Elisabeth Kurniawan: Founder of The Shonet

Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Elisabeth. Currently I’m running The Shonet, which is a shopping network that connects brands and readers through interactive content. We position ourselves as a social commerce that combines content and commerce. There are a lot of e-commerce and media outlets, but there needs to be a coherence between both. So that’s why The Shonet exists.
Where did you get the idea for that?
In Indonesia, there is a need for credibility in a platform. We are targeting millennials and females who are seeking advice from industry experts, and care about who writes the content.  Especially now with a lot of printed media shifting to online, and a lot of what’s online is often mainstream and viral. There is a need to go back to our roots and make sure that credibility is there.
Fashion is quite interesting because it’s quite heavily dominated by women. Is it the same dynamic in Indonesia as it is in the States, being a woman in fashion?
I think in the States, there are also men in fashion. It’s funny, people study fashion to be in the fashion world. But actually in the retail/fashion business, most of my colleagues were ex-bankers actually; they used to work for Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, etc. But for people who study fashion, everyone has to start from internships. I think there is a huge difference in the fashion world versus the actual job. Even in fashion there’s a requirement that we need to be on top of everything, cater to small details, grab coffees, run errands. Those are the things that are included during internships. Whereas in Indonesia, people see internship as different aspects. Actually, those coffee runs – if an intern doesn’t mind grabbing coffee, we can tell that they don’t mind to do the dirty work.  
How do you see yourself shaping the Indonesian fashion scene? Because everything seems so set in States, it seems like Indonesia is quite the environment to change things and move around. It’s very dynamic. How do you think you can shake things up?
I am not a big fan of the culture in the fashion industry back then because there was a lot of seniority. I wish it was more of a flat structure. Everyone can have an opinion and doesn’t have to be afraid to speak up about their ideas. I love the culture of tech companies, and bringing that to the fashion industry is important. The reason why companies like Google, Facebook, and Netflix are so successful is because of the open culture. They are very open to ideas. In fashion, it is very hierarchical. Whereas in tech, you can ask anyone anything. I want to change this in Indonesia. Our company is focused on fashion, lifestyle and beauty, and enabled by tech. We are incorporating a culture where its open and receptive to ideas. But we still have the persistency and quality of the fashion industry. So it’s a mix of both.
In the West, fashion can be seen as empowering women by giving them more choices. But there’s also self-image – a lot of people criticise fashion for having adverse effects on girls’ self-esteem. It’s difficult to say whether its empowering or not, especially because a lot of the fashion powerhouses are run by men in the States and in Europe. What’s your opinion on that? And how can fashion in Indonesia be empowering?
Especially with the growth of women leaders in this country, it’s about promoting gender equality and the idea that women can lead as well. If we see the statistics, a lot of women have lower salary than men, regardless of position and whether women can perform as well. But by having more women in leadership positions, we can minimize those scenarios and start making a difference. Being in the role, we are able to structure things based on performance rather than gender. These gender biases are happening in Indonesia. However, this country is starting to see more women leaders. These are sensitive topics, but they are real. These things are possible to be changed as long as the leader wants to change it.
Is there gender bias in an industry like fashion that is dominated by women?
Yes, even in fashion. That’s why everyone is promoting the idea of women’s empowerment. At first, I thought that gender biases were only prevalent in the banking industry which is very male dominated. But no, I’m actually quite surprised.
Have you had any major setbacks in climbing up the ladder?
I did back in the days. Because I wasn’t a US citizen, I was a foreigner. I used to have a dream of making it in the States and being better than average. Having that mentality has pushed me to perform better. The part of the challenge is that when it comes to foreigners, it’s a question of “Can you be better than everyone else?” That was in the early stages of my career, but I was very persistent to make a difference. Once my boss saw that, he started to put trust in me which then opened up to more opportunities. I climbed up the ladder from there.
You have to try twice as hard as a foreigner?
Exactly. And do the things that nobody wants to do. Once i had to run after a FedEx truck because of a delivery that we had to make sure came on time. There was another time when I had to deliver 20 cappuccinos to an office, back and forth from Starbucks in the middle of a snowstorm. I literally had to do that — these things that are unseen in the industry.
Wow, that’s crazy! Do you have any advice for young girls trying to break into the fashion industry?
Persistence, stop complaining and having a positive mind. Especially in the moments where you struggle the most, remember to just be positive. Just be open about criticisms and setbacks. Always thrive to be better. It’s hard for people to take criticism sometimes, especially millennials. Just never give up, which mean you have to see a lot of positives in criticism. That’s where I’ve been able to grow the most – through criticism. Don’t give up easily.
What do you tell yourself on those days where you want to give up?
I just keep focused on why I do what I do. If i give up right now, the things that I did and the people that believed in it –  it will all be for nothing. There are a lot of things that give you the urge to give up, but I just keep pressing forward.
What’s the best thing you love about your work?
We bring good impacts, we know we have a vision to bring back the credibility and to appreciate people. Sometime, companies in Indonesia don’t focus on the people, but highlight the brand more. That’s why we aspire to make that change. We aspire to empower through community where we showcase the people, and the people that will make a proper publications and bring impacts in the industry landscape in Indonesia, especially people who are passionate about fashion and beauty; have been in the field it for a long time. It’s about creating their legacy in digital world and empowering things that matter. That’s part of our vision.

Pin It on Pinterest