What would be better than taking your passion and turning it into a successful business? For entrepreneur Brian Yaputra, the art of stained glass is a hobby that has brought bread and butter to many tables. Brian, owner of PT Estu Adimore, has proved that the world can be a profitable carousel of color.
To some, Brian Yaputra might be familiar as one of the founding fathers of Cosmos products, one of Indonesia’s proudest home electronic appliance brands. To the wider world, he is recognized as Indonesia’s stained glass man.
It was a holiday trip to the United States where Brian found himself a new hobby. Being curious and wanting to deepen his knowledge of stained glass art, he bought a hobby starter pack. From that casual holiday purchase, Brian turned a fleeting interest into a process of self-education.
Brian was awakened to the value of stained glass when he saw famous examples of the art at places of worship and museums. From hobby to a serious study of stained glass, there came the realization that this was a prospective business. Brian saw a spacious market in the real estate business, at a time when the opportunity was wide open for creative talent.
“My wife was my first client,” recalls Brian, now 65. It was in the late 1970s when Mrs. Yaputra tested Brian’s new hobby, asking him to create something for their home. Today, the Yaputra residence in Tomang, West Jakarta is covered with stained glass, standing out from its staid neighbors with flashes of color.
At the time, there were few players in the business. Capital was still reasonably affordable. “When we talk about investment in machinery to produce fused and glazed glass, we’re talking big investment, reaching billions of rupiah” notes Brian.
His first breakthrough was to provide stained glass panels for a real estate project, developed by an acquaintance he declines to name. By 1981, his PT Estu Adimore had become an acknowledged industry presence, and Brian relocated his workshop from his garage to the Cikupa industrial estate.
Materials are mostly imported from Europe and the United States in order to meet the highest level of quality, justifying the price tags of hundreds of dollars for each of Brian’s works.
After more than three decades in the business, Brian is fully committed to the stained glass business, leaving Cosmos to his siblings. PT Estu Adimore, also known as Eztu Glass Art, has garnered more than 300 clients, both local and international.
Residences, museums, office buildings, restaurants, places of worships all display the work of PT Estu Adimore, which also produces many smaller items such as glass panels, fused molten glass, ornaments and more. Brian is discreet about figures, but GlobeAsia estimates that his enterprise turns in annual sales of around Rp100 billion. “My revenue is enough to bring bread and butter to my family and my employees,” says Brian.
A society source says major names in business such as the Sitorus family and Peter Sondakh are among Brian’s personal clients. The work of Estu Adimore adorns buildings at Bank Indonesia, the Mandarin Oriental Surabaya, the Ritz Carlton Bali’s wedding chapel, BSD Golf&Country Club, Holland Bakery stores, Hard Rock Café Jakarta and even Cape Town in South Africa, where a mosque displays its work. The company also partners with the European network of Home Depot, supplying stained glass doors and windows.
“You name it, the US, Europe, Russia, Japan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Australia, England, Africa, Singapore, that’s where my clients are,” Brian says with justifiable pride.
There is one order he hasn’t yet tied down, but which he’d love to win. His hometown Semarang, the capital of Central Java, hosts the Indonesia Railways Company’s historical Lawang Sewu building. “It’s a great work of art from the Dutch era. It needs to be restored to keep it in existence,” says Brian, adding that the cost of restoration is around Rp500 million.
Brian is able to look back on a successful career built on a departure from the mainstream. “I am very proud of what I’m doing and of Eztu Glass Art creations. We can make almost anything and we make it with passion, that makes it worthwhile,” says Brian. Estu, taken from the Javanese word meaning truly beautiful or truly meaningful, expresses the way in which Brian leads his business. “The people working for me are talented craftsmen. They are artists and have the sense of art within them,” he stresses.
Aside from his varied business portfolio, there are more reasons why Brian was nominated as Indonesia’s 2011 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year. His leadership style reflects the close connection between Brian and his employees. He is strict yet friendly, thinks about the welfare of his 400 employees and, most importantly, he knows how to produce stained glass art.
“My hands have been cut and bleeding several times, but that’s how you learn to do it right. To run a business, you have to be fully aware and know how to run your business when other people are not around,” he says. “I learn to make my own coffee and tea, then we can share our knowledge with others.” While Brian didn’t take the E&Y award, he’s still one proud man who sees that participating in the event brought new friends and networks.
In the eyes of many, Brian is a light-hearted guy. He is talkative and often jokes around. His manner at times produces surprises. “One time, I offered a gentleman sitting next to me a candy to sooth his sore throat. Very shortly, I find he’s the chairman of the Hong Kong Architects Association and I win several projects in Hong Kong,” Brian recalls with a laugh.
He is most proud of his work for Disneyland Hong Kong. “I was both stunned and challenged when Disney Hong Kong contacted me. They came to me and what I had in mind was to prove to them that we, as Indonesian entrepreneurs and craftsmen, can be better than foreign players,” says Brian.
If you visit Disney Hong Kong, take the time to embrace the stained glass and be proud that the majority of glass decorating the theme park was made in Indonesia, in a project worth $200,000. Today, Brian is busy finishing his latest major project, a stained glass dome. It’s for an international client, and the cost could reach Rp5 billion.
When it comes to competition, Brian remains open-minded. Whether it’s a local or international competitor, it represents a challenge for him to improve. Yet stained glass art in many ways is a steady business. What it takes is to maintain quality and creativity. Brian takes the role of interior designer and, yes, he follows trends; he delivers what the client wants.
The history of stained glass can be traced back to ancient times and it has survived throughout the centuries up to today. And, Brian insists, stained glass art will last for many more centuries. His business will also exist for many more years, he believes.
“Stained glass is a work of art, just like painting and sculpture. People are never bored of this. Like I said before, it’s a very stable business,” says Brian. “The challenge for me is to widen my network, so Eztu Glass Art can add more decoration to the world.” GA