Ayu is a graduate of our Mentoring Women in Business Programme, taking part between November 2018 and November 2019. Here’s an overview of her experiences as a mentee, and the amazing impact working with her mentor Lenna had on her and her business.
It’s a problem many parents have faced: when Ayu took her children to buy bags for their first day of school in 2015, she couldn’t believe her lack of choice. With the option of either high-end, expensive brands or poor-quality, cheap alternatives, Ayu resolved to do something about it. With the help of Lenna, a mentor with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, Ayu now owns one of Indonesia’s most exciting, independent bag manufacturing companies. Her business helps children and parents by providing them with high-quality, affordable rucksacks, satchels and tote bags for schoolchildren.
As many entrepreneurs will know, getting a business off the ground is not easy. For Ayu this was no different; running her business without experience while managing a busy home life ensured that progress was not straightforward. These problems were made even more difficult by the threat of cheap, imported alternatives to her products attracting her customer base, as well as more familiar, worldwide brand names cornering the market. Despite her hard work and best efforts, Ayu found the step from her ideas and potential to practical solutions a large one to make.
When she heard about the Mentoring Women in Business Programme from one of the Foundation’s local partners in Indonesia, Ayu felt that joining the programme could help her take the next step in her business. Through the collaboration between the Foundation and Qualcomm® Wireless Reach™, in November 2018, Ayu was matched with mentor Lenna from the United Kingdom, founder of The L Factor Ltd, a consulting company working to provide specialised growth plans for small businesses. Lenna’s skills in marketing, business strategy and growth, could offer Ayu the expertise she’d been missing in exactly these areas.
Through video calls, Ayu and Lenna soon began meeting for two hours each month, developing a close and trusting bond. Lenna came to Ayu as a sounding board and thought partner, listening to her issues and ideas, and providing her with the space to pursue and discuss them. For Ayu, this meant she was able to develop a relationship with an experienced and knowledgeable woman entrepreneur, who supported her to think of solutions to her issues, or offering alternatives for consideration. Ayu quickly found than Lenna was patient, attentive and considerate of Ayu’s thoughts and ideas.
Ayu’s enthusiasm and energy meant that her ambitions for the relationship were very high. Originally believing that exporting her products would be the best solution, Ayu learnt from Lenna the importance of taking her plans step-by-step through manageable targets and strategies. Ayu had soon devised a more appropriate twelve-month business plan to increase customer brand awareness and sales of her products.
Ayu formalised her company as a legal entity, and then worked with her mentor on building a strong brand identity as her brand was now trademarked. This was the push-board for greater opportunities in networking and allowed her to begin developing a strong and reliable customer base. Once the company was formalised, Ayu’s opportunities for expansion opened up. In a brainstorming session with Lenna on how best to increase sales, Ayu realised that by increasing production and selling the bags at wholesale quantities her sales margins could increase. This was a breakthrough.
Incorporating this solution into her business plan alongside the objectives defined in the twelve-month business plan meant Ayu was able to carefully increase production and sales along a manageable and stable trajectory. As the year progressed, she gradually employed more staff in the production, accounting and administration of her business, creating jobs in her community. The economies of scale in the increased production meant prices remained low, stimulating high quantities of demand. Thus, while more people were employed, more still were benefitting from inexpensive, high quality bags.
By the end of her year-long relationship with Lenna, Ayu was producing seven times the number of products that she had at the beginning. Furthermore, she employed four local people directly, and several others in the manufacturing site she contracted for production. Incredibly, by the conclusion of the mentoring relationship, Ayu’s business had a revenue five times what it had at the start. Ayu’s confidence has improved massively; she is more ambitious and says she now feels empowered to follow her own instinct. The value of her relationship with Lenna has encouraged her to build up a network of like-minded women entrepreneurs with whom she shares ideas and suggestions.
Though their year of mentoring has now ended, Lenna and Ayu remain good friends. Summarising this transformative relationship, Ayu says that through the Mentoring Women in Business Programme her mentor Lenna “opened my eyes and opened my mind.”
Click here for more information on our Mentoring Women in Business programme. You can help empower over 100,000 more women like Ayu to create better futures for themselves, their families, their communities and the world by supporting our 100,000 Women Campaign.