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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

Benjamin Kwan, Co-Founder of TravelClef

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Making music to create a life for his family, Benjamin Kwan, started an online tuition portal and his music business grew from there.

What’s your story?
I am Benjamin and I’m the Co-Founder of TravelClef Group Pte Ltd, a travelling music school that conducts music classes in companies as well as team building with music programmes. We also run an online educational platform which matches private students to freelance music teachers. We also manufacture our own instruments. I started this company in 2011 when I was still a freshman at NUS, majoring in Mechanical Engineering.

I was born to a lower income family, my father drove a taxi and was the sole breadwinner to a family of 7. I have always dreamed of becoming rich so that I could lessen the burden placed on my father and give my family a good life.

After working really hard in my first semester at NUS, my results didn’t reflect the hard work and effort I put in. At the same time, I was left with just $42 in my bank account and it suddenly dawned on me that if I were to graduate with mediocre results, I would probably end up with a mediocre salary as well. I knew I had to do something to gain control of my future.

During that summer break, I read a book “Internet Riches” by Scott Fox and I knew that the only way I could ever start my own business with my last $42 would be to start an online business. That was how our online tuition portal started and after taking 4 days to learn Photoshop and website building on my own, I started the business.

What excites you most about your industry?
Music itself is a constant form of excitement to me as I have always been an avid lover of music. As one of the world’s first travelling music schools, we are always very eager and excited to find innovative ways to a very traditional business model of a music teaching.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore and I love the fact that despite our diversity in culture, there’s always a common language that we share, music.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Hands down, SINGAPORE! Although we are currently in talks to expand to other regions within Asia, Singapore is the best place for business. I have had friends asking me if they should consider venturing into entrepreneurship in Singapore, my answer is always a big fat YES! There’s a low barrier of entry, and most importantly, the government is very supportive of entrepreneurship.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
I have been blessed by many people and mentors who constantly give me great advice but right now, I would say the best piece of advice that I received would be from Dr Patrick Liew who said, “Work on the business, not in it.” This advice is constantly ringing in my head as I work towards scaling the business.

Who inspires you?
My dad. My dad has always been my inspiration in life, for the amount of sacrifices that he has made for the family and the love he has for us. He was the umbrella for all the storms that my family faced and we were always safe in his shelter. Although my dad passed away after a brief fight with colorectal cancer, the lessons that he imparted to me were very valuable as I build my own family and business.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
You can not buy time, but you can spend money to save time! With this realisation, I was willing to allow myself to spend some money, in order to save more time. Like taking Grab/Uber to shuttle around instead of spending time travelling on public transport. While I spend more money on travelling, I save a lot more time! This doesn’t mean that I spend lavishly and extravagantly, I am still generally prudent with my money.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have taken more time to spend with my family and especially my father. While it is important to focus our time to build our businesses, we should always try our best to allocate family time. Because as an entrepreneur, there is no such thing as “after I finish my work,” because our work is never finished. If our work finishes, the business is also finished. But our time with our family is always limited and no matter how much money and how many successes we achieve, we can never use it to trade back the time we have with our family.

How do you unwind?
I am a very simple man. I enjoy TV time with my wife and a simple dinner with my family and friends.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Batam, it’s close to Singapore and there’s really nothing much to do except for massages and a relaxing resort life. If I travel to other countries for shopping or sightseeing, I am constantly thinking of business and how I can possibly expand to the country I am visiting. But while relaxing at the beach or at a massage, I tend to allow myself to drift into emptiness and just clear my mind of any thoughts.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Work The System, by Sam Carpenter. This book teaches entrepreneurs the importance of creating systems and how to leverage on systems to improve productivity and create more time.

Shameless plug for your business:
If you are looking for a team building programme that your colleagues will enjoy and your bosses will be happy with, you have to consider our programmes at TravelClef! While our programmes are guaranteed fun and engaging, it is also equipped with many team building deliverables and organizational skills.

How can people connect with you?
My email is [email protected] and I am very active on Facebook as well!
https://www.facebook.com/benjamin.christian.kwan

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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Nadia Al Sheikh, Founder & CEO of Flenco & Deal’n

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Nadia Al Sheikh has created a business module which incorporates philanthropy and business to empower others, and herself, she’s called her business Deal’n.

What’s your story?
My story is mirrored in my work. Flenco and our Singaporean eco skin care brand, “Flen” combines Dead Sea minerals from the lowest point of earth with Chinese medicine, which represents the wisdom and mystics of the east and these things represent my journey. I’m a single mother rediscovering my identity at a low point in life. Throughout my journey, determination, flexibility and assertiveness are the pillars of innovation. Thus Deal’n was born after years of groundwork in volunteering with various NGO’s and pursuing my masters degree. Transforming a vision, into a module that incorporates philanthropy and business, with tools to empower others and empower myself!

What excites you most about your industry?
The endless opportunities for improvement, innovation, creativity, free thinking which is mastered through interaction with other players in the market and customers creating a virtual place for brainstorming and the exchange of ideas. An evolving industry that challenges each and every person to use their skills, talents, expertise and utilise all their abilities to claim a slice of the pie.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Asia and specifically Singapore are my second home. It’s my spiritual and business safe haven that provides fair opportunities for everyone to succeed. If I was back in the Middle East as a single mother, I’m pretty sure my struggle would have been much longer and more difficult, however, it wouldn’t have stopped me from achieving my dreams. Singapore specifically empowered me professionally and Asia spiritually in redefining who I am as a person and understanding myself better.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore, although it’s a very tough and competitive market for entrepreneurs to start a business, it provides them with support and motivation through grants, competitions and subsidising the cost of exhibiting or promotional events to promote their business.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Success is measured by achieving your own personal goals and dreams and not what others think you should achieve.

Who inspires you?
Those who go unnoticed. From senior citizens, cleaning tables at food courts regardless of their wealth of knowledge and experience to single mothers, who are fighting everyday to overcome the social stigma and manage taking care of their children while earning an income. The amazing people who give their lives to start an NGO to empower others asking for nothing in return except the success of their beneficiaries, the humble members of our community that work in silence changing lives not for the spotlight but for their belief in making the world a better place.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
To step onto the balcony! In order to evaluate situations and understand people’s motivations from different perspectives and even to understand ourselves better we all need to step onto the balcony and become observers rather than participants. It gives you the power to see life through a variety of lenses.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I’d be wiser with my decisions, evaluate situations from different perspectives and believe in myself and my capabilities. That all came with experience and the ups and downs throughout my journey so I guess, to be who I am today I would have accepted the rough times and embraced them because they were my best teachers. So I wouldn’t undo the past but I am changing my future.

How do you unwind?
Meditation, exercising, listening to music, reading a book and a walk in the botanical gardens.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Maldives, I love the peace and harmony in the simplicity of what it offers; beautiful beaches and wonderful people.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The Wisdom Of Crowds by James Surowiecki

Shameless plug for your business:
Deal’n provides opportunities for all members of the community to utilize their skills, talents, expertise, capabilities and abilities in various ways, aiming at empowering all users to become productive members of their community. Using the services of other users for all to grow and benefit, interact with each other through the Deal’n community, thus enhancing their self esteem, level of confidence and as a result, a more empathetic and happier community!

How can people connect with you?
Through my FB page Nadousheh, my email [email protected]

Twitter handle?
@nadiaalsheikh

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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