Liris Maduningtyas: CEO of JALA

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Hi, my name is Liris Maduningtyas and I’m the CEO of JALA. JALA is a data services company that provides services for aquaculture, specifically for shrimp farms. We enable shrimp farmers to increase their yields through technology and smart data. We’ve been in this sector for about two and half years now. I started out with my co-founder, who is actually a shrimp farmer himself. He’s been in the shrimp farming industry for 17 years already, and he started to look at the problem at this shrimp industry and start to gather a team. At the time I was working as a field engineer in an oil and gas services company. I’d been working a lot with data logging and data collection. When I eventually left my company and met with the farmers face-to-face, I started to realize that there is still no such technology breakthrough in this kind of business to improve and optimize the work they do.

Surprisingly, there is actually no available data at all to help farmers make decisions. Farmers must rely on their instincts. For instance, to estimate water parameters, farmers will typically use their fingers by putting them in water. It’s completely insane. In this part of the world, where technology is already booming, we should be able to create a technology solution for these farmers. At JALA, we want to actually help the farmers to gather, all of the data necessary that for them to actually make predictions, to actually make decisions based on the actual data, starting with sensors. So that’s how we started JALA, and how I actually personally jumped into aquaculture.

How does it feel to be one of the leading woman, and furthermore, a C-level woman leader in the aquaculture industry?

It’s quite challenging. If we talk about the shrimp industry and the aquaculture industry in general, there are not a lot of women working in the sector. Most women working in the aquaculture sector usually work with the feed company in managerial roles or research and sales – and not sales in the field, but in the office. I rarely meet female farmers, actually. I’ve only ever met three. But it’s not just about the lack of women in the aquaculture industry, but also the shortage of young people in aquaculture as well.

It can be quite challenging, being a female C-level leader in this sector, especially because of the very small female representation we have here. I always have to prove myself in front of the farmers, who are often quite old and knowledgeable. But I am coming to the table with something; I also have knowledge in this business, and I actually can help them. Being a female leader can be beneficial as well, because I’m different. And people typically love something that is different.

What societal expectations do you face as a young woman? What’s your family’s and friend’s opinion about you joining the aquaculture industry?

You may have already guessed that the environment didn’t start out super supportive. I mean we’re living in Indonesia and it’s part of the culture that women are supposed to be at home, not at the office. It’s changing, sure — you can go to the office, but you know, maybe as a secretary. My parents actually encouraged me to become sort of a certified lecturer, but it wasn’t what I wanted to do. Once again, I had to prove to my parents that I could actually do it. The process took hard work and patience, but it paid off. I actually won a pitching competition on behalf of JALA and then started gaining revenue from the farmers. Now my family is starting to realize that I can actually do it. They’re really supportive. One hundred percent. But they needed some sort of proof first.

How is the startup ecosystem in Yogyakarta? Are there many women entrepreneurs?

In general, there many women entrepreneurs in Yogyakarta, but those specifically working in the startup ecosystem are quite rare. I do find a lot of female entrepreneurs in Jakarta and maybe outside of Indonesia, but in Yogyakarta, you can probably only find a small handful of C-level women in this business.

The majority are in offline, then?

Yes, yes, exactly. The majority of women entrepreneurs are in offline businesses, like coffee shops or restaurants, you know, desserts and the like. But I do really want to encourage women to consider aquaculture and agriculture as career paths. Aquaculture and agriculture are things that you don’t really have to be afraid of.

So in your opinion, why there is there such a limited number of startups?

I think it’s because of people’s perceptions of startups. I’ll tell you a story from my university days. Only two startup founders came from my major, which is electrical engineering. That was in 2010. But then in 2011 with the younger generation, that number started to grow. Although it still wasn’t a lot, I still hope that the trend will continue. There are a lot of women trying to actually become entrepreneurs in the startup scene. Especially in technology.

Who are your role models?

I have a lot of role models, but I’ll just tell you about someone who is currently inspiring me – Sheryl Sandberg from Facebook because I think she’s funny and energetic and patient. She really faced a lot of challenges as a woman entrepreneur at the beginning of her career. And I feel like part of her story also resonates with my own story. So the way that she overcame all of those challenges is something that I draw motivation to also overcome my own.

Where do you see yourself in the next ten years?

I really want to own more than two companies. One company is this one. For the second one, I do really want to own a farm — a high-tech aquaculture farm. I really want people to know that working as a farmer is not a low profile job. I just want to open people’s minds, to tell them that farming is actually a good business. And when it comes to farming, technology, and young people, it could be something that is seen as desirable and lucrative.

What is your advice for young people out there, especially for women who want to start their careers as an entrepreneur in the startup ecosystem?

Girls, don’t be afraid. You have equal rights and equal potential as a person, and you’re equal in every potential skill that you’d need to actually become an entrepreneur in the startup ecosystem. And I hope for you to not be afraid. Don’t just wait to have a secure job. Be out there. Find the problem, find the solutions, and start to build something that is really cool — and make money out of it!

Marianne Rumantir: CEO of Member.id

Tell me a bit about yourself.

My name is Marianne Rumantir and I am currently the CEO of Member.id. Member.id helps businesses create great value for their customers by providing end-to-end loyalty solutions. Our mission is to change the loyalty landscape in Indonesia.

I come from a diverse background; I studied Communication and Advertising at university and ended up working in the corporate world, I was in corporate communications for several banks for about four years. Then I started a family.

As someone who is a career chaser it was very hard, especially because I was living overseas with no support system. So I started my own business back in 2009. My first business was a restaurant that I started with some of my friends in Melbourne. That restaurant actually still exists; it’s been there for the last 10 years. We expanded and opened up a few more branches, expanding to the US. This led me to move to Los Angeles, California.

While abroad, I would always get requests from others to buy them something and bring it back. You know, with Indonesians every time you hear someone is traveling overseas, you’re always asking, “Can you buy me something?” (laughs) That happened to me a lot. I’m actually not a big shopper, but I thought that I could actually make a business out of this. That’s how I started getting into technology. I established an e-commerce business where I would shop US products for Indonesians for a small fee. I had to use my credit card quite frequently because of this, so I ended up collecting a lot of points. From there, it kind of became my obsession, because I found out that I could actually use my points as a currency.

I’ve always had a passion for travel. At the time, I’d never been to Europe and I had no budget as a struggling business owner. And it wasn’t just for me — I had a family to consider as well. I did a lot of research and apparently there are a lot of people in the US that use points to travel everywhere; they can even upgrade to luxury cabins using points. I became obsessed in reading all these blogs, learning about how to travel hack.

When we finally flew to Europe, we basically spent nothing. We flew business class and we stayed in a luxury hotel for free. Combined, we had accumulated over 500,000 worth of points every year. Everytime we went on a holiday, it would be for free. I started sharing these points experiences online, creating a points-hacking blog targeting Indonesians.

Then, I started exploring about the Indonesian market and found out it was quite feasible. I was introduced to Edy, now an advisor at Member.id. Edy actually offered me a role at his other company. He said, “Why don’t you come back and work with us where you can bring some value?” I immediately told Edy yes to Member.id though, but I told him that we would need to change how people perceive loyalty programs in Indonesia. My initial idea wasn’t commercial. I wasn’t trying to make money. It was about how can we help Indonesians do the same thing that I could do back in the US.

I came back last year and then we took it from the ground up.

How is it like to be a pioneer in the loyalty space?

We are trying to take advantage of being the very few players who provide these services. This is why we cater to a very specific, niche market. At the moment, our clients are all mid-market to large enterprises, because a lot of them require some sort of customization. When you go to other smaller companies, they don’t really do any customization because there is one product for everyone, which is another product that we are developing at the moment.. For us, one selling point is that we can hit different kinds of verticals. That’s why we have clients ranging from hotels, retail, lifestyle, food and beverage. We’ve always believed that no one size fits all. After all, the way you create a loyalty program for hotel clients and F&B is completely different.

We’re very grateful that we’re one of the first ones. There will always be new companies in the industry, so it’s good to be the benchmark for others, right? It’s also been a blessing for us to be the first, because client acquisition becomes easier. We stopped looking for clients because we get so many from referrals. It’s a great testament of our services from existing clients that they would actually recommend their contacts to use us. I’ve never really thought of us as pioneers, but I want to take that as an advantage for our company to grow even faster and to hold the biggest market share.

What challenges have you faced as an entrepreneur?

When we first started, pricing was a huge challenge. Many were not familiar with our service, and didn’t understand why they should pay so much for a service that they had no idea about. Our response was to provide value to clients and prove to them that our pricing is worth every penny. That’s why we are quite big on the data team, because a lot of clients sit on a tremendous amounts of data that aren’t being used properly. That’s where we bring value. We can help you analyze all these transactions, create insights, craft targeted promotions, and ultimately increase sales.

As a woman leader, I’ve never really experienced anything too extreme. Most of the time I feel like women have achieved a place in the startup world, even though I know that looking at statistics women still make up a comparatively low number of startup founders. It’s very rare to find women entrepreneurs. But compared to the US, we’re doing better. I know for a fact there’s a big wage gap between men and women in the US. However, I remember working in an Indonesian company, and between myself and another male sharing the same position, we were paid the same. Here, it’s more of a position and level gap than a gender wage gap.

Back then, when people heard about startups and tech companies, there was this perception that you need to be an engineer, right? It was a man’s world, and if you didn’t know how to code, then forget about it. Whereas these days, startups are all about creating disruptive businesses – who can be the most innovative, who can achieve the best product-market fit, who are the founders. So expectations are different as well.

As a female founder, how can you create your own niche and get started?

