The interview was translated and adapted into an article by Larisa Sitorus
Lockdown Economy: Interviews by think tank AlterContacts.org with real entrepreneurs sharing insights, challenges and successes during the COVID19 global pandemic to inspire, motivate and encourage other entrepreneurs around the world.
In this interview hosted by Karlina Lubis, we meet Una the owner of various small business in Magelang.
Could you tell us, what kinds of businesses are you running?
Una: The first business is fashion. I sell women clothing. This includes blouses & tops, pants, moslem robe & dress, and hijab & veil. I also sell cosmetics, bags, shoes, all related to women's fashion.
There is also in culinary. For this food business, we sell a variety of Korena food such as barbeque. We also have ramyon, rapokki, topokki and other things. We also sell seafood-based dishes such as seafood with sweet and sour sauce, seafood with Padang sauce and other things. So it’s a mixture of Indonesian food and Korean food. Also, for other businesses, I also have backdrops or decorations for events like engagements, birthdays and weddings.
For each of these lines of businesses, how long have you been running them? Maybe starting with the fashion first?
Una: For the fashion one, we started in 2016. And then for the second and third branch, we started in 2019. In total we have 3 branches. All these are in Magelang.
Who are the customers, which groups are they? Are they mostly college students or?
Una: Since I’m selling things that are new and upcoming for the models and also for Korean food. These are for the young adult crowd. So usually our customers are mostly college students, students and factory workers and others. So mostly, the customers are teens & young adults. We also have several but not many items for older female and mothers.
So it’s more for young women yes. Those who enjoy fashion. So far, how many employees are working for you?
Una: We have three fashion stores and one place for the food business. We have 13 employees in total. We also have 1 freelancer.
Now, what happened when the pandemic hit? How did that affect your business?
Una: I think it’s affecting the business significantly. It started in Indonesia I think sometime in April if I’m not mistaken. So our income dropped quite drastically. It was about 30% compared to normal.
I run the business both online and offline. For the online one, it was still running at the time. So I didn’t close the business, unlike others. A few had to close down due to COVID. I decided to keep it and prioritize online sales. So, even the offline one was quiet, the online one continued.
So when the pandemic first hit, let say at the beginning of March, or April this year. Did you keep the offline open or was there a time where you had to close it? The offline one?
Una: For the offline one, I keep it open. We also had to follow the health protocols and since it was quiet, we had to prevent any gatherings from happening. During normal times, it tended to be crowded. But at that time, it was already quiet, so we kept it open, but with health protocols in place.
Then for the online one, how did it do normally, before the pandemic and then compared to after the pandemic happened? Did it increase?
Una: At the beginning of the pandemic, it actually dropped. But, after a while, we tried several strategies, such as endorsement in Tiktok, Instagram. And it then increased.
So, for the Tiktok content, the online promotion, who manages that? Was it you yourself?
Una: No, we used a Tiktok influencer. So it’s like an endorsement. During this pandemic, Tiktok artists are going viral, as brand ambassador, for promotion functions. We tried this and we invited Tiktok artists from Jogja and it really went well. And for our Shopee, it increased 50 times.
Other than working with Tiktok artists for product endorsement, what other strategies that you have tried to recover?
Una: At the beginning I was selling mostly clothing and bags, which dropped in sales. So at that time, I started selling face masks and hand sanitizers. In order to maintain sales transactions. Even though the business has fashion as a base, but if we only relied on fashion, we would lack in sales. So that’s how we started selling face masks, hand sanitizers, PPE, and face shields. The things that were needed by our customers.
For the culinary one, did you also use social media as sales technique?
Una: Yes, we use social media. Since the food business went very quiet, there was even one day when we only had one customer. Due to this, we tried asking the Tiktok influencer who at that time was visiting our store, and they also did it for the food. So it was tagged twice. Finally, I received the video from the artist. I used it for promotion here in Magelang. There was one in Borobudur News, Magelang News, Magelang Info and several others. The city of Magelang has its own social media. So I put promotions on these accounts in Magelang and the business is picking up again until now.
If you could predict, how would your businesses do in the next 3–4 months?
Una: In my opinion, since we are now in the “new normal” phase, the businesses are really depending on what actions the owners will take. Whether they want to stay at this stage, survive, or put efforts in order for the business to keep going. For example, if we need to do these endorsement, we need to advertise, we need to keep finding ways so that sales can continue. So I think, moving forward, it really depends on the business owners. If they want to wait for the customers to come, that’s probably not for sure. So we need to keep moving, in order for the sales keep going and increasing.
What support do you think small businesses need in order to survive during these times?
Una: For myself, honestly, until now, I have no forum, like entrepreneurs forum. So right now, I feel I’m completely all alone in running this. So I think, I need a forum to connect with other business owners at this time. I wish I can share some of the problems I’m facing with others, and figuring out the solutions together. At the moment, I feel I’m doing this individually. So I feel I need a type of guidance, or a forum where people can share their experience. That’s all.
The second one is mentorship or training given by people who have been successful. So far, I’ve been learning from Youtube, Instagram, from entrepreneurs who are already more successful with their businesses. But I haven’t had the chance to attend training or mentorship.
And the last one perhaps, some sort of capital loan. Right now, I’ve also started to hijab production. So all the hijab that we sell I make myself. So if I buy the material by piece and not in roll/bulk, then for sure it will be more expensive. So I have no choice but to buy in rolls, so that I can get a more affordable price. And to do this I still lack the capital. So when a customer wants to buy a hijab, we tend to provide them with multiple color options. And buying one roll of material only in this case is not going to provide them with that mulitple colour options. So at the moment I lack that capital to buy these rolls. So what I do for now is that we buy only a couple rolls and produce only a few color options. Once they are sold, then we get more rolls in other colours. So at the moment, we can only do these in stages.
So you need a place to share, mentorship from those who are more knowledgeable and capital loan. Have you received any of these 3 supports?
Una: In the past I attended a program from the Ministry of Youth and Sport, called “Young entrepreneurs with achievements”. I also attended the one in Jakarta. The winner of this one receives the monetary award. But I haven’t won, so I haven’t been able to receive this so far.
About the Guest
Siti Maunah is an entrepreneur in Magelang. She is the owner of three businesses:
Toko Una Olshop (Borobudur, Pakelan, Bandongan) https://www.instagram.com/una_olshop_magelang/
Una Paperflower https://www.instagram.com/una_yakiniku.id/
Una Yakiniku https://www.instagram.com/una_paperflower_magelang/