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Project Catalyst Entrepreneur Profile #1: Nadya Saib

Our first five participants in Project Catalyst, Jolkona’s new accelerator for social entrepreneurs from developing countries, will come from Indonesia to Seattle. This 2-week intensive workshop will further hone their business plans, gain valuable insights, and meet prospective investors. We can’t wait to welcome them to our offices on June 8!

Over the next three weeks, we will profile each entrepreneur. Our first feature is Nadya Saib, 27, whose project, Wangsa Jelita, produces non-toxic, natural personal care products to address environmental issues of waste while empowering local farmers and artisans. Read below to see what Nadya has to say about her nephews, about entrepreneurship, about rose farmers, and more.

Q: Outside of this project and work, what else do you do for fun in Indonesia? What other passions do you have?

I think everyone has their own definition of fun. For me, playing with and poking fun at my nephews is so much fun. I consider my family as one of the most significant elements in my life, so spending quality time with them, whenever possible, is one of the best ways to spend my time outside of work. Once in a while, I speak about entrepreneurship to youth, students, and other fellow entrepreneurs. I find sharing as a good reminder for me. I’m also part of the Global Shapers Jakarta Hub, an initiative under the World Economic Forum. Being part of this group gives me the chance to meet like-minded people, which triggers an inspirational jolt in me. For me, that is fun too.

Wangsa Jelita slide campaignQ: So, what inspired you to start this venture?

The fact that there is no pharmaceutical regulation of the word “natural” encouraged my two friends and me to create something that would embody the true concept of “natural.” That was the initial idea. So right after we got our bachelor degrees back in 2008, the three of us, pharmacists by training, started “Wangsa Jelita”–which means “Beautiful Dynasty.” We carefully chose only “good” ingredients to put in our formulation of personal care products and picked out the best processes to make them. It was a kind of hobby at first, something we enjoyed doing, something we were excited about. About a year after that, we met local farmers by chance, and we were inspired to expand Wangsa Jelita. The spirit of introducing and producing truly natural personal care products remains the same, but the way we conduct our business has evolved–from a traditional profit maximizing business to a social enterprise that empowers local communities.

Q: Tell us a story of a person who has benefited from your program.

I suppose I should tell you about the moment when my team told rose farmers about the idea of utilizing the roses to produce soaps. Some laughed, some asked whether we can make soap out of other kinds of flowers and/or veggies, some didn’t see the value in doing so. But the best thing was that most of them wanted to know more about our idea and wanted to take part. We held a year-long program to teach women farmers to add value to their roses by producing rose water extract and rose soaps. In an interview, a rose farmer said that she’s proud of herself for having new skill as well augmenting her family income.

Q: What is one obstacle you have faced in running the program? How did you overcome it?

I’ve learned to contend with my assumptions; may it be about how the business should be run, or how to maintain the relationships with the communities and customers, or even what kind of products should be developed. I think every leader has their own assumption and sometimes, they have the tendency to be very firm about it, and I’ve learned that this tendency has the potential to harm the company. The first step of how I overcame it was by acknowledging it. Our job is finding the best path should be taken so that the company can meet its goals, to serve more people. So the next step I took was teaching myself and my team to listen to our stakeholders more, and to listen carefully. And I found that this way has made a big difference to me and my team, particularly in our way to run the business.

Q: What are you looking forward to when you come to the United States as a part of Project Catalyst?

Foremost, meeting the mentors is what I’m very much looking forward to. It always excites me to meet people who have been there and done that. I really wish I can learn as much as possible from Project Catalyst, and hopefully, in one way or another, I, too, can benefit everyone I encounter in the program.

We are very excited to have Nadya Saib here in Seattle! If you are interested in helping these amazing entrepreneurs, Project Catalyst is recruiting for mentors, coaches and hosts! If you are available between June 8 and 22, please contact catalyst@jolkona.org.

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