So you can be a health freak for example. Maybe you want to change people’s behaviors and increase the amount of exercise people do. So it’s not just about coding and programming; it’s everything else. There are many female entrepreneurs in the travel industry and the beauty industry, for example. That’s what I like about the startup world. It’s open. You’re not just creating code or making mobile apps. It’s the whole package. But it’s also the perception and message that we need to create for all women out there to say that hey, the door is open. It’s open for everyone.

Are there any benefits to being a woman founder?

In a way, yes. Since statistically there are fewer women founders, you actually get noticed quicker. But that’s not what success boils down to. It really comes down to your leadership style. And I think women have a definite advantage when it comes to that. We have more empathy. It has its pros and cons of course, but I’d like to think that as a woman I can understand people’s situations better. For example, we have an employee who is also a mother. I would understand if she needs to take time off because she has to look after her family. I also understand that even men who have kids who want to go home early should be able to as well, because they need to spend time with their kids. I always strive to make sure that our company culture is healthy, that our employees know that, look, you are supposed to work hard, but that doesn’t mean that you neglect your other obligations.

How do you balance your time as a founder, a mother, and a family member?

The key is: it takes a village. So I do have a good support system. If I were doing this overseas, I wouldn’t be able to achieve what I’ve achieved right now. In comparison to what I’ve achieved over the past one year here, I’d probably only be able to achieve it in three years overseas. Living overseas, I didn’t have a support system. I have no family overseas, and hired help would be too expensive. Whereas here, the support system is very strong so I get to go to work without having to worry about picking up my kid at the daycare or something. That’s one element.

Second, the most important thing to survive is to make sure I myself am happy. I know that a lot of mothers always put their family’s needs above they ended up neglecting themselves. I’m not saying that’s wrong, but we’re also in charge of our own happiness, right? If we know how to make ourselves happy and content then our families will also feel that positivity. I still socialize and work, but I have my own time at night and on weekends with the family. And of course the weekend is for catching up on sleep. I guess it’s all about quality. It’s not quantity. Making sure everybody gets enough time. As a result, the aura I bring in at home and at work and everywhere, it’s always positive. Then again it takes a village. I can’t do this alone.

What did you learn from failure?

My background has always been working in a corporate world, right? And so I had always been an employee. Growing up, I never thought I would ever run my own business because my parents are all professionals. I mean, I don’t have a trust fund. So I was taught that as an professional, you have to climb the corporate ladder to progress in your career.

I’m actually the only person in my family who is pursuing entrepreneurship full-time. I’m kind of a rebel. I am the risk-taker. Thankfully my husband has the steady job, so even if I failed, at least we could still eat. Honestly, the first six months to a year — that was a big struggle. I almost quit my first business because I wasn’t getting paid monthly, and it was definitely less than the amount that I used to get from my corporate salary.

It was a big struggle for me, but the thing that made it sustain is because I have a good business partner, my business partner came from a background of entrepreneurs. So he was the one who motivated me and told me I needed to be patient and persistent and to just do our best. So he was the one who believed in our venture, and that’s why we continued to expand. Not all of the expansion was a success. But that didn’t mean that we had to stop.

And I’ve learned that in order to succeed, you can’t do it by yourself. You need a team and you need a business partner because otherwise I don’t think you can handle all the hard stuff on your own. When you face issues or problems, sometimes you can’t think of the solutions all by yourself.

I may not be the person with the most brilliant ideas in the company,  that’s why we like to hire a lot of smarter people. My job is to be able to facilitate all these people so that their ideas can come to life. That’s what a leader should do. When you manage something, it doesn’t mean that you have all these great ideas all the time. What you need to do is to facilitate others. Again, the failures that I’ve experienced were largely because I did not have the right team. That was my lesson.

What are the ingredients for the right team? For the right business partner?

You need to find someone who complements you. Don’t find someone who is exactly the same. At the moment, our senior management team all have completely different specialties. I’m more on the external side, like marketing and business development. Robert is more the data/insights person and he’s very good at strategy. All three of us have completely different specialties, so we would complete each other, right? Every time we are facing issues, we can work together to think about what’s next. It’s a good combination when we put our heads together.

Do you have any role models?

I always say that my mother is my idol. She has been a professional all her life, but I feel like I was never neglected by her despite of how busy she’s always been. I have always seen her as someone who knows how to balance things. She knows her priorities. In terms of leadership, I like to see different types of people leadership. I like to follow Arianna Huffington and Sheryl Sandberg for womens’ rights heroes. I like to combine lessons from all of these women and decide what would best apply to me. I don’t think one person’s leadership management is something that I can exactly copy. So I just try and follow different types of leaders to see what would fit my style.

How would you describe yourself as a leader?

I’m a very open person. That’s why we don’t have doors in our offices. I want people to be able to talk to me anytime. Whatever position you have, whatever department, whatever your specialty — if you feel like you have something that you know bothers you, if you’re not happy then you can come talk to me. I want to maintain that open culture. Second, I want to make sure my employees are happy. This is why I like having a lean company, because I know each one of my employees personally. I want to know what makes them tick, what makes them happy, and how I can help them grow professionally. I don’t micromanage, but I know exactly what everyone’s doing. That’s why we have alignment meetings regularly, because I want to know what people are doing without stepping on their toes too much.

Are you the only girl in the family?

I’m the only one — I have two brothers. Maybe it was because I was raised by a working mother, I was never expected to become a stay-at-home mom. I’ve always wanted to work. Like I said, I’m probably the only rebel in the family who took a big risk with her career through entrepreneurship. I see it as a way to set a good example, at least for my nieces, you know, and for the other extended family. I want them to know you can actually make it as a working mother as long as you know your priorities.

Do you have any advice for other girls who want to start their own businesses?

Looking back at my experiences, the fact that I didn’t start my own business straight out of school was a good lesson for me. Because through my professional experiences, I’ve learned how to become part of an organization first, to kind of build my career up from the very bottom. So I know how it feels like, being at the lowest level first, and then how it feels like to collaborate with other people and how to have a boss. Having mentorship is also important because I know these days a lot of younger people start their own businesses straight out of school, so they lack mentors. I mean, it’s not a wrong way to approach entrepreneurship. It’s just that for me, I had a better learning foundation. Either way is fine, but for me, it’s better to gain experiences not as an owner but as an employee, so that you know how to treat your team.

Eileen Kamtawijoyo: COO & Co-Founder of Populix

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Eileen Kamtawijoyo. I am the co-founder and COO at Populix. I met with my co-founder, Timothy when we were studying at the University of Cambridge. I was doing my master’s and he was doing his PhD. When I went back for good, I worked at Djarum’s new business initiative, which is their fast moving consumer goods company. Since there were a lot of product concepts that needed to be tested, I found out how market research in Indonesia is very costly and inefficient. Not only does it take a very long time, but the data quality is lacking as well.

When Timothy came back to Indonesia for good, I had already been working with Djarum group for around two years. We were just sharing ideas and brainstorming together, and he was telling me about the advancements made in academic research abroad. Suddenly, we thought maybe there was something we could do to solve the problems here in Indonesia’s market research space.

Around three to six months after the initial conversations that we had, we jumped in and started the journey of building Populix together. Populix itself has been established since December 2017, but we just started running operationally in January 2018. During the 9 months of Populix’s existence, there have definitely been many ups and downs. However, everything has been very worthwhile; so many learnings took place that forced us to stretch beyond our comfort zones and beyond our capabilities imagined.

Populix is a technology-enabled research startup. We are building a consumer insights platform that bridges companies and survey participants. Participants can come onto our platform, register themselves, and fill out their data: their age, their income level, where they live, etc. They are then rewarded every time they participate in a study. Meanwhile, researchers also come onto our platform looking for participants of their target market. They can conduct the survey and have real-time data analysis in their dashboard. In the future, researchers can also buy off-the-shelf data sets from our library or subscribe to these reports on a periodic basis.

What did you find the most challenging as a first-time entrepreneur?

Back then, we were both effectively managing directors, because literally we were managing everything from the very little things to grander things like strategy of the company. You begin to remember the things that you took for granted when you were working in a big company, and you finally realize how much effort it takes to create your own thing. You won’t realize it until you experience it for yourself.

Another challenge was in terms of skill sets. I needed to learn a bit more about finance; back then, I really had no professional experience on finance. So I took some online courses and watched YouTube to teach myself. It’s important so that at least you can have some sort of a financial statement for you to present to the venture capitalists and stakeholders you’re sharing it with when you’re fundraising.

And then there was product development. Timothy and I are both not really tech people. We really have to try our hardest, even up until now, to learn how to communicate with developers, familiarizing ourselves with the different programming languages that we should use, and the reasons why.

We’re still learning as we go. It’s been difficult, no doubt.

What makes you want to continue being an entrepreneur, then?

Well, I’ve always wanted to become an entrepreneur. I feel like it’s so much more rewarding; when you see something that you created yourself — your own vision — coming to life, it gives you a deep sort of satisfaction within yourself. It’s truly rewarding.

And the deeper I go on this journey, I feel that same rewarding sense. It’s just a matter of setting up a strong mentality from the get-go. After all, it’s going to be tough. But you just need to persist. You just need to persevere.

What do you look for in a good co-founder?

I think what makes a good founder is that first you need to know what are the skill sets that you already have — what are your strengths? With the other co-founder, you want to have him or her fill in the gaps or weaknesses that you have, so that you can complement each other. For example, maybe I have more of a reserved personality, while Timothy is more confident. It balances well when we meet with investors or when we are presenting our startup.

What’s more, you both must really believe in this idea. At the end of the day, everyone is going to be against you — even your family and friends. This is vital since there will be times when you may be questioning yourself as to why you are doing this, and to have that someone who can keep rooting for the idea and to keep up the momentum will help you push on.

