How The Price of a Louboutin Shoe is Enough to Start a Business
By N. Mark Castro
Law graduate Abigail Wiriaatmadja is used to doing many different things at once, and she doesn’t hesitate to mix her business with her charity case. As a young woman, she had worked for the Indonesian Red Cross, the Australian Red Cross, and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. She got married to a colleague that had to relocate often all over the world for disaster response. The distance eventually led to their divorce and she picked up her life and moved on to corporate world, handling editorial and translation work for companies localizing their corporate communications.
Feeling the itch for independence, Abigail decided to go freelance while pursuing her passion in baking. Together with her sister, they embarked on establishing L’Chaim Home Made Bread, a home-delivery bakeshop specializing in European and Middle Eastern style bread. After less than a year of operations, L’Chaim Home Made Bread recovered its initial investment, added more baking equipment, and will add to its list of clientele in Kemang, while preparing for their first-ever outlet. What’s interesting to note is that while other companies allocate a budget for its advertising plans, L’Chaim allocates 30 percent of its profit to donation.
LiveOlive sat down with Abigail to discuss her entrepreneurial challenges, personal money management, and her journey towards financial independence.
LO: When you were growing up, what was money like for you?
LO: What did your parents teach you about money?
ABIGAIL: Managing one’s own money, definitely! They told me if I wanted something they don’t normally buy for us, for example special clothing items or accessories, fiction books, audio cassettes or such, we will have to save up ourselves and buy it from our own savings. We lived in Germany for 7 years when my dad was posted there, so we all the more had to be careful with our expenses.
LO: Tell us what you did with your first paycheck?
ABIGAIL: That seemed like ages ago! But I do remember putting most of it aside to save up for a mobile phone, which I got after I got my second paycheck. It was a Nokia 3210. I used the rest for my daily expenses, while whatever remained went to my savings.
LO: How do you manage your money now?
ABIGAIL: Challenging! I had a regular paycheck as an employee before that made it easy to manage certain budget lines and will have some percentage allocated for other needs.
Currently, it’s trickier because being a freelancer means my paycheck amount varies from one month to another. So I would prioritize my expenses, which means during some months I would not be able to enjoy as much as the other months. I have to see to it that every dollar or rupiah I make is placed in some financial product that would increase it or that meets every financial obligation I have.
I hate being in debt that does not add value, but I do know the benefits of a credit card, so…..I have no credit card debts maintained and the rest of my paycheck goes to my Allianz Life and Health Insurance. Ever since I went independent I had to choose for my own insurance provider and had to pay it on my own. And then there’s my emergency fund that I have to double to almost a year because of my fluctuating income.
Budgeting every day is important, which is why it’s quite refreshing that LiveOlive provides me the tools to check my budget and credit card expenses, including the inspiring topics.
LO: Talk to us about the difference in saving or investing when you were married and now that you’re single again.
ABIGAIL: As a couple, we had to make money decisions together; trips, savings, investments, although we would still maintain individual accounts for ourselves. We never had much of a problem when it came to finances and insurance because we had the benefits of company paychecks, but now, being a freelancer and entrepreneur, I have to be very cautious with my cash flow.
LO: What was the best and the worst money decision you have ever made?
ABIGAIL: I think most of my mistakes, financial or otherwise, were part of my lessons in life that helped me to make things better. For instance, at the time, I thought investing in a fixed deposit was good, but over time it wasn’t a wise money decision for me, because I learned that saving up or investing in cash or currency is not the best thing to do when it started fluctuating heavily. However, in a way this worst decision became a blessing because I was able to use this money as capital.
LO: How do you handle the financial challenges of promoting your brand and product?
ABIGAIL: Believe it or not, with social media. Sixty percent of our profit comes from Facebook! My sister, (who is) an internet marketer with a keen interest in finance, handles both our finance and marketing. Our word-of-mouth marketing has helped so much as well…and then there’s our website that people get to visit often.
LO: Thirty percent of profit to donation. Talk to us about that. Why 30 and not 20 or 10 percent?
ABIGAIL: It was a matter of commitment and a statement. L’Chaim Home Made Bread’s main theme is “To Feed the World” and so instead of the usual marketing strategies or Corporate Social Responsibility programs or charitable donations where money isn’t easily tracked, we decided to do it ourselves. Even in our first year, we decided to do it during Ramadan and feed a nearby Pesantren (Islamic boarding school).
We wanted to do this not when we become big, but now, even when we’re small. Bringing food to those who are in need is a shared joy that no money can buy. Miraculously, however, when we posted it on our Facebook Page our sales more than doubled! And those who witnessed our event also spread the word and spread both our bakeshop and brand.
LO: Did it require a lot for you to transition from an employee to an entrepreneur or freelancer?
ABIGAIL: Yes. Courage.
The financial part became easy because my sister and parents shared and joined. You could start with as little as 10 million rupiah, but what will keep you going is the courage to forge ahead and the financial discipline to maintain it. Whether you start small or you start big, it’s the discipline that will sustain the business, so I continually hone my newfound craft, study and invest on myself.
LO: Wow, that’s practically the price of a Louboutin that got you started! Looking back at how you managed your money, is there anything you would have liked to do differently?
ABIGAIL: (Laughs) I would probably have saved up earlier in assets as opposed to cash, which is what I’m doing now. Our business is an asset that we’re seeing an amazing growth and I’m beginning to look at properties and shares, although I have yet to find something that explains it to me in a simple way.
LO: What is your definition of wealth?
ABIGAIL: Being rich is easy because all you have to do is put a target number and work for it. Real wealth, however, is when both your money and family meet together whether in need or in sharing and your lives are fulfilled. So far, I’m heading to the right direction and I hope that it inspires (LiveOlive) readers that no matter the challenge, you can always start anew and build a better life.