Ria Pratiwi: WIZEL Project

ANGIN Women’s Spotlight series seeks to showcase a diverse array of inspiring women leaders and their stories and experiences in order to shed light on the unique experiences of women in business. We hope that both men and women can gain from these shared experiences, that these stories can inspire change, and that other young girls are motivated to become leaders as well.

Please explain a little about your efforts.

My name is Ria Pratiwi and I run WIZEL Project. I recycle used jeans and use them as materials to make bags or pencil cases. Suppose I can market these products online and offline; I plan to save 10% of the profits.  The funds saved will be used for sewing training for unskilled mothers that only work at home — the housewives. I hope that in the future, through the training, they will be able to earn extra income to support their households and learn new skills.  They will not only be able to sew bags, but also clothes. However at present, I have difficulties in marketing the product despite having successfully created a good prototype.

What makes you build this business?

First of all, I could not find good and affordable products made of denim, particularly bags. I like products made of denim; it’s a good, strong and long lasting material. But it was hard to find a denim bag that isn’t too expensive.

Secondly, environmental issues. Nowadays, most people wear jeans and store them away  because they do not know where to throw them away. Many choose to cut their jeans or tear them apart. In my opinion, the usage is not optimized and it is probably better if we recycle them, convert them into something useful, and therefore give to people in need. Furthermore, I saw a problem within my own circle: my aunt is a housewife who does not work, but she has the ability to produce if only she was empowered. I wondered, “Why can’t I empower her and possibly other mothers later so they can be productive, gain skills, and earn more?”

What’s your fundraising strategy? How are you running?

At present, I am running on zero external funding. I collect jeans as donations from friends who do not want to wear these jeans any longer.  Then, I recycle them into bags. Currently the problem is mostly in financing the cost of the sewing machines. In the future I want to train more mothers and housewives, so we will need more tools that can support this program.

I will continue to look for access to funds because sewing machines are needed.  At some point, not all of the materials would be from donations. We may buy denim in rolls so that we can produce bags from both new and recycled materials. I intend for the recycling program to continue to exist.

What are some challenges you encounter in your business?

The challenge is getting these housewives to understand the upside of being a participant in this project. They need to be aware that they could help their families by having additional income. If they can produce the bags well, we can help them market them and sell them.

As a female entrepreneur, do you see any challenges in developing your business?

I am female and many investors are usually men. First of all, I am worried that they will not pay attention to me because I am a female. They probably question my ability since I am female and they might think that women can’t do something like this. I worry about these things when I meet prospective investors.

So this stereotype still exists?

Currently in Lampung communities, this stereotype still exists. In better educated communities, such beliefs have probably waned as they understand that women also have the potential and are capable.

How will WIZEL Project create impact?

First, I want to promote Sustainable Development Goal 12 of sustainable consumption and production by ensuring continuous consumption and production patterns. We as a society consume and buy clothes like jeans, but do not know how to recycle or reproduce.

Secondly, I can also create economic growth for these housewives I work with. 10% of the profit saved from every purchase will fund the continuous training.  I also plan to donate some of the bags to street children, orphanages or children who need school bags and pencil boxes for school. Hopefully by providing these basic needs, we can help them stay motivated to study and attend school.

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