How is it like to be a female founder? Any advantages or challenges?

So far, it’s been good. I believe that in any organization it’s good to have a balance between males and females because diversity brings richer discussion and richer perspective.

I feel it’s actually advantageous to be a female founder in a way; whenever I was applying for our startup to pitch in competitions, for example, it always have women founders are strongly encouraged to apply, something like that.

I also know that there’s also a lot of organizations who actually are supporting startups with female founders. For example, in the US, you have Melinda Gates setting up an institution to fund women founders. So I think in a way it’s good. I don’t feel like any discrimination or whatsoever. I actually feel encouraged because women are being seen and supported now.

How was it like to be a female employee versus being a female startup founder ?

Perhaps, I just share a bit of my experience. After graduating from my Bachelor’s degree, I was working at Campbell’s Soup in the US, as R&D (research and development). Our CEO was female. It was really empowering for me to see how females can hold such important roles and leadership positions.

And then when I was doing my masters, I found a lot of female PhD candidates, working on amazing and groundbreaking theses.

So, I felt far more encouraged after these experiences than when I was younger. I grew up in a traditional Chinese family, where women are not necessarily encouraged into leadership positions. For instance, higher education and completing a PhD may not be recommended by my parents, since it may result in difficulty finding a spouse. Nevertheless, I feel my journey has been truly blessed, since I am constantly surrounded by many strong female personalities that all encourage me to follow my pursuits.

Do you have any role models?

I don’t have just one per se. I really like Jack Ma; he is really someone who went from zero to one hundred, making it super big. It makes me think that you can’t complain. Like this guy has been through worse. At least I have the advantage of education and having a supportive family. So what’s my excuse? I also really respect his grit and his tenacity of never giving up. He always shares stories of how he pitched countless times, got rejected, but kept on going. I really admire that of him.

Where do you want to be in 10 years?

I really want to make more of an impact, not just in terms of business but also social impact. Maybe I can assume a role in the government sector. Who knows? I want to be a part of shaping Indonesia for the better, for future generations to come.

Do you have any advice for other young women who are looking to start their own ventures or dive into entrepreneurship ?

My personal advice is to first find out what your passion is. It may sound cliché but there are going to be tough times ahead, so you need to really enjoy what you do. Then, really just dive into it since I believe that if you have the will, you will find a way.

And of course, putting in all the hard work, the long hours, and having the curiosity to keep learning is vital. Since there are so many things that we will never know, you need to constantly have that hunger to continuously learn. And meet a lot of people, because you will learn a lot from them. Ask for their advice – don’t be scared to ask questions. In a nutshell, be a lifetime learner, network a lot, and continually persist.  

ANGIN’s Angel Investor: Ivan Kamadjaja

Welcoming our new Angel, Ivan Kamadjaja

Ivan Kamadjaja is an industry veteran with deep financial and logistics expertise. Leading Kamadjaja Group as their CEO, Ivan is keen on furthering technological advancements in logistics to increase productivity and customer satisfaction. With a focus on improving distribution movement for multiple companies, Ivan has raised standards of Kamadjaja Group through a decade and a half. Before taking the reigns of Kamadjaja Group, Ivan had made a career in financial auditing and consulting. In his personal time, Ivan has developed a passion in startup companies. In the past 3 years, Ivan has been an angel investor for several startups, by contributing his 15+ years of experience as highly impact entrepreneur, his business network, and by being mentor to them. Ivan is also active in many startup/scaleup related events as mentor, eg. EO Accelerator, Endeavor annual event, and 1000 Startup.

Putri Athira: Founder of Her Dreams

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Putri Athira and I’m the founder of HerDreams. It started from my dreams to contribute to the education sector for girls, specifically for unfortunate girls. Back then, I was confused about my job and what to do in life. I’ve always dreamt of building a school for unfortunate children in Indonesia, but then to build a school would require more money and resources than I had. Still, doing something for girls and contributing to their educations doesn’t necessarily have to be done through building schools. I realized that I could share my own experiences and dreams with other girls and motivate them to reach their dreams also.

At that event, we share about how important it is to have a dream, and we teach them how to make a dream map – a visualization of your goals and future. We believe that if you write out your dreams and see them everyday, you can motivate yourself towards your goals. We also emphasize the importance of having dreams. Next, we teach them confidence and public speaking. Thirdly, we emphasize independence. We summarize all the materials that we have taught them during the program and contextualize it to being brave and independent. We share the value of independence, how to lead, and how to communicate with people.

Why is educating girls in ambition, confidence, and independence so necessary? Especially in Indonesia?

Before I started HerDreams, I visited some schools. I met many different girls, and they all really lacked motivation. They have dreams, but they were scared to pursue them because their surroundings were unsupportive and so they thought they could not achieve those dreams. So what I saw was that they needed some external motivation in order to believe in themselves. From there, I realized that the main foundation to be brave enough to pursue one’s dreams is confidence. That way, at the end of day, they can be independent.

What are some success stories from the program?

During one session, we told one of the girls to present their dream map and explain it to the audience. But there was one girl who cried due to a lack of confidence. She was afraid that her friends would laugh at her. After that incident, our team discussed internally and realized that girls not only need to have a dream, but they also need to be confident. Because of that situation, we added another session because we believed that changes don’t happen overnight, you know? After the end of the third session, we saw that the girl who had cried before became more active. She became more of a believer in herself, especially after other girls told her how cool her dream map was. She really wanted to be a designer.

What do you think is the biggest hurdle that Indonesian girls and women face nowadays?

I think the biggest hurdle is finding support because, as you know, many Indonesians tend to see women differently. People question what a woman will do with a higher education because at the end of the day, you’re going to be a housewife and you don’t need to have like a higher education to do that. But I think that’s wrong. Even to be a good housewife, you need a good education as well. And that’s the problem. We see in every session, every girl that we meet, their families are not really being supportive of them. That’s what is holding them back from pursuing their dreams.

Do you yourself face any challenges in the workplace or in finding support for pursuing your own dreams?

At first, yes. My family is very supportive with regards to education. But in choosing a career, it was different. I always had dreams to become a diplomat, to go abroad. But then, my family reminded me that I still need to think about my future regarding the way I take care of my future family. So when I was in the stage to choose the priorities I have in life, including my job choice, I came to the conclusion to hold myself back from that job and find another way to fulfill my passion.

How did you personally deal with not being able to pursue your dreams in diplomacy?

The main reason I wanted to become a diplomat was because I really want to represent my country. I really want to engage with other people and help others in many sectors.. But by the time, I realized that it is not the only way to fulfill my passion, I could still help others and share what I have in a different way. So rather than doing it through diplomacy, I’m doing it through HerDreams instead.

What’s your goal for HerDreams in the next few years?

I really want to reach more schools and more girls, not only in Jakarta area but all across Indonesia. I hope that in the next few years we can also go abroad and contribute to girls education with other communities or organizations. And I really hope that there will be more volunteers involved. Currently, we have almost 200 volunteers in our community, with almost 80 school girls in our program and an international organization that has partnered with us to help motivate the girls – including refugees that live in Indonesia.

What issues do female refugees face specifically?

They struggle to find the spirit to live out their dreams again; here in Indonesia, they don’t have opportunities to pursue their dreams because they cannot work and go to school here. So we have to motivate them; they have to believe in themselves and believe that something good will happen to them after this stage of their life in Indonesia.

How do you balance between a day job and running HerDreams?  

It’s all about time management. I always conduct program sessions on weekends, so I still can manage the needs of HerDreams and my day job. And also the matter of communication with my partners, the arrangement of the meeting time and the preparation.

What are the biggest challenges you face in running HerDreams?

So far, perhaps is the financial support. It is because nowadays, in Indonesia there are not many companies that willing to help. We still depend on personal donors, so yes, I think that’s the biggest challenges right now. However, in the matter of man support, we are not worried. Currently, we have almost 200 volunteers that have been registered in HerDreams. And seeing that enthusiasm, we still believe that there are still a lot of young people out there, both men and women who really want to help and contribute together with HerDreams.

Do you have any advice for other girls who want to become leaders or start their own organizations?

What matters most are to know what you are capable of, the problems you want to solve in the community, and to be focused. Because to build this kind of movement, you need to be focused on what problems you want to solve and how you will help. You must be focused and consistent in what you do, so your help will give a significant change in the community.

Reky Martha: Co-Founder & President of Hoshizora Foundation

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Reky Martha and I am co-founder and current president of Hoshizora Foundation. I started Hoshizora in 2006 when I was a student in Japan at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University (APU). Basically while doing part-time jobs, my co-founders and I used our money to help out kids that were dropping out of school in Indonesia. My friends and I started a community to support about 14 street children to get back to school. We set aside our lunch money for one month to pay for the school fees of elementary school students. With more and more traction coming in, it just grew from there. We officially registered as a foundation in Indonesia in 2010. We’re also registered in the United States. Now we’re supporting 2214 students from elementary school to university. We have 25 full time staff, fully paid with benefits – a team in Yogyakarta and a partnership team in Jakarta. And we’re looking to grow more.

Did you always know you were going to be in the education space?

I have always been inspired to be an educator; I feel that Indonesia faces many challenges in education. For instance, public schools are supposed to be free but they’re not. Even today, almost 1 million students drop out of elementary school and never enter middle school. In Flores, for example, I saw so many little kids, with their tiny feet, walking for two hours to go to school. In the heat, you know, with no access to fresh water. How do you expect these kids to learn how to read?

