Over the past few years the business world has entered a whole new frontier: the online world. And now, some high school students are venturing out into the digital revolution.
A BBC survey last May listed Indonesia as the best place for entrepreneurs to start businesses, and the Voice of America reported that there are “700 start-ups already online and as many as seven launched each week.”
During the recent Asean Entrepreneurship Summit, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke on the importance of young entrepreneurs in Indonesia helping to provide the 75 million Indonesians under the age of 18 with jobs. She also emphasized the need to “encourage women entrepreneurs.”
At least one teenager has been affected by the rise of so-called technopreneurship.
Amanda Angelica, a 16-year-old student, is a fledging entrepreneur. Amanda started her own online bakery.
Born in Jakarta, Amanda, a rising high school junior, is your average teenager who deals with high school drama while working hard to keep her grades up. On the side, however, she is the owner of tepoenggoela.com, a Web site that sells a variety of tarts. With an order-and-delivery system, customers can choose from six small tartlets (5-cm in diameter) at Rp 5,000 (60 cents) a piece or one tartie (13-cm in diameter) at Rp 30,000 a box.
While for many people business start-ups are something to worry about after college, Amanda is unconventional. In an interview, I was able to learn more about her rationale behind starting a business.
“I have seen and experienced how terrible the level of professionalism is in different businesses, which is very unfortunate. This is our chance as young entrepreneurs to prove we can be as professional as adults in running our businesses. Let’s prove that age isn’t a limitation.”
Rather than start a brick-and-mortar bakery, Amanda took a different approach and started an online bakery. Seeing advantages in online start-ups, Amanda emphasized that small capital and resources were one of the many reasons she decided to take that approach.
“The capacity of an online business is virtually limitless, so it can always easily accommodate whatever rate of expansion or growth my business is experiencing,” she said.
Accessibility was also a contributing factor.
“Almost everyone in my network goes online every day, owns a gadget with Internet access and has a Twitter account. So to reach them, my business needs to be accessible through their media,” Amanda said.
Planning her business over the summer, Amanda explained that she was inspired by fellow young entrepreneurs she knew. Starting with a little capital from her parents, she proceeded to create a name for the bakery: TepoengGoela, which she interpreted as a sugary delight: a sweet and edible treat.
The next steps involved incorporating character into the business, Web site design and recipe formulations, along with arranging product marketing and financial aspects of the business.
“I chose to specialize because I want my business to start focused to promote a focal point: fruit tarts. I think a focused business is easier to manage and develop, especially when starting a business from scratch,” she said.
Starting with less than Rp 1 million in capital, she said TepoengGoela had already made a profit of 20 percent on its capital in its opening week of business.
Considering her status as a student, Amanda still has to balance business with both her academic and social lives. “Although not easy at first, I managed to stay focused on my academics while running my business. TepoengGoela is designed to run efficiently and effectively, especially time-wise, so my homework time isn’t stolen,” Amanda explained.
“It does not take much of my time. If I add it all up together, probably about one to two hours in total. The kitchen people take the longest time,” she said with a laugh.
Regarding her social life, Amanda responded that “I don’t need to balance the two. One’s been a part of the other. I deal with customers, receive orders, and promote my business, all through social networking. TepoengGoela has been a part of my social life.”
While the business just recently opened, Amanda has already planned out its future, ranging from new products to expansions in delivery services as well as partnering with restaurants to include her desserts on their menus.
When asked if she had a message for other future young entrepreneurs, she answered, “Be professional, but don’t be adults. Don’t stretch our age to what we are not. We are teenagers, so use that to our advantage. Use your creative ideas, be fun, skip the formalities, view your business as a person with a personality. We can do our business the teenage way!”
While youth entrepreneurship in Indonesia continues to sprout, the local success of Koprol, which was bought by Yahoo last year, has undoubtedly shown the online world to be a gateway for new and young entrepreneurs to experiment and invest in.
Ultimately, the future of entrepreneurship rests in the hands of youths who possess the skills to adapt to the future with their creativity and innovation.