From flight attendants to export entrepreneurs: two sisters’ journey
Back home, new career
Sisters Yusnita Mukri and Ervina Ahmad started their careers working as stewardesses in international airlines based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. After a few years of traveling and gaining experiences abroad, they decided to return home to Indonesia. Passionate about bags, they partnered with a bag retailer and start in-support design and distribution to customers.
As time has passed, Ervina has developed an eye for design and savvy for understanding consumers’ demands. She designed a red bag made from synthetic fabric. The red bags became popular and she started introducing other style. More orders came and business became busy.
Previously, the company sold around 1,000 bags per month. Beyond expectation, they sold 1,000 of the new bags in a week. From that point on, the sisters realized these bags were very promising.
In 2012, they decided to start their own workshop instead of distributing for others. They had some connections from previous work, but that wasn’t enough to achieve their plan. Searching through the surrounding village, they eventually found skilled laborers in Garut (West Java) to set up their workshop.
Their early investment was around 60 Million Rupiah, or $5,000 USD. They rented a house, employed three people and bought three machines for sewing and skiving. This was how their business Warnatasku (translation: The Color of My Bag) began.
According to Ervina, Indonesians prefer imported products over clothing that’s locally produced. Based on her findings, some of international brands have their factories in Bogor (west Java), owned by foreign companies and produced by local skilled labors.
This motivated the sisters to establish a quality local brand to challenge them and be recognized in an international market. She believes that Indonesia production is highly competitive in terms of design and quality. She prefers to create bags that are long-lasting rather than bags full of accessories.
Their materials vary from canvas and genuine leather to a combination of batik and tenun (Indonesian fabrics). Recently, they developed new product lines including backpacks.
Other challenges they face are places to display their products. They have a workshop but no showroom, while more and more buyers are inquire about their shop outlets.
They made their first contract with a local brand company to design and produced some bags. Other orders came in from individual customers as well as other companies.
Their business consists of family team members, Yudha Pratomo, an MBA-holder and Ervina’s husband, is the director of the company. Yusnita is in charge of sales and marketing operations. Ervina in production and development. As business has grown, they were able to buy 13 machines, employ 22 workers (full time and part time) and launch their own brand.
For the local market, they advertise through social media and distributors. To reach international customers, they rely on word of mouth from friends living in Singapore, Australia and Jeddah.
Warnatasku is ready to go to the next level. As young entrepreneurs, the founders strongly believe the Developing Country Export Assistance Program from the Hinrich Foundation will support their passion to take Indonesian brand into the global marketplace.
About the Author – Emerela Puspita