As a person who was lucky enough to get scholarships to study in Japan and Canada and land a job in the United States, I feel that the only small way I can contribute back is by providing better education for Indonesian children. And right now we’re trying to reach the children who don’t even have access to school. We’re here to support whatever the government is doing and work with the private sector.

What exactly does Hoshizora do?

We are an organization that provides access to education through our scholarship program, from elementary school to university. We have about one thousand individual donors right now; 100 percent of these one-to-one donations go to the children (80% in the form of a fund, 20% for capacity-building programs). Apart from this scholarship, we truly believe that character-building is the main ingredient to a more successful education system in this country. We do this through our forum, and through meeting our children and providing mentorship every six months. Our area coordinators are closely monitoring our children monthly as well. We work to be sustainable by having various sources of revenue streams to maintain our operation and management professionally.

So Hoshizora pretty much provides scholarships, but not your usual scholarship. We do a lot of capacity building to help the children grow. We have our own Hoshizora curriculum book, filled mainly with soft skills, for children in every grade. It starts from knowing yourself and understanding your emotions, all the way to critical thinking and problem-solving. And it’s fascinating because we’ve been working with the same kids for 12 years now; one of my youngest kids back in 2006 is now in university and I can totally see the changes. They are not only growing as smart and curious people, but they also become empathetic leaders who now are able to create job opportunities for others. Seeing these longitudinal changes firsthand and through our data really validates our model.

What have been some of the biggest insights or takeaways that you’ve had running Hoshizora over the past 12 years?

I think first of all, education is a very important sector but the urgency is often forgotten because it’s not very sexy. When we started this, we did it as a volunteer activity community, but it wasn’t going to go anywhere like that. The reason why communities and nonprofits are dying so often is because we’re not viewing them as valuable as companies or enterprises. So after four years we realized that we cannot lean on volunteerism. We are still open for volunteers at specific events and giving a chance for young people to experience the work we do, but we do it full time now. And the people who are working full time with us understand that working in the education sector is important, and that they are as valuable as the people working at companies. So it’s competitive enough for young people to move from Jakarta to our headquarters to Yogyakarta, to be part of our team because we value them.

Second of all, sustainability is always a problem. In the beginning, we did lean on grants and donations. The reason why we have two revenue streams now is because we want to make sure that individual donors are able to see 100% of their donations go to the children. We built our own social enterprises that is contributing to our operations, and we also do brand activation for corporates and companies. And to ensure sustainability, we build three-to-four year partnerships with companies, rather than just one year.

Hoshizora is also learning that the impact we’re having on these children is deep impact. In twelve years, we’ve had 2,200 kids in our program.  We have a formula where our program strives for deep impact that is replicable in different rural areas in Indonesia so we can also scale up our impact.

How does Hoshizora Foundation balance public sector and private sector? Where do you fit in?

We’re looking at an ecosystem here, and I think if we break them apart we’re not going to get anywhere. There’s a lot of ego involved in it for sure. So we’re looking at how we can bring everybody together in the ecosystem. The ecological framework that we use is Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological System, which stems from child development theories. We need to stay true to our purpose, which is educating children, and we’re using a lot of positive psychology and social emotional learning frameworks in our work.

To bring people together, we build partnerships. Our closest partners right now are from the private sector looking to create shared values. Obviously we’re here to support the government, even though we do not have any direct collaboration with the them. They have their own system. We’re moving forward at a different pace. We tend to work with the private sector because they can move faster, with less bureaucracy. The impact can be fulfilled within months and we can measure it. A clear measurement is very important for us to know what’s working, what’s not working out, and to keep improving on that.

When we’re working with the kids, we get some social enterprises working with us; we give scholarships to children of mothers who are working for a specific social enterprise, for example. So we’re opening that collaboration where other social enterprises can work with the parents and make sure that these parents are actually delivering good quality of work so that their children can get our scholarship. At the same time, we’re opening a space for corporates to work with schools and teachers, mainly on capacity building. It’s building a whole community together with the hope that in few years we can exit when the quality of life is better for that community.

Is Hoshizora the only thing on your plate? What else are you involved in?

I am still trying to find out the best way to give access to education. I was involved in Humanitree, where I want to see if there is a faster way using technology to provide access to education. Perhaps not necessarily formal education; you know, education is not about getting a certificate but really getting skills that people need, such as critical thinking. So how can we give access to education to children out in Papua or Kalimantan, in a way that they can exercise their critical thinking and problem solving? Hoshizora is one way of tackling that challenge, in a deeper way. But it has to be paired up with something that can provide faster access to education. In a way, it’s just finding ways to tackling different issues within the education space while heading in the same direction.

As entrepreneurs, we cannot stop learning and exploring ideas. We need to stay focused on what we’re doing, but not closing the door to exploring other ways to tackle challenges. I find it very valuable to be in the startup ecosystem in Jakarta, where startups rise and fall every second. To survive and to find the best way to provide solutions to challenges, it’s quite challenging.

As one of the earlier female entrepreneurs entering the ecosystem back in 2006, how has it been being a female entrepreneur? How have things changed from 2006 until now?

Sometimes people are surprised that I’m doing this full-time and dedicating my life to provide access to education. When we incorporated Hoshizora as a foundation, that meant dealing with legal, tax, and building good organizational processes and structure. It’s a lot of work and I’m proud that I have two other strong female co-founders to go through these tough times. Oftentimes when people see this position being held by a female, they have doubts. Somehow they think that when a female gets married or has kids, obviously they’ll only work part-time. Sometimes when I walk into a meeting, I am assumed to be the secretary or PR person. So when I tell them, yes, I’m leading this organization 100 percent, full-time, it surprises people.

Half of my team members are male, so I think gender equality in leadership doesn’t necessarily mean having an all-female team. We need males supporting female roles. I find that in the past two years, there have been more support given to female entrepreneurs. A lot of attention is given. But I also encourage males to understand what females are doing and going through. Because if males don’t understand, it’s still going to be imbalanced. Men should still be encouraged to work with women. There should be equal opportunity within the whole ecosystem for men and women to work together.

What are some strengths to being a female entrepreneur?

Over time I learned that some of the strongest points of leadership are vulnerability, flexibility,  and adaptability – qualities that female leaders often possess. I can give you an example. So, being sustainable is a challenge for every non-commercial organization. We don’t receive a lot of grants for our operations and management. Two years ago, for example, I was worried about being able to pay my team. Rather than framing it negatively, I communicated it as,  “Hey, I’m trying to be sustainable. Give me ideas on how I can be more sustainable.” I think female leaders are quite good at articulating and sharing that in a more positive framework, and it results in leadership that is more agile, and partnerships that are more open. Saying, “This is our condition, give me ideas,” instead of saying, “We’re good to go, we’re okay,” or pretending that we’re okay because of pride, is far healthier.

And definitely over the past two years as a female leader overseeing 25 full time staff, I’m also growing as a person and I couldn’t do it without my team. Vulnerability, flexibility, adaptability, staying focused, and being persistent are all things I am learning everyday. Self awareness and self management – those are key to the recipes for creating a harmonious working environment. I think female leaders have the advantage of being able to be aware of what’s going on, nurturing that empathy within team members as well.

What challenges do you face as an entrepreneur?

Honestly speaking, it’s hard to balance a personal life and surviving in the startup ecosystem in Jakarta. Being on top of what you’re supposed to do and being in the community, it takes a lot of hours. My team is in Yogyakarta while I’m in Jakarta, so going back and forth takes a lot of time. It becomes challenging to keep up a healthy lifestyle. Being able to exercise every morning, cooking my own food, or even keeping up with other parts of life. I’m still learning how to do that.

Jakarta is a bubble in a way. When I go to Sumatra, Kalimantan, Flores, or other remote areas, the working style is very different. Leadership has to change all the time. When I’m back with my team in Yogyakarta, I have to switch back to what’s best for them. So that adaptability, while holding and stimulating the team to grow is quite challenging.

Have you faced any specific challenges as a female in this field?

Society – especially Indonesian society – has a lot of expectations for females. It can be challenging sometimes when people ask me if I have time to take care of a partner or whatever. I think debunking society’s expectations for females is quite challenging. Funny thing, before I moved to Indonesia I used to shave my head completely, just to debunk the notion that females need long hair to be pretty. I haven’t really found a way in Indonesia to challenge those mindsets, of what society expects from females.

What else do we need to do to support female leaders in Indonesia?

Engaging the men to talk about how to balance roles in society is important. Because if it’s just the females going strong, I don’t think it’s going to work out as nicely. The males have to understand what the females are doing and engage in active discussion. If a woman is exploring higher career options, what kind of actions can the male can do at home, for instance, to support that? It cannot go just one way.

And the feminist movement, it’s not just about females supporting females. It’s also about males supporting females and having open discussions on that. I don’t think we have a lot of those conversations in Indonesia — especially challenging male Indonesians to have an open discussion. What does it mean for them to support a female leader? More discussion is needed, and an action plan can come out of that, a movement of some kind. But changing mindset, especially in a culture where it’s quite patriarchal, it’s going to take some time. I think within the startup ecosystem, which is quite vibrant and increasingly run by millennials, if we start opening the discussion there’s going to be positive momentum to disrupt what exists. That can be a start.

How do you personally try to keep balance in your life and practice mindfulness?

Yeah, so I like climbing trees. It’s my meditation, but it’s not always accessible. So every morning for meditation and yoga, stretching is a must for me. My morning glory is my morning glory, and I do it at least an hour before I touch my phone. So that’s one thing that I can do anywhere I go.

The second thing is a component of social-emotional learning: practicing self awareness, self management, social awareness, social responsibility, and responsible decision-making. This can be through a practice where we check our intention every second. For instance, why am I doing this interview? What’s my intention? Will it be useful? Questioning everything has become a habit for me to help choose and prioritize. And it helps me make more responsible decisions.

