Some entrepreneurs only care about a healthy bottom line. Not Lilys, who started a gym in Kalideres, West Jakarta, eight years ago. She is just as concerned about the health of her members. Business has been so good for Lilys that she has expanded to sell fitness clothes and workout gear.
While the mother of two was too shy to show My Jakarta her face, it was evident that she was proud of everything she had achieved. She tells us when the slow season for aerobics equipment is and explains the joy she gets from making a living by helping other people stay fit.
How did you start your business?
I was a full-time housewife and my morning routine was driving my kids to school. One day, I joined a baking course and there was a small aerobics center upstairs. After a few months the person in charge got pregnant and couldn’t look after the center, and I was offered the chance to cover her during her leave and take care of the business. I ran the gym with a partner for a couple of months, which was when I got the idea to open my own aerobics studio. I discussed it with my husband and he agreed, and now the gym has been helping dozens of women stay healthy for eight years.
What about your online shop?
That started from my desire to make my own money. I didn’t want to rely on my husband so much. So I started an online shop selling fitness equipment, including clothing, bags, et cetera. My expectations were very low at the start, until the very first customer bought something. She made my day. After a few months, the online shop had grown a lot. Now I have sold clothes to cities all over Indonesia like Bogor, Denpasar, Bangka, Aceh, Riau, Manado and more.
Did you do a lot of research before you jumped into the business?
Before I decided what to sell, I found out that it was quite hard to find any of this equipment in Indonesia, so I thought it was a good opportunity. And of course the aerobics instructors here can help me promote and sell the items.
It was nothing serious, but very troublesome. I try to keep all my customers satisfied and I have some customers who seem to take pleasure in upsetting me. I’ve had customers order things and ask me to send it immediately, only to change the orders just when I’m getting ready to ship them. Trust me, it is really annoying. But at the end of the deal they texted me, saying how satisfied they were with my service, and gave me good testimonials on my website.
When is the high and low order season for aerobics equipment?
Every year for some reason that I have yet to understand, orders plummet during Idul Fitri, and it is a massive fall. My income falls around 80 to 90 percent. I have to save a lot and plan my cash flow meticulously before those horrible days. The same goes with my aerobics classes, with so few participants that the total admission fee is not even enough to pay the instructor.
Ever encountered any fraud attempts by a client?
This woman once tried to cheat me. She ordered some clothes and said she had already transferred the money. I checked it out and nothing, but she continued to insist she had made the transfer. On the other hand, it can be difficult to assure new customers that I’m running an honest business. I recognize that trust is the most essential part in any online trade. I ask first-time customers to look at testimonials from previous buyers.
Why spend all this time on these businesses?
It’s my family. I’m a mom and a wife, and I am proud of myself because I can support my entire family. I have two sons and paying for their education is my main reason to keep working. Second, I have met a lot of friends through the business. I get to talk to all the women at the gym and share my life, and they share with me. It’s my friends who keep me cheered up.
Any plans to expand?
For gym classes, no. It is a simple business and I want to keep it that way. For my online shop, I’m thinking about getting a spot in a mall. But I’m still considering it because I have been running the business by myself for years. I’m not sure that I could take care of my household chores, the online shop, the gym and then a retail outlet all by myself.
Lilys was talking to Kevin Sanly Putera