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  • Writer's pictureNurmasita Anawula

Nicole Jizhar: Facing a Systemic Barriers in Entrepreneurship

Updated: Mar 25

Nona Woman, a women’s health startup, launched on March 8th 2021. Before initiating Nona Woman, Nicole has worked in her family business and is still working there until now. At first, there were two co-founders of Nona Woman, Nicole Jizhar and Monica Pranatajaya. For a long time, their activity with Nona Woman was community building. They launched an app in November 2021, then followed by product launching in August 2022. 

She shared her experience in facing the long complicated regulations in Indonesia. When Nona Woman was in the process of launching a product, they encountered difficulties in registering their products and licenses. And, they also had to rebrand due to intellectual property rights because the name of their business was registered by another business. Another challenge that they encountered was finding local partners or suppliers that could produce up to their standard. In her experience, suppliers from outside Indonesia, for example China, are more attractive than the ones they meet in Indonesia. 

One of their proudest accomplishments is more and more people talk about periods and sexual education more openly. Nona Woman inspire other brands to start talking about these considered taboo topics

What are the challenges you faced while being a female entrepreneur?

The biggest challenge is regulation and licensing. This has always been a big challenge in Indonesia, even as small as registering brands' copyright. Nona was already taken by someone else, when we launched we didn't immediately register the brand, because we were one of the first ones to create Instagram, one of the competitors who wanted to create it after us, he registered us as having a brand. Regarding permits, it takes a very, very long time, especially since the Ministry of Health is sometimes down for months, from December to January they were fixing the system so they couldn't process it.So, one of the biggest challenges is licensing, legal, rights, branding. It's just something all business owners have to face in Indonesia. So our process is being delayed for a long time because of this

How does this affect your business performance?

We want the product to launch much earlier so it is delayed for months, not just a few weeks. Can be half a year, can be 1 year. The process of getting the product to the market is very, very long, especially since we were only entrepreneurs with 2 co founders at first, now there are 3. So it has been a lot of delay and a lot of extra money that has to be spent. For example, we have to re-register twice, for HAKI because the brand has been taken by someone else so we have to change the brand from Nona to Nona Woman, we have to change the packaging. So a lot of extra money that must be spent.

How do you overcome the challenges?

At the end of the day, securing capital is crucial to grow a business but can be particularly challenging for female entrepreneurs, who often face disparities in doing so compared to our male counterparts. For Nona, we obtained some grant money early on from several start up competitions to help us get off the ground. While VC funding seemed attractive, we saw some disadvantages (especially for women) such as giving up control and decreased flexibility to juggle other commitments. It becomes tougher when competitors receive funding, making them able to be more aggressive compared to startups that bootstrap. Exploring alternative types of funding (e.g. angel investors, bank loans, etc.) would be beneficial for entrepreneurs, but it must be paired with clear information on what the available sources were, how to pick the most suitable ones, and how to successfully secure it to grow the business.

What do female entrepreneurs have to be successful?

Support from the government:

Not only for female entrepreneurs, but for all companies that want to take off. It is really difficult to follow regulations and start up a business. If we compare it to other countries, it is very challenging. This makes starting up a business not attractive in the first place. In Singapore for example, if you want to register your business as a limited liability company (or PT in Indonesia), it takes only half an hour and could be done fully online and you do not have to come physically. However, here in Indonesia if you want to do the same takes a lot of time, you have to go back and forth and it is still manual (not as systematic as in Singapore), and the online system has many issues; the offline-online system is very much not clear or blurry. When the pandemic hit, we still had to come down to the government’s office to register, when we were there, the people in charge were not there. Then , the system transitioned to online due to the pandemic, and the system often went down, it could go down for a month. When we wanted to register our pads, the system went down in December to January and we could not do anything, the support team also cannot do anything. So, there is a bottleneck on the system. It’s very very annoying and there were too many challenges that made us want to give up. If there are too many challenges, who wants to face that challenge, especially if they are preoccupied in their domestic areas (household).  There is a lot that the government can do to ease up these challenges for business owners. 