Another thing is emotional literacy. I think in a country where most people are still in survival mode where the basics – how do I eat, how do I earn money – aren’t fulfilled yet, emotions are often the last thing people think about. We’re not told or taught to recognize our emotions and verbalize them. Sometimes we’re actually sad and lonely, but it comes across as being angry just because we don’t know how to label that emotion. What I’d like to do with my team is to encourage them to express and recognize their emotions, by checking in and saying, “Hey, I’m trying to understand what are your feelings, to help you in understanding and verbalizing them.”

So in a nutshell, we need to practice mindfulness all the time.. And I’d like to find more spots to climb trees in Jakarta.

What’s your long term vision for yourself?

The ultimate goal is to be an awesome grandmother, with a big house, so I can invite everybody to take a break from their lives and have meaningful conversations over a big meal in beautiful nature. That’s the long term goal (laughs). But, I think in the next five to 10 years I’m very keen on finding a better solution to reduce dropout rates. I’m super passionate about finding better ways to reach out to more children. It could be through Hoshizora, or through the digitalization of ways to provide access to education like creating learning tools for critical thinking and problem solving.

Do you have any advice for the younger generation – kids who want to be future leaders?

I think taking time to understand who you are is very important, especially in our world where technology, social media, ads dominate. Everything is changing so fast that it’s easy to think that something is our desire while it’s actually other people’s desire. For example, being a founder of something – a lot of the younger ones want to be a founder of something, but honestly it’s not the question of being a founder or not being a founder. It’s what problem you want to solve. You need to question yourself: why was I born in this world, what purpose am I fulfilling? Because everybody is an important piece of a larger puzzle. No matter how small they are, if you take out the other pieces, the puzzle won’t be complete. Every person is that important, but to know what function your puzzle piece serves is a different question, right?

And I think we are all running too fast, getting all this information without pausing and thinking, okay, is this what I want? Constantly check your intentions and ask, “Why do I want to do this? What is the greater benefit of this? How am I going to be sustainable?” Questioning yourself will activate the neurons in your brain and help you stay on top of your passions – especially if you are passionate in solving challenges through entrepreneurship. Being a reflective person is important.

Indah Mariani: COO & Co-Founder of Infradigital Nusantara

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Indah Maryani and I am the COO and co-founder of Infradigital Nusantara. We built this company in December 2017. I’ve been partners with my co-founder for seven years now and it has been an interesting journey.

I have been in the payment industry for the last 15 years. I was a part of the first wave of digital wallets, and have carried out the installation and implementation of digital wallets in many countries throughout Africa, Europe and America. Seven years back when I met my co-founder, we were both working in a startup called Fusion Payment. As you know, the digital wallet market is very competitive, with big players such as GO-PAY and Tokopedia. We saw that the competition was very stiff, and we realized that in payment systems what you want is recurring transactions. Basically what we did was create a platform called Beruang, which allowed you to buy all the digital goods like pulsa, electricity, and water – goods that you pay recurrently every month – as products on our platform. However, we realized that everyone was playing the same game. Everyone was developing their own versions of digital goods products.

Back then, my co-founder and I were trying to onboard traditional merchants to do online payments through our product. It was very difficult because we were such small players; when we offered Beruang as a platform, they were asking questions about us and who we were, but they were excited about the fact that our product enabled them to digitize their billing and pay through any method they wanted. After that experience, my friends and I decided to quit our jobs at the time to create Infradigital.

 

What exactly does Infradigital do?

Infradigital allows non tech-savvy businesses to digitize their bills. For instance, schools, apartments and SMEs. There are many schools in Indonesia, and a lot of them had not tapped into the possibilities of technology yet. They did everything manually. Let’s say if you wanted to collect payment from the parents, you would hand over a paper to the student, who then passes it on to their parents. Basically, it was a very manual job. We helped these institutions digitize their bills and connected them to all the payment methods available now in the digital ecosystem. So, it’s not only using a bank account. Not only using banks, but wallets and retail markets too (ie. Indomaret). It applies to any kinds of channels that the consumer wants. From there, since the bills are already digitized, the bills could also be leveraged for other things, like student loans for instance.

 

What challenges have you faced so far as a one-year-old startup?

In a startup, time and money are very important. Naturally, you have limited time and limited resources. You have to move fast and prove that your product has a lot of traction, which requires a certain amount of focus. We launched our product in March and the first traction was only around 150 million Rupiah of transactions per month but now we are able to process transactions as large as 2.2 billion Rupiah per month. We are actually seeing a lot of traction, but it’s just that it’s always a busy day. Because you always have to find the right product with the right market fit, you always have to listen to your customers, but you also have to do things like fundraising simultaneously. So, juggling all these things at the same time is challenging.

 

You’ve been running your startup for less than a year and you’ve already grown to over 2 billion Rupiah worth of transactions! How did you gain traction so fast?

It’s funny because we actually sell our product door-to-door. First we visited around 100 schools per month and administered surveys to over 2000 parents. These schools weren’t even in Jakarta – they were in Depok and other pre-rural areas. We asked them whether they were ready to migrate to digital payment. Out of the 2000 parents that we asked, 80% of them were ready to do so. The schools and other partners were keen as well. We saw that there was a lot of interest amongst the parties and we knew that in the near future, offline payments would be obsolete. But capturing the market was not as easy as we thought, because the people we were targeting were traditional people.

So, we came to them selling door-to-door. Back then, the system wasn’t even built yet; we were just marketing a prototype. But still, people showed interest in our product. In the first month, we got 20-40 schools signed up, but none of them had started using the product yet. In our sales funnel, there are two processes involved: acquisition and activation. Because we saw a lot of interest, we provided the platform for free as long as they were willing to migrate to our system. Migrating was taking a lot of time because literally everything was done manually, so in order to create a database of students, our team had to take pictures of them one by one and upload them in an excel sheet. This migration process was pretty complicated, but after we were done we noticed that the parents were starting to migrate to online forms of payment, too. This was because everyone was really eager – especially the schools because their manual processes were a source of corruption. If someone took away some funds they would simply claim that the pages were lost or the payment wasn’t traceable, or the incoming money was being used for activities that the principal wasn’t aware of. This corruption ended up forcing the school to migrate their system digitally.

Nowadays, we are not doing it door-to-door anymore. We actually have monthly acquisitions now, and we have 6-10 schools every month. Some of them are referrals. You will know when you build your product and it delivers value to your customer, it just keeps rolling with more requests and referrals. We also believe that if we build trust in the market, we will actually get a return.

 

How do digitalization and a cashless future affect women?

I imagine that digitalization will open up opportunities for women and will enable women to make some moves. Moms decide everything for the family; they are the ones who make all the purchases, so financial inclusion will actually help women to manage their expenses more easily. Over time, I really believe that women will understand things like savings, returns and interest. I think it will impact women as they will be the first ones to respond to this kind of change, especially if they are the ones in charge of the family.

 

Why exactly did you decide to jump into financial inclusion?

Financial inclusion is actually a big market and it hasn’t been tapped into yet. If you go to the World Bank Indonesia SME Banking Study 2017 and look at their database, you will see that out of many small-and-medium enterprises (SMEs), only 3% of them are using internet banking and 97% of them are still untapped. Meanwhile, everyone is at war on the consumer side because everyone wants to become the next Alipay. When I went to the schools and saw the reality…it’s pretty sad, you know. 60% of parents don’t pay their tuition fees on time; 40% pay late, and 20% don’t pay at all. Imagine how much of a hassle that would be if you ran a school. On top of this, there is a regulation from the government that prevents you from notifying the student directly if their tuition has not been paid, so as not to discourage students from attending all the classes, you know? In Indonesia when you are talking about education, everyone is trying to make things better for the greater public and for the kids, and yet the reality in the market is that the schools themselves are unable to make enough money to pay for their facilities. So how can they even start thinking about their quality of education?

Meanwhile in the digital world, everyone is so fancy already. Everyone is talking about all these next-level innovations, but very few of these actually touch and are applicable in the current market situation. So that’s why we really want to focus on education. We want to help not only the parents, to allow them to have access to funding, charities and loans for educations, but also these institutions to help them grow and focus on building up their quality of education.

 

Are there any specific challenges you face as a female founder in Indonesia?

Sometimes, women’s voices are not heard. I have been in the payment industry for quite some time. Even now, I sometimes feel like when we voice something, your audience doesn’t take you seriously because your tone and your voice is different from that of the average man’s. I just find that a woman’s voice is not really heard, especially in a big forum. Men are perceived as more trustworthy in a forum than women.

 

Do you see that shifting at all? What can we do to change that assumption?

There’s a lot of things that we can do. I don’t like arguing, and I prefer not to be in the spotlight, I’m not sure if other women feel the same or if it’s just me, but I really do think that if women speak up more, it can change something. The thing is, in Indonesia because we have an Eastern culture, we feel as if we should be more reliant on men. That’s one of the factors that have been built into our culture. Over time, this will change because a lot of women now are very outspoken and smart. They tend to not take the spotlight, but this can be changed for sure.

 

On the other hand, are there any instances where you have felt more empowered as a female entrepreneur?

Yes – in my own company. Women are generally better able to multitask, so they can oversee many different problems and different situations. This is something women are very good at and men not so much. So, when you’re making important decisions – or any decision in fact – you have to look over a range of factors. I think in my current position, I need to be sensitive to many things and consider a lot of aspects as well in decision-making. I think most of the decisions are being made based on those considerations, and I think that’s where I am playing a bigger role.

