting out.


“My philosophy as a mother is to engage with my children in every activity they did when they were young, for example, if my son wanted to go bowling or my girls wanted to go to the beach, I make sure I make an effort to spend time with them,” she adds, “I’m always there not only to give moral support or to be present with them but to also be involved with it. That’s one of the ways to connect with our children.” As a mom with adult children, she reminisces on her time with her children and how closely knit family is a happy one, “Right now, my children are grown but we’re very, very close because there’s a lot of memories that linger on so, every time we’re together we always talk about the olden days, what we did when they were young. We recorded videos too, so sometimes we watch the videos, we start laughing, doing all the silly things. So, that’s important.”


Looking back at her empty nest and giving much thought on what her prouder moments as a mom are, she says “It’s seeing my children become independent and an individual person. As parents, my husband and I believe that our children have to find their own way of life and understand what they want.” She adds her more about her role as a parent and how she carries her philosophy out. “We’re always open to what they want to do and don’t restrict them. We’re there to guide them but at the same time, we give them the leverage of freedom for them to choose what they want.” As a result of this, her adult children now pursue different career paths. “I think it’s very fulfilling to see them doing well and they can look after themselves and are independent. Unless they have problems or something they can’t solve, they come back to us to ask for advice. I’m blessed that they’re doing well in their own right.”


Having gone through the experience of raising children, while maintaining several successful businesses, we ask if there’s advice she could share with new parents who are just starting out. “We have to know how to balance work and family. I believe we need to give more priority to kids, especially when they’re young and they need us.” For Datin Jeanette, work can wait regardless of what issues surfaces. “If we know how to delegate our staff, and empower them to address what work-related issues they are then we can spend more time with my children.” She imparts us a practical example, “On weekends, I always go out with the children but sometimes, if I know the spa needs me to be there, I’ll bring my children to the spa and get them engaged. When they were young, and making noises we would say bring a book and read while waiting for me to do work.”  For Datin Jeanette, it’s important to build that relationship and being connected to them.

On “me” time for mothers, and her favourite go-to self-care activities, and why moms should join in the fun.


“Oh yes, definitely!” Datin Jeanette enthusiastically says. “We need to have our time alone to sort of rejuvenate our own body, mind, and soul. That’s why I like spas. We can do things like that especially mothers because they’re very stressed out. Looking after young children is never easy, there are so many things to do and they get tired without realizing that they’re pushing their body to the limit. If you don’t allow yourself to have some ‘me’ time, sometimes, overtime accumulation will bring a person down.” Truer words have never been said. She goes on in detail about how self-care isn’t only reserved physically, such as looking pretty and put together but it’s more about being in touch with ourselves emotionally as well. “Emotionally we need to love ourselves and value ourselves and to do things that we love to do such as hanging out with friends and have nice dinners with close friends and having a good community with good friends that’ll keep us sane.” She laughs.

“In this phase of my life right now, I’m using a lot of yoga to ground me. I do various yoga, such as the prana yoga, aerial yoga, sleeping yoga, and sound therapy,” Datin Jeanette shares on her methods of self-care. She believes that when we’re at an older age we need more experiential, soul-searching kind of activities that will ground us and find our own purpose of life and our essence at this older age. And, what restorative effects does she feel after these self-care activities? “What I notice most is mental changes. Being more grounded, more relaxed in life and not take things too seriously and learning about myself and what I really want out of life.” She shares that, “Looking at myself now, I have probably another 30 years to live, perhaps and I think about my purpose in life and how I can give back to society or how I can empower and inspire more people. I have gone through such a long journey, so many experiences and I’d like to share that with people.”

We ask Datin Jeanette whether other moms should practice self-care, and she gives us a definite “Yes!” According to Datin Jeanette, yoga helps us to de-stress and there are so many good benefits associated with it. Not only physically but also, emotionally on our own well being. “When we do yoga, we’re actually connecting with our own self, our soul, with our own body and it gives us a very deep sense of relaxation,” she goes on, “With that, more oxygen goes into our brain and when more of that happens, our thinking process will be more clear when faced with the questions what do we want in life and or what we want to do in our daily lives. Being more focused is objective.”

Lastly, any messages to the parents of Parents Avenue?


“Share good bonding time with your children. Treasure them while they’re young because once they grow up they have their own lives they may not come back to see you,” she smiles, “So often enjoy and savor any moment you have with your children.” She also adds to have a balanced life. Work and family are equally important in our lives. There’s no answer on how to do it except to experience it yourself.” She quips.

Click “Play” button to watch our Interview Session with Datin Jeanette Tambakau. Visit their Facebook at www.facebook.com/JariJariSpaBorneo to learn more about Jari Jari Spa. 



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