Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m Giulia Sartori, I’m the founder of Miachia. We specialise in energy bars and bites, made from real fruit and premium ingredients.
You started in climate change consultancy, what was the point at which you decided to switch careers?
My background is in economics. I did a masters of environmental management and I started my career in climate change about 12 years ago. To be honest, I didn’t really know if I wanted to quit my job for good, and I still don’t. I just needed a break from that environment, despite the fact that I really did like my job. Around a year and a half ago, I wanted to change jobs but I couldn’t find anything that was exciting enough. Then I had a terrible experience with my boss at the time, which made me really want to try my own thing, something different. At that time, I was really excited about healthy eating and food. So I thought I might give it a try.
So you were already in Indonesia? Why did you choose to base your company here?
Yes, I came to Indonesia about 6 years ago for my work and my husband followed me. It was a funny evolution of things actually – he wasn’t feeling too well at first, and was later diagnosed with gluten intolerance. I then decided we had to change our lifestyle, so I enrolled myself in a nutrition course that I was doing at night and on weekends. From there, I started experimenting with recipes and things that I could do. I wanted to have a healthy lifestyle for us and the kids, but I couldn’t find much in the Indonesian market. It just came to me that maybe I could start my own business creating healthy snacks.
What is the concept of Miachia?
The concept is dead simple, but funnily enough it’s a concept that a lot of people don’t understand. So our products are 100% natural with no preservatives, refined sugars and syrups, just using 2-5 ingredients. Just nuts, fruits, and seeds. That’s it. So it’s really simple, but many people don’t see the added value of eating so simply and so naturally. The thing that I have most difficulty with, is that we say that our products don’t have added sugar in them, which they don’t, but are naturally very sweet because we sweeten them with fruits like dates, figs and raisins. Many Indonesians won’t believe us when we say we don’t use any sugar – they say, “They’re really sweet, how is that possible?” We just blend fruits!
We also try to source everything locally and directly from farmers as much as possible. Unfortunately it’s not possible for all our ingredients, so what we do source from outside, we try to source from organic suppliers.
So your market a mix of Indonesians and expatriates?
Yes. Initially, it was purely expats. Simply because those were the people that could easily understand our product. The feedback that I got was surprisingly really good. At the moment, I’m trying to expand to the Indonesian market as well, which is generally upper-middle class. Number one, because those are the people who are concerned about diet and healthier eating and are also able to afford our product.
Having led number of teams throughout your career, what leadership lessons have you learnt?
When I started Miachia, I made a conscious decision to only employ women. Particularly those who did not have an education, both older or younger and haven’t had many previous employment opportunities. With that in mind, I have had problems that i’ve never had before in terms of leadership. One of them is implementing procedures and standards, and explaining why things are done in a certain way, has proven difficult to put in place and enforce. The main thing i’ve learnt is to be flexible and patient. I did not have a lot of patience before and I could often be demanding. I was very fast paced then, whereas now I have to take a step back and go a lot slower.
Being a mother of two kids, how do you juggle all of it? What are the secrets?
Look, I have to admit, I never get it right. There are times where I really need to focus on work, and I just focus on that a lot more than my family. Then there are times where I have to take a step back and take more time for the kids and the family. Maybe I’ll go to work and then come home a little bit earlier. Weekends are absolutely non-working days. So I try to have a balance but very rarely I get it right. I just see what is priority.
Overall, the family has always been my priority. Of course work is important, but I always try and make time for them. When I quit my job, I started this company with the intention that I would examine how the business if going after a year, and decide whether to go back to work and find myself new employment. So during that year, I worked so hard to get this company up and running. But I also wanted to enjoy my kids while I still had the flexibility, which I wouldn’t have in a normal 9 to 5 job. So I tried to spend a lot of time with them, because they’re small and need time and attention. People say its quality versus quantity, and at this age it’s actually the other way. It’s about how much time you spend around them, so I try to be around as much as possible.
Do you have any advice for any young women who want to go into entrepreneurship?
One of the advantages I had in starting my own company was that I was not afraid of failure. That helped me a lot, it helped me to start and not overthink it. Therefore I focused on how I was going to do things and try to be successful, rather than sinking into fear and thinking about the what ifs. I actually give mentorships to other women here that are looking to start their own business. The most common question asked is ‘What if i fail?’ My answer to that is
‘So what?’ If you fail, at least you will learn something from the experience and wouldn’t have lost much except time, and even that is compensated by the experience that you’ve learnt. My advice to young people is don’t be too worried or scared to fail, because you probably will in some areas at least. Just take that lesson and you apply it back to something else next time.
When starting a business pitch your idea and business model to as many people as possible, especially entrepreneurs, their feedback will help you structure or improve the concept. Within this year and a half of starting Miachia, there have been many things that have not worked at all. For me, it’s just been expenses in terms of money that I’ve thrown out the window. But I wouldn’t have known if I didn’t try. Don’t be worried about what your friends or family will say, just do it. The younger you are the less you have to lose as well. So, who cares.