Sarwidi, Becoming His Own Boss

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Escaping the routines of work, my colleague and I left Jakarta for Klaten, Central java, where we coincidently met this inspiring man who had transformed himself from zero to hero. A one-hour conversation with him had really given me a new way of how to perceive this life.

“Hallo, I’m Sarwidi. Welcome to my house,” said a 39 year old humble man while shaking our hands firmly. It was a very heartwarming welcome. Sarwidi is a young local entrepreneur, running a home industry of traditional batik making. He has since the beginning focused on natural batik. We were curious to know what was so natural about his batik. So we decided to stay for awhile at his house at Kebonagung, Kelurahan Jarum, Kecamatan Bayat, a place known for its batik industry.

Sitting in the guest room that appeared to me like a front porch, Sarwidi, proudly put one of his many works on his lap, began to share his story about how he had started the business. 

Having to cope with financial matters at early age, Sarwidi, now 39 years old, was dropped out from school at the age of ten. Since then, he had managed to survive. To him, life was a learning process which was like a curve when sometimes he was placed at the bottom before finally reaching the top.

In 1993, he came to Jakarta and became a street vendor, selling fruit ice in West Jakarta. For millions of people, Jakarta was the best place to find their footing and start a new life. But for Sarwidi, Jakarta was a huge crime scene where people got mugged and stabbed nearly every day. At least that was what he saw at the place he ran the business.

At that time, he met a woman who later became his wife. She worked as a labor at a factory in Tangerang. It was funny to hear his story about how he dated the woman. He had to go back and forth from Jakarta to Tangerang. And despite the little money he earned, he sometimes rode a cab to impress his girlfriend.

Shortly after they got married, he decided to move to Yogyakarta to become a rickshaw driver at Lempuyangan. Thanks to his hardworking and never give up attitude, he could buy two rickshaws and got some loyal customers who mostly were middle class women, riding the rickshaw to the market.  After the tectonic earthquake shook Yogyakarta in 2006, Sarwidi decided to return to Kebonagung. I could say that this was like his turning point that would change his life.

As soon as he returned to Kebonagung, he was strongly determined to start his business in batik making. With the amount of 950.000 rupiah he had saved from riding rickshaw, he bought ten sheets of white fabric and began to make batik. As for the early marketing, he approached those middle class women who used to be his rickshaw customers in Yogyakarta. He rode his old bicycle, came from door to door to offer his batik.

“This is the very first stage of making batik,” said Sarwidi while putting a white, uncolored fabric which had been drawn with a batik motive. 
“I drew all the motives myself. It is something I have been passionate about ever since I was a kid,” Sarwidi continued, claiming that he was a self-taught person.  

Moving to the back of the house, we were taken to the workshop where a group of women were working on fabrics. One woman worked on a silk which was not a regular fabric for batik. It was for a special order. 

What was so natural about the batik was the dye used to color it. All were made from natural materials.
”This plant is called tarum, we pick the leaves to create indigo color,” explained Sarwidi. Before that, the leaves had to be soaked and fermented.

These were some materials used to dye the batik. The bark of mahogany was for reddish color, mango for bluish, coconut for brownish, and the rind of joho (local fruit) was for cream color. All the materials had to be soaked and boiled to extract the colors. 

And if you wonder where he got all the materials, the answer was simple: from the backyard where he dried all the fabrics.

One good part of being a local entrepreneur is that you can empower people surrounding you. That was what happened there too. All the labors working in the workshop were from Kebonagung.

I guessed the hard-working attitude had run in the DNA of Sarwidi's family. His father - deciding not just to sit and relax, considering his age - also worked at the workshop. That day, he was dipping the fabrics to remove the wax from them. 

Sarwidi was aware the importance of internet to promote his natural batik. Every night, he spends few hours surfing in the cyber world, something that was impossible to do six years ago, when he was still a rickshaw driver. He also participates in batik exhibition which is regularly held in some cities like Yogyakarta, Semarang, and Jakarta.

As an entrepreneur who started everything from zero, he was sometimes invited to be a guest lecturer or a speaker at several colleges and seminars.

Before leaving the house, I asked Sarwidi what was the main key to his success. His answer was pretty simple: persistence! Then, he quoted a Javanese proverb which he claimed to be his motto: “Sopo sing tekun pasti tekan,” roughly translated as those who are persistent will reach the point of success.  

As we took off, he gave me his business card and we exchanged our blackberry PIN numbers, promised to keep in touch, and he would welcome us anytime we return to Kebonagung. The meeting was short but I was so impressed that I suddenly thought that our meeting with Sarwidi had been probably not a coincidence. It could have been something set by God. And I believed that. I believed he had been sent to inspire us.

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  1. WOW! baru baca, Pak Sarwidi ini salah satu IKM bimbingan projek CBI, yg kebetulan aku terlibat didalamnya,..coba dari kemaren2 kamu ya yg ngambil foto2 dokumentasi buat projek kami..keren2! :)

    1. Hallo Karin, apa kabar? Waah dunia sempit juga ya ternyata... hahhaha....
      Thanks for the compliment. Lain waktu boleh dong ikut bantuin moto.

  2. Hi Hi,..baik baikkkkk,..sayang projectnya abis bulan ini :( baru sadar kita banyak kekurangan foto buat bikin report projectnya ,soalnya aku kalo ke lokasi bukannya motret tapi kerjain yg laen) -_-"

    1. looking forward to photographing the next project :)