What impacts do you want to give to others?

One thing that really motivates us is the impact that we have felt towards people. We notice this through our interactions with our followers/customers on Instagram. From the messages that we receive, we feel very blessed. They share their stories on periods and successful pregnancies with us. So, all these personal stories, all the little wins, maybe they were ashamed to be talking about this before but now they feel more confident. It’s those things that motivate us to touch our followers and now our customers, not just followers. We get comments on our products that our products are life-changing and it’s actually worth it to spend more money on them. Probably before our products, there were not many comfortable period products and not many choices. If we compare it to abroad, for example London, there are various period products that are available on the market. Maybe people do not know that pads could be fun and comfortable. Our mission is to give better products to more people with affordable prices. Compared to imported pads, our products are considered much cheaper. I think that is the biggest impact that we want.

Is there any activity or particular actions in support of women?

From hiring, we only look for people who have the same mission in women empowerment. We choose young women so they can build their portfolio. Our messaging and branding are very girl power, we have a sticker that says “the future is female”. That is our messaging, very feminist. 

We also interact with other accounts on Instagram such as Indonesia Feminis. So, a lot of those communities and we collaborate with communities such as Rahasia Gadis. Our community, messaging, and branding are women-focused. We work with other inspiring female leaders, we have a series, Nona Chat Podcast,  that is a personal interview. We ask their challenges, burnout stories, how they build their successful careers, and lastly we always ask them about their health and period stories. We want to show our listeners/followers/customers that these successful women also have their health importance, their vision on women empowerment. Our interviewees, communities, and podcast very much focus on that. 

Our products are all very women focused, we prioritize women's health that has more benefits and as a form of self-care and investing in yourself as a woman. In the future,we will develop more women's products. We have a very big emphasis on our social work or charity work or CSR (community/social responsibility). Every year we have a fundraiser, for every purchase of pads there is one portion that we dedicate for CSR initiatives. We have pads donations for several foundations. Back in early 2021, we collaborated with Biyung. Biyung is a local business in Yogyakarta that produces cloth menstrual pads from batik cloth. When people wash their cloth pads and hang them they look cute and pretty; it’s something that they are proud of. The cloth itself is cute. We work to fund 4.000 or 5.000 reusable pads. The seamstresses are women in Papua. We give them the fabrics and sewing machines. They learn how to make it and they can sell them and use the pads for themselves. So, it’s creating an economic system as well. 

We had workshops in several areas in Papua. These regions lack sexual education, so there were many early unwanted pregnancies. There was a 12 year old girl who was pregnant, and they could not support or abort the babies, so when she gave birth to the babies they immediately buried the babies. We held the workshop twice and the community leader said that they have felt the change after we gave a sexual education workshop. 

We work with local communities as well. We are based in Jakarta, so we work with local communities for education, workshops and universities. We also work with several schools and companies. If the company has many female employees, we hold workshops. We give free pads. We educate restaurants, gyms, and studios on the importance of giving free period products. We have a pitch deck that shows by giving period products, the attendance to schools could increase. If females suddenly get periods they could use the available pads. This is one of the initiatives that we have and some brands follow on our paths. 

What are your hopes for the progress of female entrepreneurs in Indonesia?

It would be great to see women founded businesses in general, abroad they are proud when their business is women-owned. They put it in Instagram bio, the brand is women-owned and it’s a selling point. For example, at Sephora you can filter by brand now which is very supportive, for example Black-owned or Black-women owned. So, diversity is really celebrated abroad. On the contrary, in Indonesia, it seems that this is not the case, women-owned businesses are not yet fully-celebrated. I want women-owned businesses to be seen as a positive thing and something that is a differentiator. And many competitors support this woman but are founded by men, it's a bit hypocritical. Why can’t it be the woman who founded it? I wonder why can’t more women do it like that. That’s my hope. 

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