 

Did you feel empowered to become an entrepreneur? Was there a lot of support and did you face a lot of doubt?

I think in whatever situation you are, regardless of your job title, the utilization of your knowledge and your wisdom can be empowering in many ways. I received a lot of support, especially from friends and family because they were not gender biased. I have friends who developed their businesses from the early age of 18; they were already entrepreneurs and they were always ready to help and gave us non-entrepreneurs the courage to start thinking of building a business. It’s actually a contagious act 🙂 When my friends (who are non entrepreneur) were talking about their jobs and how stressed out they were getting from their tasks, I asked them why they didn’t just become entrepreneurs – it’s something very challenging yet enjoyable. It’s full of ups and downs, but the thing is this feeling is something that I really appreciate, and I think most of the entrepreneurs who have been doing this business since an early age understand that and encourage other people to do the same.

 

What is it like to toggle being both an entrepreneur and being a mother – both 24-hour, full-time jobs?

It’s tough. It’s so, so tough. I always feel guilty if I don’t see my son for at least three hours a day, but the thing is that I love both my work and being a mother. Sometimes when I’m stressed and I don’t know what to do at work, I go home and feel so safe because I see my son and suddenly whatever happened in the office doesn’t really matter anymore. It’s a big challenge, but women should not give up their careers to become mothers. Because in order to be a good mom, you need to be a good role model, too. Full time moms are great, don’t get me wrong. But you don’t have to be a full-time mom to be a perfect mom. You can be both: you can be a successful woman as well as a mom at home. It does get really tough because if something at office is stressing you out, you tend to bring it with you to home and vice versa. So, you need to find a balance. I have to give myself some credit sometimes and tell myself I need to do this in order to be a good role model for my son.

 

Speaking of role models, do you have any role models that you personally look up to?

Yes, my mom. She’s a very tough mom. My childhood was not wonderful because my dad left and my mom was a single mother who raised three children. So, she has been my role model forever.

My mom was a victim of abuse from my dad; the abuse got to the point where she was in a coma for three months. After that, my dad disappeared and then no one was taking care of us. When my mom regained consciousness, the doctor told her that she would probably never walk again. She had never worked before, but she thought that if she didn’t get a job then how could she feed her kids and send them to school? She fought a lot and started walking again, which the doctors found miraculous. She juggled three jobs a day just to raise us and feed us and to give us proper shelter and education. That’s a lot to handle.

 

If you were to give a girl advice on becoming an entrepreneur, what would you tell her?

Just jump in, and you’ll find a way. If there’s a will there’s a way. Believe in yourself.

 

Maria Ivena Amanda – Chief of Human Resources at Design for Dream

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Maria Ivena Amanda, but you can call me Vena. Currently I’m working at a startup called Design for Dream, which aims to empower members of the disabled community through technology and partnerships. I am in charge of the human resources department, managing all of our workforce so that we can work more efficiently and building up a stronger team.

I grew up in a Javanese family, and you know, the stigma towards a family with disabled children is quite strong. There are a lot of people who can’t really accept that their children are disabled, so they tend to hide their children. The worst I’ve heard is that there are people who hit their disabled children in their homes. They’re caged away. It’s because they tend to feel  shame from society, since according to traditional views we are considered cursed or diseased. I’ve been mocked as a child because I was different. So it’s quite hard to socialize, especially with people who have that mindset.

My parents sent me to an inclusive school because they didn’t want me to feel depressed. I came back from Pekan Olahraga Pelajar Disabel Nasional  (National Sports Week for the Disabled) with a gold medal. And that’s the first time I could see myself more clearly. Back then, I honestly felt ashamed of being disabled and tended to hide my disability. Living that kind of life is not what I want. You know, I don’t want to hide myself. But I’m afraid of being rejected by society. And that is the first time I felt empowered by myself, despite my disability.

In university, I wasn’t really involved in the disabled community because as you can see there are still only few communities. Even within the community, most of the members are not disabled but care a lot about disability issues. And fewer still are organizations built by disabled people themselves or disabled figures in the spotlight.

For a few years after, I joined the feminist organization JAS Associates. They needed translators to evaluate their organization in Indonesia. From this experience, I also learned something about acknowledging my power as a woman. After all, being disabled is difficult enough — being a woman who is disabled is even more difficult. Luckily over the past few years, the expectations are changing. There are a lot more career women out there versus stay-home ones. I don’t know the reality, but in my opinion there are still very few opportunities for us to be able to join a company because our government has the regulation of 1% of the population in their company should be disabled. But the reality isn’t like that, in one company only one or two disabled people can enter. So that there is still a lot of disabled people that can’t even sustained themselves.

Another turning point for me was when I participated in a camp event for disabled people held by the Ministry of Communications, meant to train disabled people on technology use. We were trained for three days to develop skills on things like graphic design and Microsoft Office. So there were a lot of people with physical disabilities. We were grouped together, with one group consisting of different people with different disabilities. One of my teammates suffered from vision impairment. When I asked for his number, he edited his name as “pijet,” or massage therapist. People who have vision impairment tend to become therapists. It’s a stereotype. You can be anything you want, but unfortunately because people have an image of the visually impaired being therapists, they exclude and limit themselves with that belief. With that experience, I came to realize that sometimes disability is created in our own minds. We limit ourselves because we think that we can’t, even though we haven’t tried it yet. But we already think that we cannot.

These realizations made me feel like I had to do something. And as psychology student, I have to use my knowledge to fix this situation.

What challenges do you face as a woman who is disabled?

I mentioned before that in Indonesia is difficult enough, but being a woman who is disabled is even harder. The first challenge is self acceptance. As a Javanese woman, I am told to lower myself towards men. But as a woman who is disabled, I was already lowering my pride; being disabled just adds to it. It connected to my self esteem as a woman, and I feel like it’s quite difficult to socialize. I mentioned earlier that the stigma of disability is still negative in our society.

Another challenge is education. I think there are a lot of women out there – especially women with disabilities – who have limited access to education. Like when their family is ashamed of their children they tend to hide themselves so they can’t have access to education.

How did you personally overcome those challenges?

It’s quite a terrifying process; I constantly have internal battles with myself. It’s like an endless doubt, like, “You can’t do this, you can’t do this, you can’t do this,” but at the same time, “I have to, I have to, I have to.” And then I realized that I didn’t want to live this way. I don’t want to seek social acceptance from external sources.

I am also watching some of motivational videos in youtube on Helen Keller or Frida Kahlo. They’re women, they may have their own difficulty but they won’t give up on their dream. So I want to be like that in my best version of course.

For those disabled women who struggle with challenges such as education and opportunity, what does society need to do to support them?

Well first of all, it’s educational access. In Indonesia, there are still very few inclusive educational institutions. Maybe in the most urban areas like Jakarta and Yogyakarta, there are fewer problems in terms of facilities and access. But in rural areas, there are many. So I think that it is better for the government or people concerned about this issue to create more inclusive and accessible educational environments. Access is important because I cannot ride a motorcycle or car. And when we ask for a driver’s license, the procedure is quite long for us. Thankfully today we have GO-JEK, so it makes our lives easier. But if we depend on government transportation, it’s quite hard for us to mobilize.

What are some ways the disabled community is breaking glass ceilings and shattering boundaries?

As I mentioned earlier, we need more disabled people who are successful at exceeding their own limitations. With the growth of social media (like Instagram and Facebook), we’re seeing more of these. In Indonesia, there is a huge growth of influencer; I’m quite happy with that because there are new faces. For instance, the disabled model Angky Yudistia. She’s a model  with a hearing impairment. On Youtube, there is Surya Satehapi. He is also an activist for hearing impairment. Some people with vision impairment, they tend to have a podcast. But there are still not as many figures who have physical impairments, like myself, in the spotlight. So I’m dedicating myself to be one in the future.

In Design for Dream, I am learning to become a model for our product. I remember back then when I felt afraid or ashamed of my body. Now I have to embrace it as a model of Design for Dream. I think that in the future I can share this with my fellow friends with disability: That you can be anything. You don’t have to be a masseuse or a tailor or a beggar. You can do something or create something while sustaining yourself. You can even make social impact.

There’re aren’t many in the disabled community that are entrepreneurs yet. In many ways, you’re one of the pioneers. How is that like?

It’s an amazing feeling. I guess this is my chance to tell other women that, “I was able to do entrepreneurial things, so maybe you can do it, too.”

What’s something exciting that your startup is doing now?

My startup is initiating our first project to empower a disabled organization, Binasiwi. They make batik and we help them not only sell their product but also how to advertise and create a good brand image. We increase the social recognition of their product, their community, and their activities, as well as the people in the community and their artworks. They can draw very well, so I want them to believe that their art is something that can be appreciated by spreading their artwork.

What’s your goal five to ten years down the line?

I want to make my startup company more successful and have a great social impact. I want to help as many disabled as I can, and possibly do a TED talk. That’s one of my dreams: to share my story and tell people that, “You are loved and appreciated enough, so get your ass up and do something!”

Do you have any message to tell other girls that want to be in the startup or entrepreneur’s space?

Of course. First of all, I’m so proud of you girls. I’m so proud of you. With your story, we have to spread more to our sisters who may still be being locked away by their minds or by society. We have to tell them that, “We can do something,” like, “We can create something and we can become something,” even when society tells us we cannot, but we can.

I think it’s a great move to make our society more inclusive, because being a disabled person does not lessen you as a person. Our disability shouldn’t limit our ability to succeed, because “normal” people tend to underestimate our abilities due to our disabilities. But I want to break that stereotype to show myself that I can become great and continuously develop as a person. And I want to encourage my sisters to do the same and to love yourselves and spread that love to everyone else.

