Accountant Turned Hijabster Entrepreneur
By June Ramli
Australian trained accountant Intan Juliana has her work cut out in the next few months.
This serial entrepreneur wants nothing more than for her newfound venture Fitflo Activewear to be one of the top fitness brands in Indonesia for modern and active Muslim women. And she is going all out to make that happen.
The great-grandchild of a historical figure from Ipoh, Perak in the 1800s Eric Maxwell, Intan always believed she needed to be different.
This prompted her to come up with the first sustainable line of activewear in Indonesia.
“I practice yoga and I am also a hijabster.
“I notice that there was a gap in the market for people who wanted to wear modest fitness clothes,” she said in an interview with dailystraits.com recently.
Intan who donned the hijab since 2014 said the present fitness wear brands didn’t cater to someone who looked like her.
“I felt (that) I needed to create something that made me feel comfortable when I am moving as sometimes there are men in the (yoga) class.
“So, I decided to start my own brand to fill in that missing link.
“Alhamdullilah, it has been two years and we have already broken even,” she said.
But the journey was no cakewalk and the Curtin University graduate moved to Indonesia for love.
‘My husband (then boyfriend) and I initially wanted to stay in Perth but that idea had to be shelved as my father-in-law requested him to return (back to Indonesia),” she said.
“I was working in Perth at that time, so I had to stay back to finish my contract. After that I returned to Malaysia because I got a job at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) and worked there for about a year, ” she said.
However, as days went by, Intan and her beau decided to marry.
“Those days, there was no such thing as a video call, so we decided to marry and start a new life in Indonesia,” she said, adding her company offered her a transfer to the Jakarta office but turned it down as she planned to settle in laid-back Bandung instead.
Instead of working for others, her husband had made her his business partner for his transportation and coal business.
This was the catalyst that got Intan into the business world.
“I was in charge of the finance and business is still going strong till today,” she said.
In the last 16 years since moving there, Intan has dabbled into a myriad of businesses including a Sundanese restaurant in Kelana Jaya, a hostel business, a hijab line and was a manufacturer for Jakel Malaysia for some time.
She then decided to take a breather when her mother Esme Wahab Maxwell passed in 2018.
“I just didn’t do anything for six months but soon realised that I couldn’t go on and that’s when I decided to start Fitflo,” she said.
The whole brand was inspired by her love of yoga and the environment and it took about a year to launch from August 2018.
Intan’s constant involvement in the business world helped her a lot in building the brand in a relatively short span of time.
She also said the brand had leveraged on various marketing strategies by using celebrities and influencers to help her promote the brand.
“Word of mouth marketing has also helped a lot.
“We could have expanded even faster but everything slowed down during the pandemic,” she said.
Intan said she had also formed a tribe with five other women brand owners who support each other by doing a lot of marketing and collaboration.
“I am in charge of the design but have since brought in a partner to help with technical stuff like managing the marketplace and website,” she said.
At present, she said the brand only had an online presence.
“We are in Shopee Indonesia and Zalora Indonesia. Our clothes have been sold far and wide to folks living in Australia, Dubai and Singapore,” she said.
She has now set her eyes on expanding the brand.
“We want to include men’s and kids’ wear and accessories like the yoga mats using recycle bottle caps.
“I have no plans to work on other things at the moment as I am solely concentrating in expanding this brand,” she said.
For entrepreneurs wanting to start a business, Intan had this as advice: “ Be consistent when creating and innovating your products.”
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