Building businesses based on passion
When Aprilia Melissa Kristiawan Tarigan and Hendrikus Adrianto met, they didn’t think one day they’d run a successful photography business - or a restaurant and an Italian gelato brand.
CEO & Founder Papyrus Photo, Celebrate Restaurant, and Let’s Go Gelato in Bandung, Java.
“My husband and I met in college in Bandung,” Aprilia says. “I fell in love with photography and enjoyed taking pictures. At that time we were dating, so I used his laboratory to print my photos.”
“Aprilia’s the born manager,” says Hendrikus. “I’d let people borrow my camera gear, and she’s the one who said ‘you should rent it.’ She has a mind for business.”
The couple decided to try to make money from their hobby, instead of always spending money on it. They formed Papyrus Photo in 2003 in a garage, then opened their first store nearby. “I was acting as the marketing, human resources, and finance manager,” she recalls. “We don’t have a business background, so we learned from asking people, reading books and asking lots of questions. We then tried to apply what we learned, and we learned from our mistakes.”
Don’t be afraid of limits - there are so many limits. But we can balance.
Many people questioned if she could or should take on so much responsibility. “Don’t be too ambitious, you should just be at home, your husband can do your job - that’s what some said,” Aprilia explains. “Because I’m a women, they didn’t often respect my position. It was hard, and it still is.”
Getting Papyrus Photo up and running was a lot of work, but keeping it running was even more challenging. “In 2008 we almost closed down because we weren’t doing well,” explains Aprilia. “We didn’t know what to do. Then we tried some new marketing techniques and entered the digital and social media world, and the impact was remarkably strong.”
Aprilia and Hendrikus kept learning through trial and error, improving their business, and have since expanded to 6 branches across 3 cities - Bandung, Jakarta, and Yogyakarta - and have more than 200 employees. As they were growing the business, they were growing their family, and with four children, balance was their biggest challenge.
“I cut my personal hours so I could still work but at the same time, have time to take care of the kids,” says Aprilia. “Don’t be afraid of limits - there are so many limits. But we can balance.”
Online and digital tools have been a part of that balance, helping to manage each function. “Digital helps all our businesses,” Aprilia says. “It makes things easier for the people who work for us and our customers, and we have more time to develop the businesses further.”
She uses her handphone or tablet to monitor the businesses on-the-go, saving time, trains and supervises staff through conference calls via the internet, communicates with customers across social media channels, and uses online advertising to connect with the right customers without spending a lot of money.
Women can compete very well in the internet arena because of access to information through technology.
Her business acumen led Aprilia to think of turning another passion - food - into a business. They opened an Italian restaurant - Celebrate - just down from their original Papyrus Photo shop, which also has more studio space. Aprilia’s most recent venture is an ice cream shop - Let’s Go Gelato - adjacent to the main store. She designed the brand, and comes up with all of the recipes for the gelato at her house.
“One of my other hobbies is to cook, and I love knowing about food,” Aprilia says. “Let’s Go Gelato is really my baby.”
The internet has even sparked new business ventures. Family Frame Work started when there was a problem with their photo frame supplier. Aprilia and her husband watched online videos to learn how to make their own frames and searched the internet for where to buy equipment.
When it comes to business challenges, Aprilia counsels women to embrace them. She’s also a big believer in women supporting one another, and establishing a network of women with the same passion and drive. “It’s very important. Recently I met with a woman who is a bit older than me, but her soul is so young and passionate. I’m very grateful that I met a person who has the same passion as I do.”
“Never take the easy road. At first it will be easy, but afterwards it will be very hard,” she continues. "But the opportunities are wide open and we can grow in leaps and bounds with the digital world. Changes are happening so fast right now. Women can compete very well in the internet arena because of access to information through technology."
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