Dheta Aisyah: Chief of Business Development & Co-Founder at Binar Academy

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Dheta Aisyah. I am the Chief of Business Development at Binar Academy. To be honest with you, I never planned to do this. Before I started Binar, I worked at GO-JEK and I met my co-founder Alamanda there. After GO-JEK I joined a consulting company called Palladium; I was there for three months and then Alamanda called me and she shared to me this idea that she had. At that time I found that I didn’t fit with consulting life. I didn’t really enjoy it too much and I thought that I could use my potential better at Binar.

Long story short, I spent five years in the U.S. studying and working for a year. When I came back from the US, I hated it. I was quite depressed and I didn’t like what I was doing. In the US, I worked in politics and loved it but because of immigration issues I had to go back. I wasn’t really accepting the fact that I had to return and was having a really hard time adjusting with the new culture. It’s quite ironic because it’s not really new culture; it’s like my home culture, but then it became something that is so distant to me. And so I really hated it and it took me a while to really like Indonesia again. While I was working at GO-JEK, I was looking for other opportunities to come back to the U.S.

But after a year of being depressed and really tired of hating my country, one day I just came up and kind of like switch my point of view you know like instead of me trying to go back to the U.S. because it was comfortable, so why don’t I just switch my perspective and try to change Indonesia to be as comfortable as the US? And not long after that, Alamanda came to me with this idea of digitizing Indonesia, of giving out opportunities to students and second-tier cities of Indonesia more I.T. education. I shared the same vision with her. I thought it aligned to my calling at the time, so I just took the opportunity.

Why is Binar Academy so needed in Indonesia?

One main problem that we are trying to solve is that digitalization is very centred in Jakarta but in order for us to move forward and compete in the global scene, Indonesia as a whole has to be digitalized and I’m not seeing that right now. We are trying to really cultivate the hidden talents – the underdogs if you will – in second-tier cities so that they have more opportunities.

The second thing is that we’re seeing a huge talent war in Jakarta. Good programmers are very scarce and big startups with limitless capital are trying to double down their offers, to the point that it hikes up the market price of software engineers. Companies need to be brave enough to look at Indonesia as more than just Jakarta. There are a lot of opportunities and talents that they can leverage to build their products outside of the capital.

And three, I see that there’s a lot of ideas that are not able to be executed because they don’t have the talents to build the product. At Binar we’re opening up a host of talents in Yogyakarta, and with the abundance of potential hires, we’ll be able to help early stage startups build their product and realize what was once a dream turn into a real product.

Can you comment on the gender makeup of your program? Of the programming world in general?

We have been running for about a year now and have graduated about 300 people over 6 batches. I would say it is very sad that only about 10% of the student demographic are women. I think the stigma is that women are more emotional. That they’re not very systematic, that they’re not very technical. So tech seems to be an unfitting sector for them and so it marginalizes women in that way. But I don’t think that’s true. Tech, as it grows, needs more women in it. The emotional trait of women is very much needed in order to personalize a product, in order to make it widely used. It has to solve specific problems in people’s days, and that’s where women can really make a significant contribution.

How can we encourage more girls to, say, start applying to Binar? Or to similar programs to become engineers and developers?

it requires cooperation from a lot of stakeholders. If it was just Binar, I don’t think we are big enough to be the catalyst of that change. But, for example, in the past we’ve worked with Adidas and Citibank. They have supported us in giving out more scholarships for women to study in our academy. And that is necessary. Corporations should really be aware that the tech sector is something that cannot be dominated by men anymore. So that’s one. And then the second is that parents should be more supportive of the tech sector as a viable sector to pursue as a career. Because, as you know being an engineer or being in the tech industry is not easy; it requires hard work and long hours. Unfortunately, we live in a country where traditional values are still being upheld. It’s like the dichotomy of women and men are still very strong, as if women has their own role which cannot be interfered into by men and vice versa. And I think that certain values might need to be dissolved. It’s not an era where women have to be stuck at home taking care of children. They need to have a career and remembering digitalization is going to be the future of work, the future of our era. Parents and families in general have to start planting their seed to women in their families to see tech sector as a viable sector to pursue as a career.

Can you speak more about your own personal experiences as both a woman in the tech sector and as a female co-founder?

I think I am very fortunate to not really care about what people think of me. Maybe judgement is out there, but it really doesn’t affect me. I can tell you that very often I am the only woman at the table. And sometimes it is quite degrading where guys would start to flirt with me just because I’m the only woman on the table. And given my age, I think it’s very tempting for them to do it especially in my role as BD. I negotiate deals a lot and sometimes being a woman kind of puts me in that kind of position.

How do you deal with that stigma or that temptation from guys kind of do that? Like how do you how do you deal with that?

Like I said, just show them who’s boss. You know, if they are being flirty with you, maintain your composure and just stay professional. It’s their problem, not yours, so you’re not the one to solve it. You just keep doing what you’re doing. If you’re negotiating, just keep negotiating. If wearing a knee-length skirt or dress is what’s comfortable for you, don’t change it just because you’re afraid that someone some guys on the table will flirt with you. Just do you and be honest. A lot of people are thrown off and discouraged by this environment that they’re in, and it’s very unfortunate because I’ve seen a lot of women do that. Just be confident. Stick with it.

Are there any digital trends in Indonesia you are excited about?

What I’m really excited right now to see is that the move towards the digitalization in the manufacturing industry I think like if we see the global trend. A lot of them are going to 3D printing. And I’m really excited. If the industry in Indonesia will start adopting that technology. Because I think it’s going to make our goods a lot cheaper which is good for consumers. It will force us Indonesians who are used to working in factories but want to be in a better position to use their brain and potential into something that is more worth it. You know I think it was very Victorian era to work in a specialized field doing the same thing all over again. And now we have this technology that can free us to really explore our  societal needs. So I’m really excited to see that.

Do you have any advice for those who want to become an entrepreneur in the tech sector?

I would say start to think about your first $100,000 as soon as possible. Now if I interview people, one thing that I always ask is, “How did you make your first $100,000?” If the answer is like, “My first $100,000 is from my first job out of college,” then I don’t think you have the entrepreneurial mindset within you. So start thinking about it. Start relying on yourself to sustain the kind of life that you want.

And don’t wait to start until the end of college. If you are still in elementary school and have a good idea, for example. Start by buying something on the market and then selling it. Jack up the price and sell it to your peers. It’s that easy to make money. Like me for example, a little bit of an intermezzo but when I was in 4th grade, I was very fortunate to have been given permission to subscribe to magazines. A lot of my peers didn’t have that luxury. So what I did was I cut up sections from different magazines – I created my own magazine of sorts – and then I sold it to my friends.  And it was really for no cost; literally, my parents paid for the magazines but then I got to make money out of it.

So yeah, think about how to make money and don’t wait until other people give you that opportunity. Make that opportunity for yourself to start having a dream. Start thinking about where you want to be 10 or 20 years from now. Because that vision in your head is something that will really help you move forward. If you have that vision, often enough you’re going to create an itch in yourself like, “I really want it. I don’t just want it to be in my head. I want to actualize it.” And that’s going to be the base of your motivation theory.

Start looking for a role model. I think that’s very important. Sometimes I think people in Jakarta are very globalized and they’re open to information. But what is important is that Jakarta is the minority. Jakarta is not representative of Indonesia. And the sad thing is that a lot of women and the rest of Indonesia lack that information of what they can achieve. As you explore a lot of role models, try to define what success means to you. Because as you grow up, you’re going to be so tempted to really follow what your role model is doing — but don’t forget to be authentic as well.

Who is your role model?

I like a lot of people, but I would say my role model is Tim Ferriss. He is very balanced, very ambitious in his work and worldly pursuits. But at the same time, he’s very spiritual. And I think having that balance is very, very important. He’s very sharp. He’s very disciplined. What I like the most about him is that he always experiments on himself and tried to create new habits that made him even more productive in everything he does. That’s really something that I look up to because even though he’s now very successful, he always sees that there’s room for improvement. And I think that is very admirable.

Denica Flesch: Founder of SukkhaCitta

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Denica, and I’m the founder of SukkhaCitta. We’re a social enterprise based in Jakarta that connects artisans in villages across Indonesia with the modern global market.

With a background in Economics, I worked for the World Bank when I first returned to Indonesia. There, I got quite frustrated as I didn’t feel like what I was doing made any direct impact. This led me to do my own research, I wanted to understand what poverty looks like so we can find what works.

When going from village to village, I found an interesting trend. That is, poverty tends to be clustered around economic activities, on what people do. I started to narrow down my focus, and it led me to the craft industry – the second largest employing industry in rural Indonesia, especially for women.

I found out that the current system, the craft industry itself, is kind of broken. The economics seem to be upside down. People earn more from simple jobs like working in Indomaret or as a waitress then being an artisan. Artisans are aging and none of the daughters want to continue. Why would they? And yet, without regeneration, how can the craft survive?

Now, this really intrigued me. I realized that the last thing the world needs is another fashion brand. We do not need more pretty things when the way it was made is ugly. Something needs to change. A bridge needs to be built – and that’s exactly why I started SukkhaCitta. To leverage craft as a viable mean of poverty alleviation – while at the same time sustaining our craft through our modern reinterpretation.

Besides the economic aspect, what drew you to crafts over everything else?

It was also a personal attraction. As an economist, you are trained to judge production based on scale and efficiency. Yet, there I was living with the women in these villages. They would tell me how their mothers, grandmothers, shared stories through the fabrics that they made by hand. Batik was their mean of saying a prayer to their families, of meditation.

