From maid to business owner

Indonesian maid Diyah Supeni. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
Indonesian maid Diyah Supeni. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

WITH her infectious smile and bubbly personality, it is hard to imagine that Indonesian domestic worker Diyah Supeni (right), 41, used to be quiet and timid.

But things changed five years ago when she enrolled in Aidha's courses to learn how to start her own business. There, she learnt to speak with conviction, as well as how to save money for investments.

The single mother of two university-going sons had little savings before, despite having worked in Singapore for seven years. Ms Diyah started saving $50 a month, and gradually increased the amount to $200. "I used to worry about money all the time. But when I learnt to cut down on things I don't need, my savings grew," she says.

Two years ago, with a loan from her employer and $1,500 of her savings, Ms Diyah started a furniture business with her younger sister in their hometown of Kendal in Central Java, Indonesia. That was when the lessons from her Aidha course came in handy.

Doing lots of market research, she started analysing customer needs. She realised many villagers would not be able to afford US$200 (S$254) for furniture - the average price of a sofa at her shop. For villagers earning less than US$100 a month, that seemed like a small fortune.

So she decided to allow her customers to pay for items in monthly instalments of US$20. The business model proved to be an instant hit, and Ms Diyah's shop now reaps a healthy profit of about US$250 each month.

Ms Diyah is now hoping to start a snack factory and employ housewives. "I want to help the women to earn money at home," she says. "Then they won't need to leave their families and go overseas to work as domestic helpers."

AMELIA TAN