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Dinny Jusuf, CEO and Founder of Toraja Melo

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An inspiring story of social entrepreneurship.  Whilst many of the leaders we feature focus on the increasing urban issues, it is worth remembering that in ASEAN alone there are more than a quarter of a billion people still living in rural areas.  It is great to see what Dinny Jusuf is doing…

What’s your story?

I am a mother, a wife and a dreamer.  I have two adult children and my husband hails from Toraja, South Sulawesi, Indonesia.  I dream of a better life for marginalized people, especially the women weavers of Indonesia.  In 2008, I started working with weavers from Toraja.  In partnership with Nina, my fashion designer sister, we aim to rejuvenate the indigenous culture by taking hand-woven textile to daily contemporary life.

Our brand is Toraja Melo, which means Beautiful Toraja. We produce head-to-toe fashion line made of hand-woven textile.  We work with around 250 weavers in Toraja and will soon expand to West Sulawesi and East Flores.

What excites you most about your industry?

Young People!

We love it when we see young girls learn weaving again in the villages.  They say, they do it, because it is a meditative activity and it pays their school fee.

We love it when young people come to our office/shop saying: “I have studied in Art History. I want to learn about Indonesian crafts, especially weaving. Can I join you?”

We love it when we see young people buy our products.  Sometimes with tears in their eyes, saying:” We have been looking for something ethnic to wear, but modern in style. This is it! Thank you!”

What’s your connection to Asia?

I was born in Bandung, West Java, Indonesia. I spent sometime in Australia.  I came back to Jakarta and in between enjoying my time as a mother and a wife, I have worked as a Corporate and Consumer Banker, Training Consultant, Social Worker, and as an Activist for Women’s Rights. I commute between peaceful Toraja and hectic Jakarta.  Toraja is where my husband was born and where our main home is.  Now as a Social Entrepreneur, I go to Jakarta to market our products.

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Favourite city in Asia for business and why?

Jakarta! Actually I have a love and hate relationship with Jakarta.  I hate the traffic jam and pollution, but I love its vibrant ambiance.  So much is happening.  Presently, I am so excited with a kind of renaissance in loving Indonesian heritage creations among the Jakarta people, especially the young generation.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?

In 2008 when I saw nobody was buying and wearing Toraja textile, I wondered what I could do.  So, I bought a few pieces of and brought the textile to Jakarta.  I asked my friend Obin of Bin House, who is a famous batik maker, what I should do.  She said: ”Use the textile to create something”.  I have never looked back since.  Every year, we launch a new fashion line, which has 5 F’s components: fun-fashionable-functional-at fixed price-made of fiber.

Who inspires you?

Brave, hardworking, selfless and yet ordinary women! Women like the weavers in Toraja, who work in the field in the day-time and weave at night to pay for the children’s school fee. Women like the single parent weavers in East Flores, who defy their customary law to lead their life and feed their children. Urban poor women like our seamstresses, who travel a long way through traffic and rain to sew our dresses.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?

We learn new things every day in doing the community organizing activities among the weavers (leadership training, textile design, etc.) and doing the business in the market.  The value chains in both areas are very long.  So many things can go wrong every day. We learn to have faith, that despite all challenges, in time everything is going to be OKAY.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?

Maybe to collect capital first from various parties (i.e. friends, family, etc.) then start working.  We have been using our saving to start and develop this business. We did not know, that it would cost so much. Hua ha! It’s too late to stop now.

How do you unwind?

Go home to Toraja with my husband and watch the clouds go by.

Have a drink with my sister Nina.

Read a book.

Spend a scuba diving holiday with my children.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?

Toraja, South Sulawesi, Indonesia.

Because there are mountains to hike, colorful ceremonies, friendly people to chat with, great local food and where my home is.

Everyone in business should read this book:

I always have these books by my bed.

