In the past, it was not easy for an average person to become an entrepreneur. The advent of the Internet technology, however, opened a new era that has given birth to new entrepreneurs. Facts show that many new entrepreneurs start up their businesses with a minimum capital but then gain success because they are able to maximize the opportunities that the Internet has made available.
In today’s world where the digital technology has pervaded into virtually every aspect of life, Harapan Bangsa Institute Technology deems its strategic to anticipate this change by designing curricula that meet the high standards of the industrial world. It is not surprising, then, that many ITHB graduates choose to be entrepreneurs and tread the path to success as online business owners. Meet Maharani Br. Sitepu, 2013 ITHB alumna and founder of Grifabell, an online shop brand that produces and sells shoes for people of all ages and different lifestyles.
As of March 2018, Grifabell has 367 thousand followers on Instagram alone, not to mention its testimonial account, with 37,700 followers. As Rani recalls it, it all started in 2012 when she was struggling with her final academic project at ITHB. She was inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit nurtured at ITHB through the compulsory subject Entrepreneurship and Technopreneurship she took. She began as a reseller of shoes produced by a friend of hers. She chose Instagram, which was then gaining hold as an alternative social media business marketing platform. “I had for quite some time a dream to own a business in the fashion world. I began my marketing strategy by using a typical hashtag. And not even a pair was sold,” Rani recalled.
Rani would not give up. She tried a different strategy, this time using more specific hashtags such as #mode, #style, and #shoetrend. The moment when a customer posted the first testimony after the first transaction began the success story or Rani’s online business. “I reposted the testimony on Instagram and people started to trust my shop and buy the shoes I marketed.”
Rani then came up with another idea to boost up the number of her followers and online sales. She developed a network of communication and barter advertising in a community of (re)sellers on Instagram. This she did while also working for a company following her graduation.
When it became more and more difficult for Rani to attend at the same time both her work and the need to source, pack, and deliver products as a reseller, she pondered on the idea of producing her own shoes. With her experience as a reseller, she decided to produce her footwear products using her own brand.
Grifabell evolved gradually as a shoemaking brand, creating employment opportunities for a handful of manual cordwainers. Currently Grifabell boasts an average monthly turnover of 70 to 100 million rupiah. Grifabell products are sold to buyers from China, Hong Kong, and South Korea. Today, Grifabell has 7 employees who produce shoes with 4 machines. The products have won customers’ trust thanks to Rani’s consistency in maintaining processing and packaging qualities.
Maharani is a proof that an ITHB graduate can have a vision and ability to create change and she founded Grifabell even before online business became a trend. She understands well why conventional retail businesses are losing their dominance in this growing era of online businesses. Reluctant to spend time going to and queuing at conventional stores, customers want more practical, less time-consuming ways of shopping.
To keep up with the current trends, Grifabell also targets potential markets through such e-commerce portals as Bukalapak, Tokopedia, Lazada, and Shoppee, which offer different product and consumer values including free delivery or cash-back deals. “I am always thankful for my education at ITHB. The Rector himself taught me a lot about the spirit of entrepreneurship. My two cents for starting up an online business: do things fast, be honest, don’t even think of buying followers on social media, display pictures of your real products, respond fast, and learn about the latest digital marketing strategies.”aaa