Daring to compete

An Indonesian Entrepreneurs Australian journey

On May 23, 2016, Indonesian President Jokowi was opening the Indonesian Young Entrepreneurs Association Jamboree in Bandung with an important message to the crowd, “dare to compete.”  According to the President, Indonesia’s young and budding entrepreneurs have passion but they may lack the courage or skills to act.

A few hours away in Melbourne, Indonesian student, Fiyona Alidjurnawan, was doing just that. Like many young would-be entrepreneurs, Alidjurnawan wasn’t sure whether or not to make the leap into entrepreneurship, but knew to act on her dreams she needed to develop her skill base first. “Like the saying goes, you need to have wings before you can fly” she laughs. Alidjurnawan was part of the inaugural Master of Entrepreneurship cohort at the University of Melbourne and agrees with the President that Indonesia is ready for start-up success: “I was recently reading about the similarities between the Indonesia now and China in 2008 (in terms of entrepreneurship). With the 4th largest population in the world, Indonesia is a huge investment opportunity for start-ups.”

We sat down with Alidjurnawan to find out about her experience, next steps and that ‘Friday Feeling’:

A lot of people think Entrepreneurs are from the tech or Engineering sectors, but you’re coming at it from a completely different angle aren’t you? 

Yes, I LOVE fashion and styling as you can see from my Instagram (@fiyonana), but I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur. My mom is a fashion designer so I guess I learnt to love fashion from her and I still work as a free-lance fashion journalist. When it came to Entrepreneurship, I wanted to continue my passion for fashion. So you’re right, I wasn’t sure if the Master of Entrepreneurship would suit someone like me.

During my final year of studying fashion and textile merchandising I completed a project on “Creating a Successful Fashion Business Model in Indonesia”. After interviewing a few executives on the topic, I realized how the market is changing so fast, while most of the businesses in Indonesia remain traditional. I knew I had to learn what I lacked, I’m just lucky the University of Melbourne started an entrepreneurship degree just when I was looking.
The Master of Entrepreneurship is taught at the Wade Institute on the grounds of the University of Melbourne’s Ormond College. So I went along to their Open Day to see if it was the right fit for me. After speaking with the team there I loved the practical curriculum and the really strong connection that the Wade Institute has with mentors and leading entrepreneurs from so many different industries in Australia. I think what sealed the deal for me was speaking with the Wade Institute General Manager, Georgia MacDonald, who is really supportive of encouraging more female entrepreneurs.

What were some of the highlights of the degree for you?  

I have to say the highlight of my experience was the “Friday Feels”, which is a weekly session we ran which came of a subject called ‘The Entrepreneur Within’. In the subject you are taught to be self-aware regarding what kind of Entrepreneur you want to become. It involved questioning your ethics and morals while sharing your hopes and dreams for the future. It became a very intimate Friday for me, where the people I just met that year would learn more about me then my best friend. I must say after the Friday Feels, the cohort felt more of like a family than a class.

An important lesson for entrepreneurs is learning from failure. In the Master of Entrepreneurship each student creates their own start-up, but you decided not to pursue yours. Why was that?  

I was working on a start-up called Ikora, an innovative online marketplace that combines social media and e-commerce. But the more I thought about it, I wasn’t aligned with the purpose of the company, the same way my co-founders were. Ikora’s goal was to increase consumption from customers to become profitable and profit is the key goal of many start-ups.

The more I thought about it and learned about entrepreneurship, the more I became interested in socially conscious start-ups and  I felt Ikora wasn’t for me. It was actually a great experience because it taught me to really understand what kind of start-up I want to create and what kind of entrepreneur I wanted to become.

Congratulations on completing the Master of Entrepreneurship! What are your future plans?

Thank you! It’s safe to say that it’s the best decision I’ve made to date. I’ve just returned to Indonesia so my plan this year is to maximize my impact in Indonesia’s entrepreneur and startup ecosystem and help them reach full potential. I think Indonesian people have an entrepreneurial mind-set however the majority are often not familiar with the concepts or jargon, especially around the venture capital world.

To my knowledge there isn’t a degree like the Master of Entrepreneurship in Indonesia and while I think there has been a lot of development in the start-up scene here, Indonesia still needs time before the majority of population understands entrepreneurship. I really hope to share a lot of the knowledge I’ve gained as well as look toward creating my own start-up soon.

In 2015 President Widodo created a non-ministerial department for the Creative Economy, Bekraf (Badan Economy Kreatif Indonesia). It is responsible for the development of 16 subsectors, which includes fashion, architecture, music, culinary, writing, art, and more. My plan for 2017 is to help this department in the fashion sub-sector, with my background in fashion and new skills entrepreneurship.

You lived in Melbourne for 4 years. Tell us what you love about the city and what is your top 5 of must do things.

I love the people. Melbourne will always be my home. The people are very friendly and are open to conversation. You could sit with a stranger on the tram and next thing you know you’re talking about your pet and exchanging silly pictures of your dog.

My top 5 things to do:

  1. Go on road trips - My favourite of all time is Sorento Back Beach, and on my way home I’ll grab a slice of the famous Sorrento’s Vanilla Slice
  2. Take a walk in the park - Without your phone.
  3. Brunch - Wake up early and have a nice brunch, one of my favourite cafes is Middletown in Prahran. The espresso infused waffles are a must try, topped with truffled vanilla ice cream and a field of strawberries it’s the perfect remake of a classic dish – so, so good!
  4. Go shopping - I loved discovering new and upcoming designers in Melbourne. It is the fashion capital of Australia after all.
  5. Visit Museums and Galleries - as they reflect the culture of the city you live in. There’s a saying in Indonesia “tak kenal maka tak sayang” which translates to ‘you can’t love if you don’t understand’. So understand the cultural heritage of the city you live in, and you’ll soon fall in love with the city.

What are your words of advice to Indonesian’s interested in pursuing entrepreneurship?

For me there are three definite standout pieces of advice:

  1. Well-done is better than perfect - The reason most of us don’t start a company is not because it’s impossible but because we tend to doubt ourselves. I think for me my studies not only gave me a great skills base but confidence to pursuing my ideas.
  2. Ideas are worthless, execution is everything - People are often too afraid of sharing their ideas thinking that someone might steal them. But unless you are able to make that idea happen, it’s just floating in mid-air. Don’t forget that it’s also difficult to clearly convey an idea, you’ll get to know this when you start pitching to investors. So don’t be afraid of sharing your ideas, people generally tend to help. What I learn from experience is how a conversation could turn into an invitation, which leads to a business opportunity.
  3. A quote I really love is “entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t. So that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t” - I think the main thing is to really think about what kind of entrepreneur you want to be and really focus so you can achieve that lifestyle. I realized that becoming Entrepreneur, is not just about the skills I gained through a degree, but it’s a lifestyle, a mindset.

Fiyona Alidjurnawan is a graduate of the University of Melbourne’s Master of Entrepreneurship and will be speaking about her experiences at The University of Melbourne International Open House for Graduate students in Jakarta on Sunday February 26, The University will also hold an Open House in Bandung on Wednesday March 1.