Suwe Ora Jamu

Keeping the jamu tradition alive

Nova Dewi Setiabudi Mathovani

Nova Dewi Setiabudi Mathovani grew up drinking jamu, a traditional Indonesian drink with a variety of uses, from treating ailments to boosting energy. When she was a little girl in Surabaya, she remembers her grandmother and mother making it for family and friends to maintain their health.

Nova Dewi Setiabudi Mathovani
Nova Dewi Setiabudi Mathovani

Owner of Suwe Ora Jamu in Jakarta, Java.

“I grew up seeing how beneficial jamu is, and my passion for it grew from that nostalgia,” she says.

Five years ago, Nova and Uwi Mathovani, now her husband, decided to turn that passion into a business. They wanted to create a café where young Indonesians could enjoy drinking jamu like they drink tea or coffee.

When they first started Suwe Ora Jamu, many were skeptical it could work. Jamu was seen as uncool by the younger generation and Nova had to work out how to bring the tradition into a modern environment. And she knew passion alone doesn’t sustain a business.

“The greatest challenge in running the business is when there are many problems and I feel alone,” Nova says. “You need a team. The vision and mission are what unites everyone, and dictates the steps forward.”

Nova talking to her team
Bottling rosella jamu
If there was a time machine to go back 5 years, I would do everything to prepare myself for the digital era.

After 4 years of building the team behind that vision, Nora uses digital tools and the internet more and more to manage the business. She uses digital tools to coordinate operations and communicate with staff, suppliers and customers more effectively. When she began, order details like the date, time and who to meet at the delivery point could easily be missed. Nova now manages delivery details online where they can be accessed by everyone. She also checks new products and orders samples from suppliers online instead of visiting in person, making the process much more efficient. And she searches the internet for the latest trends and supplies. It’s had a big impact on how she runs and markets Suwe Ora Jamu, and in turn how she's growing the business.

“If there was a time machine to go back 5 years, I would do everything to prepare myself for the digital era,” Nova says. “I feel that it is the right time to start a business because everything is so easy now. With just one click we can connect to many things.”

For Nova, Suwe Ora Jamu is an ongoing journey she’s taking step-by-step. She’s now opened Pavilion 28, a jamu bar where young people can network and collaborate as well as listen to music, watch films and see art exhibitions. She also plans to open a YouTube channel, and use online videos to show others how to make their own jamu.

As a woman entrepreneur, Nova feels that taking the first step was the hardest. “Finally I got the confidence to do it. I want other women to have the confidence to take that first step.”

Nova checking her phone
Spices and herbs for jamu
Jamu bottles
Women can teach other women to progress, become more independent, and to have more time for themselves.

Inspired by her grandmother and mother, as well as her husband and family, she wants to connect young Indonesians with the tradition of jamu, and support women who are thinking of starting, or growing, their own business.

“If you look at women,” she says, “we can inspire each other. Women can teach other women to progress, become more independent, and to have more time for themselves.”

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