Feature: Santi Alaysius

Santi Alaysius: Turning a Vision to Reality

Santi was finishing her education in the United States (US) while working three part-time jobs to augment her income. Her parents paid for her education and accommodations but everything else she took care, including her financial mistakes.

While living abroad, she realized she wanted to build her own company and eventually not work for anyone – not even for her Dad who owned a construction and property development company. So if it meant taking three jobs and serve tables, she did.
When she finally graduated at The Art Institute of Seattle and Illinois Institute of Art-Chicago, where she received Bachelor of Arts in Fashion Marketing Management and Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Design, she interned at Thom Filicia, Inc in New York and Simeone Deary Design Group in Chicago, doing high-end residential and hospitality work. Her work as the Project Designer of The Elysian Hotel won numerous awards, including being named the #1 hotel in the US and #7 hotel in the world by Conde Nast Traveller and Elle Décor Magazine. Seeing the economic growth in Asia, she decided to move back home and co-founded with a friendDomisilium Studio, which is niche design company.

LiveOlive Team exchanged stories with Santi to find out the importance of savings, budgeting, investments, and financial independence as a young female entrepreneur.

LO: Let’s warm up, tell me what you did with your first paycheck?

 (Laughs) I bought a small Chanel wallet, which I financially regretted then, but even to this day I have a fond memory of it. You can say that it turned out to be a good investment because it’s lasted all these years. My background in fashion management has allowed me to spot a quality product. It was just the timing as to when I could buy something. (Laughs)

LO: When you were growing up, what was money like for you?

SANTI: I come from a pretty well-off family but we are not big spenders. My parents made their money in property and construction and saw to it that we have what we needed, but I had to work for my own money if I wanted something else.

When I was 16 I just wanted more pocket money so I can go out with my friends more often. Knowing that my parents wouldn’t give me more money, I borrowed Rp 300,000 from my mom and bought CDs, which I then mixed and sold at school during lunch break for almost 4 times of the cost for a week. A lot of the kids wanted specific songs from different CDs and didn’t have enough money to buy them all so I just compiled them. I made Rp 900,000 after I returned my mom’s money, it was pretty good amount of money then. Wait, is that piracy? (Laughs) It was just a one-time stint, but it was my first experience as an entrepreneur.

But when I was a freshman in college I wanted a trip to London and my parents wouldn’t give me extra money aside from my monthly allowance. So I had to work two jobs as a librarian and a math tutor in the campus. I worked for almost six months and was finally able to finance my whole trip.

LO: What did your parents teach you about money?

SANTI: Always pay your bills on time. My parents insisted that financial responsibility is the priority. My dad taught me not to spend too much on luxury items unless it is a good investment like gold. My parents taught us to invest in property and other things that will bring more value. Of course I didn’t fully understand it then but as I grew older I’ve seen how his properties have increased in value because of developments made and market growth. I literally saw something that was built out of nothing.

LO: How do you manage your money?

SANTI: Living and working abroad changed my perspective early. I was doing everything so I really had to measure my expenses. I budget things on big chunks and try not to cross the limit. I have funds set aside for my monthly payments to Prudential Insurance for accident, health, and life, which are good investments for my future. 10% of my total monthly income goes to my emergency fund while I also have a fund set aside for holidays and buying things that I love.

Thankfully, being Asian, I have no qualms living with my parents since I’ve been away for a long time, and this gives me a chance to save up on rent, laundry, meals, utilities, etc. Believe me, I know all about these things because I did all those. So my parents’ house is like the Ritz Carlton for me. Laughs.

LO: What was the best money decision you have ever made?

SANTI: Since I got back from the US, my main focus had been my business. We were working in coffee shops, using free WiFi, and doing everything ourselves. I was the secretary and the principal at the same time. And 3 years after, we have an office, full time staff, interns and freelancers, including full insurance benefits. It helps, of course, that the rent we pay is comparatively lower because I convinced my parents to rent us one of their properties.

As for me, buying gold and insurance products were wise decisions. I have not ventured deeper because of our business but I’m looking at investing in property. This is my family background that I know so well so I’m putting together some funds so that I can get started in investing there.

LO: What was the worst money decision you have ever made?

SANTI: (Laughs) You embarrass me! But yes, I paid dearly and learned early for that experience! I carded a handbag worth one month rent of a two bedroom apartment in downtown Chicago. I worked my butt off for that bag: I was waitressing, doing freelance design jobs, and selling custom-made jewelry in a friend’s boutique. Then I transferred my card balance with the highest interest to the one I just opened with 0% for a year. Also I closed all the store credit cards like Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, and limited myself to this 0% interest card and a debit card. I was paying more than the minimum so I could get rid of my debts faster. I also did not shop for a while and felt liberated. I swapped and shopped clothes with my roommate. It made my life simpler. Too bad I was not aware of this earlier but the point is to pay close attention to the pros and cons of credit cards, and if you really need it.
By the way, that bag – five years later – is still gorgeous. Again, it was just the timing.

LO: Talk about a time when you had to overcome major financial obstacles at work.

SANTI: My business partner and I had to skip paying ourselves for two months so we can pay our staffs salary and maintain operational costs. We took a hit and swore never to go through that experience. Now we see to it that our cash flow is in check, receivables won’t hurt payables, including operational costs.

LO: Tell me about TED Jakarta. You’re quite passionate about it. How did you get involved and why? Are there any monetary benefits there?

SANTI: I have always believed in social entrepreneurship (using business principles to achieve social changes) and I was familiar with TED in the US so when I got back I attended one of their meetings. I got them in touch with my network and they got “in-kind-sponsorship” for their next event. That’s how I got started in helping them with Funding. I get no monetary benefit but I get to hang out with the coolest people, expand my network, and create changes in society. There’s no price tag to that.

LO: Gas subsidy is now reduced and, eventually, will be eliminated. How do you save up?

SANTI: By taking cabs and even ojek (motorcycle taxi). I have a car sitting at my parents’ house which I use sparingly. Other than that, I’m very comfortable with public transportation. This allows me to increase my savings when I calculate my costs on gas, parking, and stress.

LO: Looking back at how you managed your money is there anything you would have liked to do differently or better?

SANTI: I try not to crucify myself with my past financial mistakes. The point is I’ve learned my lesson and I have a chance to grow my own business. We’ve actually invested in young local talents to help expand our core services and, so far, things are looking good with new clients coming in. We’re not about quantity but rather the quality of our output that matters more.

LO: What is your definition of wealth?

 When I get everything I need, live comfortably, and have money set aside. If I can start my never-ending passive income through property then I can say I’m wealthy.

LO: What would be your message to other young girls out there struggling to make ends meet?

SANTI: I was like you, struggling alone to pay my credit card bills. There will always be a solution as long as you’re focused with your goals. Talk to people and learn from their experiences. If you didn’t get to save or invest before, you can always do now. Invest on what you know so you won’t have to worry every day.


About Asmartrock

N. Mark Castro is the Southeast Asia Director of JUMP DIGITAL Asia, which is an internationally-awarded and fully integrated digital marketing agency with 5 out of 10 offices in the ASEAN region. He is also the Secretary General of the Philippine Business Club Indonesia, managing and assisting the traffic of investments between the Philippines and Indonesia. He shuttles between Indonesia, Philippines, Myanmar, Singapore, Cambodia, and Australia. The views posted here are his own and do not in any way reflect the views of the companies he represents.

Posted on November 12, 2012, in Facebar, General, Previous and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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