“The Power of Unreasonable People-How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets That Change The World” by John Elkington & Pamela Hartigan

“The Sufi Book of Life-99 Pathways of the Heart for the Modern Dervish” by Neil Douglas-Klotz

Shameless plug for your business:

Toraja Melo’s two pronged approach is community organizing, which includes providing access to education and micro finance for the weavers. This is combined with a social business in designing, producing and marketing high quality fashion line.

Dinny is the CEO in charge of Finance, Marketing and Public Relations;

while Nina is the COO in charge of Design, Production and Operations.

Dinny received the “Indonesian Women of Change” Award for The Trade and Investment category from the U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia on International Women’s Day in 2013.

In 2013, Toraja Melo received Best Creation Award from Bank Negara Indonesia for Nina’s design.  In 2014 Toraja Melo was recognized as one of “50 Leading Companies for Women in APEC”.

How can people connect with you?

[email protected]

www.TorajaMelo.com

Facebook/Youtube: Toraja Melo

Twitter: @TorajaMelo

phone:+628118881556

This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:

CallumConnects

Callum Laing has started, built, bought and sold half a dozen businesses in a range of industries across two continents. He is the owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 11 countries and he is also the CEO of Entrevo Asia, a company that runs 40 week Growth Accelerator programs.

Take the ‘Key Person of Influence’ scorecard <http://www.keypersonofinfluence.com/scorecard/>

 

Connect with Callum here:

twitter.com/laingcallum

linkedin.com/in/callumlaing

Get his free ‘Asia Snapshot’ report from www.callumlaing.com

Callum Connects

Agnes Yee, Legal & Compliance Recruiter of Space Executive

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Agnes Yee started Space Executive in Singapore, which is a hub for businesses in some of the world’s fastest growing economies.

What’s your story?
After graduation, I joined a design media company as a Business Development Executive, during the era when ‘reading a magazine online’ was unheard of. I believe that laid the foundation for being unfazed by rejections.

I fell into recruitment pre-GFC and rode the highs and lows in the early years. A decade later, I decided to set up my own recruitment company, partly because I could. I’m acutely aware of the face that being an Asian female in Singapore is sometimes a privilege, and that many women in the world are living a very different existence.
Thereafter, we joined Space Executive as part of a merger. I am currently the Partner of Space Executive, a recruitment company focused specialist disciplines, including Legal, Finance, Digital, Sales and Marketing and Change. We also run Space Ventures, a venture capital business, which invests in seed and pre-series A businesses.

What excites you most about your industry?
On a daily basis, we’re influencing how one spends a third of their day. It is interesting how the Internet has transformed the industry, and I’m excited to see how we can harness technology to bring us to the next phase of this business.

The VC is an extension of applying our skills and experience in reading people. We very much invest in the people as much as the idea. Being a native Singaporean, it’s been exhilarating watching Southeast Asia becoming a hotbed of ideas; and young entrepreneurs simply daring to dream.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m a born and bred Singaporean. I love that I speak both English and Mandarin, grew up playing with Indian friends and eating Malay food.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore for the low barriers of entry to set up a business, but has to be China (and Hong Kong) for their hunger and constant innovation.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
青春不要留白 which translates to ‘Don’t waste your youth.’

Who inspires you?
Anyone who has gone against the grain.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
It wasn’t recent but reading the article on https://waitbutwhy.com/2015/12/the-tail-end.html never fails to blow my mind how little time we have left. Charting our lives in weeks, and realising I only have enough time left to enjoy 60 Christmas turkeys, read 300 books (all if I’m lucky); and mostly, I’m left with the last 5% of the time that I spend in-person with my parents.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I’m cognisant that every decision I made in life has brought me to where I am today, and I wouldn’t change one thing. But I’d really like to have had more time to travel.

How do you unwind?
Exercise and wine.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Trekking any mountain in Asia. It brings us back to the most basic. To overcome elements of nature and our own mind.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Start with Why, Simon Sinek

Shameless plug for your business:
Space Executive started in Singapore, a hub for businesses in some of the world’s fastest growing economies. We assist organisations in accessing a targeted and specialised, and often times transient talent pool.