There, I realized how much stories and values get transferred like this in our culture – and how much is lost today with the rise of mass-produced clothes. With the pursuit of fast, everything becomes homogeneous. In craft, you find the story of our culture, of our humanity. And I believe it has its place in today’s time, not only in museums. We just have to make it relevant again.

Fashion has the reputation of being environmentally destructive. How can fashion be ethical while also being sustainable at the same time?

You’re right. Through my research, I was shocked to see just how dirty the craft industry is – both on the people and on the environment. In fact, it’s the 2nd most polluting SME sector in Indonesia! I feel that part of the problem is that currently, there is simply no transparency whatsoever. There is no traceability, no way to see how a fabric was made for customers like you and me.

Now, we do things quite differently. Our impact model is based on our own transparency standard: #MadeRight. It is a promise that this fabric provided a living wage, is environmentally sustainable, and at the same time sustains culture. Working with Villages, not factories, means that we are even more careful when it comes to our environmental impact because otherwise, production causes a lot of negative externalities for the community.

The price of fabric is very unique because fabric uses a lot of water and dye. Villagers will use synthetic dyes because it’s very cheap, and then they will dump it in their waterways. The problem is the community lives with the water from the rivers. That’s why in our work we use a lot of natural dyes; we actually spent almost IDR 50 million just doing capacity building so that all of our villages understand how to do natural dyeing.

At the same time, the production of clothes itself produces waste. So even if your fabrics were made ethically and sustainably, the production of fabrics into clothes produces waste. That’s why we have a lot of upcycling and zero waste programs as well — we’re turning our waste scraps into paper now, so all our tags are made from our waste as well. Our aim is not to cause unnecessary damage.

Ultimately, we believe that the way forward is not only about production, but also about consumption. So in our marketing, we focus a lot on storytelling, because we believe if you have a connection with your clothes, you’re not just going to wear a piece for two weeks and throw it away but you’re actually going to take care of it. If it’s broken you’re going to repair it, so it’s a complete and holistic cycle. If you produce ethically sustainable clothes, but you promote fast consumption — it doesn’t work as well.

In the craft industry, do you see a greater movement towards that holistic sustainable model, or are you guys going against the current?

The current for fast fashion is definitely very strong. Really. What I see in Indonesia is that of course you have this positive trend of brands trying to bring light to this issue, but the problem lies in how they go about doing it. Because you have to make sure that your solution is 10 times better than conventional practice, so you can actually contribute to solving the issues.

One of the things I saw is definitely the hype towards natural dyes. For us, it’s a natural choice. Again, because we work with Villages, not factories, we need to be very mindful to ensure our production causes no externality to the community. From this, I learnt that there is actually a difference between natural dyeing with natural process – or natural dyeing with chemical process. Unfortunately, most brands that I see in Indonesia don’t really take this into account. We need to be careful that we do not actually add to the problem.

Why is it important to empower these rural women in the first place? Why do we need to care about this demographic?

Because there’s a lot of potential for impact. What I’ve found is that nobody has ever taken the time to believe in these women. In the beginning, when I started this journey, I noticed a very strong sense of inferiority that people living in rural areas feel compared to someone from the city. The women wouldn’t look me in the eye; the prevalent mindset is that they can’t. They’ve worked as artisans for 20 to 30 years and have always been exploited, so they don’t believe that they can actually change their lives. But now, every time I go to the village, they keep harassing me about what they’re going to do next. “What new products are we going to try?”, “What new techniques are we going to learn?” There’s this new sense of optimism and hope.

And I noticed that once you empower women you empower her community as well. Especially in villages, women typically spend 80 percent of their expenditure on their family. You start noticing things, like one woman would tell me about the healthy, nutritious food that she can now provide to her kids. She started asking me about how she can best provide an education to her kids, what kind of books she can buy — so there’s this new sense of empowerment that we didn’t expect.

And most importantly is this desire to pay it forward — we didn’t start off with that in mind, but the women in the villages, they started to come to me and ask to be involved in the capacity building of other villages. When I asked why, they said it’s because they’ve been helped and now they want to help. So you start seeing that when you do this kind of work, there is also a ripple effect in the community that you’re initiating in. So that’s why I find that it’s very important to be able to empower these women, and also for them to be role models in their communities. Before we started our initiatives, typically the artisans were typically above 40 years old. Now we’re actually really happy because there are these two women under 30 that came up to me asking if they could be trained as well. And I couldn’t imagine doing all this without doing it for the crafts sector. Because suddenly they feel so proud — they feel like they’re visible to the market again, they feel like there’s actually value in what they do, and the pride is just unbelievable.

In your work, you’ve gone into the villages, and you’ve interacted with these women. What would you say are the main challenges these rural women face in their everyday lives?

It’s the general mindset, this social conditioning that after getting married they should be moms and that’s it. It was actually very startling for me during the last field trip; we were sitting in a circle and I was asking them about why there were no women entrepreneurs in the village. They said, “What would we sell, who would buy anything? That’s what men do, right? They work and we just take care of the kids.” I asked them about whether they thought about something beyond just being a mother, because obviously being a mother is not enough for them, right? And they just look at me, puzzled, “No, we haven’t.” Because their mothers were like that, their grandmothers were like that, so they have never left the village. They don’t know a world beyond this.

I was doing a survey about living wage and I wanted to know what was the living wage for that village, so we broke down their expenditure and found that the bulk of it was from their kids’ snack money. Everyday, kids would take IDR 8,000 to 10,000 just to buy snacks. And I asked them what snacks they would buy and they said, “Oh you know, just chiki (a type of snack) that they buy from the warung (small local eateries).” So I asked them one question: “You farm a lot of moringa. Why don’t you just create snacks which are actually healthier than chiki? Make them cute, colorful. Your kids can just buy that instead.” And they look at me and it’s as if they think of it for the first time.

And that’s when I found out that the biggest problem in rural Java is this social norm. These women were not educated, and so they don’t have the courage to dream beyond things as is. But once you start introducing entrepreneurship into their minds, it’s really quite amazing. I just went back to the village last week, and they showed me samples of different snacks that they made and they asked me how to brand it and everything. They can clearly do business; it’s just about whether anybody would take the time to sit with them and guide them through this process. I feel like when you empower women to be entrepreneurs, the impact is a lot larger than men.

Speaking of women in entrepreneurship – you yourself are a woman entrepreneur, but the percentage of women entrepreneurs is quite small in comparison to how many male entrepreneurs there are in Indonesia and around the world. How is it being a women entrepreneur, but being a minority in that sector?

I actually try to use that as an advantage. Because there’s so few of us, it’s very easy for us to be noticed. I personally never noticed that there was any difference between women versus men. What I noticed is that men tend to be impressed to hear that you as a woman dare to go to these villages, stay with them for a few days and do this kind of work. I do feel that especially in our field it’s very advantageous because the community trusts women more. And I think as a man it would be a lot more difficult to do what I do. Because you work with women, and how comfortable would they be with some man living in their house and telling them different concepts of sustainability and design and everything? So you have a different kind of credibility, socially, as a woman. I think that’s a plus point.

Do notice any differences between the mindset of women entrepreneurs and male entrepreneurs?

Yes, in terms of the way that we think about scaling businesses. There’s definitely not much aggression in terms of scaling when you meet a lot of women founders, especially in the field of sustainable fashion. They seem to be very content with where they are. Let’s say they impacted five, ten people, and they seem to be very happy. But they don’t understand that it’s not enough just to do that, because the problem is so big that you need to think big as well. What the industry needs is not five women you’ve impacted, but a sector change. That’s why it’s very important that startups like ours need to grow, to show that it’s possible to grow in a way that does not exploit the environment or the people in it.

On the other hand, male entrepreneurs seem to really think about this. Maybe they typically go more into the tech sector which is easier to scale, so you find them constantly talking about acquisitions, about percentages, about growth — whereas women entrepreneurs, we’re playing nice. We don’t want to compete, we feel like we should form a community, and how do you balance these two? Because you find a lot of startups that remain small, but then how do you create sector change?

What direction do you see your impact model growing: breadth or depth?

Both. Our impact model is grounded in our Jawara Desa program (village champion). In the beginning when I first started, we worked directly with artisans. So literally, if I worked with 50 women, it would be 50 houses I directly had to visit and train. We changed our impact model because that was not scalable. In each of our village, we have a Jawara Desa who we select, train and provide access to microcredit to so they can start their social enterprise on the ground level. In a way, we transfer our DNA, our values to build mini SukkhaCittas on the village level.

In general, we see each of our Jawara Desa leading up to 20 artisans. In that sense, by scaling our breadth, we directly intensify the depth of our impact. We’re already seeing it happen; it’s really interesting when you introduce the concept of entrepreneurship into a village. They start being entrepreneurial in the ways they solve village issues as well. Last field trip I went to visit this village, and on their walls, I saw that they put up A4 papers. Apparently they were brainstorming how to improve the education of their village. It really gave me a sense of validation to continue with this impact model.

Do you have any advice for young girls who might also want to build their own social enterprise? To face all the things that might have to go with handling a social enterprise?

Be patient and persevere, because nobody will prepare you for the job. It is very hard. Not only do you have to take care of the whole business side — because if you just want to keep asking for donors you should be an NGO, you have to understand that you need to be as cutthroat as conventional enterprises — but at the same time, you must maintain your mission. It is seriously very difficult. You will experience higher highs than your typical job, but also very much lower lows. My biggest advice is really to stop giving your power away, because as women sometimes we’re scared to think big. We don’t think that we’re capable or that we don’t have the experience or we don’t have whatever is required to do it, but I find that if this is truly your mission then you’ll find a way. You’ll learn, you’ll find people, you’ll make alliances to achieve your mission.