Out of Singapore, we have recruited across 14 countries; and have embarked on our global expansion plans with offices in Hong Kong and London this year, and US, Japan and Europe in the following years.

Space Ventures provides funding, management and financial guidance to young businesses with original ideas. We have invested in peer to peer lending platforms, credit scoring, social media education, and other start-ups spanning diverse industries. We are always interested in hearing more about new ideas.

How can people connect with you?
https://www.linkedin.com/in/agnesyee/

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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Chrystie Dao-Szabo, Founder of iPayMy

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Chrystie Dao-Szabo founded iPaymy for Business – a secure and easy to use
platform enabling SMEs to pay rent, salaries, invoices, and even corporate tax using the credit cards they already have in their wallet today.

What’s your story?
I’m Chrystie Dao-Szabo, and I’ve worked as an international banker for over 22 years. During that time, I travelled through Asia, Australia and Europe, and everywhere I saw how my clients struggled with managing their finances and keeping cash around.

I wanted to use my experience to help them, but I also knew the solution they needed didn’t exist yet. This pushed me to give up on my secure career, and instead look into the innovative world of FinTech for an answer.

This is how I founded iPaymy – at its launch, a platform to help consumers pay their monthly expenses using their credit cards. We’ve grown a lot since, and today, iPaymy for Business is a platform that allows business owners to use their credit cards to pay for rent, salaries, invoices and taxes, freeing up their cash for business-critical operations.

What excites you most about your industry?
What excites me most about FinTech is it’s culture of constant disruption, thanks to cool and innovative products and services coming out every day.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Vietnam, grew up in Australia and worked in Asia, Europe and Australia. Being raised by traditional Vietnamese parents meant that deep down I was still an Asian at heart, so I have a strong connection with the region.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore of course. It’s easy to do business, English is the main language, and the infrastructures like public transportation are great. Also, the government supports local innovation in multiple ways, like giving grants for SMEs and FinTechs.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Keep giving, and one day you will receive.

Who inspires you?
My parents. My father had a successful business in Vietnam just before the fall of Saigon in 1975. After the war, my father was sent to a re-education camp for three years, which meant my mum had to bring up two young kids – a 3-year-old, me and my 4-year old brother on her own.

In 1980, we all fled Vietnam on a boat and arrived in Sydney, Australia via refugee camps in Indonesia and Singapore. There, my parents had to start over with nothing to their names and only AUD 50 given to them by the Australian government.
They went on to build several businesses in Australia!

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
The number of young and smart people who have carved out successful careers by founding their own startups (or joining really cool ones). When I was starting out my career, doing any of these was not a viable option; it was either working for an accounting firm, an insurance company or a bank.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
If I were starting out my career now, I would choose the path of joining a startup as you get to learn so much about running a business and how to assemble a winning team.

How do you unwind?
I like travelling to a beach or a resort destination and just relaxing by the pool or beach. I also like to unwind after work with a glass of champagne or wine, and a bowl of truffle fries.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Thailand. I love the people and the spicy Thai food.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The E-Myth. It’s a book series that dismantles common myths about entrepreneurship in different industries.

Shameless plug for your business:
With iPaymy for Business, SMEs can pay rent, salaries, invoices, and even corporate tax using the credit cards they already have in their wallet today. SMEs love iPaymy because it works like a credit card, but pays like cash.

iPaymy’s secure and easy to use platform reliably delivers payments to vendors while freeing up cash and providing access to interest free credit. Forget the delays and aggravations that come with traditional SME financing options. Schedule recurring payments, manage invoices, set payment reminders, and monitor payment status all from one dashboard.

It’s never been easier for SMEs to meet monthly payment obligations while keeping cash available to fuel growth, bridge receivable gaps, and make immediate investment in the supplies, services, and expertise needed to drive a growing business forward.

How can people connect with you?
You can find me on LinkedIn or contact me by email.
My LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chrystiedaoszabo/
My email: [email protected]

Twitter handle?
https://twitter.com/ceedeees

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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