Should You Start a Biz With Friends? The Juara Founders–and Besties–Weigh In
Rice. Turmeric. Tea. Red Sandalwood. Candlenut Oil. Tamarind.
What do they all have in common aside of being fit for human consumption? Well, in the hands of Metta Murdaya, Yoshiko Roth, Jill Sung and Tami Chuang, they’re all ingredients used to formulate products for Juara, an all natural skin care company.
These four culturally diverse young women decided to start this Indonesian-inspired, plant-based skincare business, despite not having the typical business school experience.
While that in and of itself might be a daunting undertaking, the women defied another potential business no-no: setting up shop with friends. Many entrepreneurs warn against launching a start-up with people close to you because the inevitable stress that comes with building a business can be a relationship-killer. But this group was undaunted and driven.
Like A Boss Girls spoke to these entrepreneurs about entrepreneurship, dealing with challenges and remaining friends while doing it.
LABG: How did Juara come about?
METTA: The idea came about 10 years ago when I was working in a large corporation, realizing I was on a stressful fast track to move up into a career I really didn’t want.
I started thinking about an centuries-old Indonesian tradition using natural roots, plants, flowers and fruits, called jamu. I started researching ways I could incorporate ingredients in the herbal tradition with everyday living. From there, it evolved into a beauty ritual that restored me–by creating a skincare line that helped me and my skin battle in a natural way, with an elegance of products I found enjoyable to use.
JILL: Metta rounded us all up in 2004 with an idea about natural skincare routines all about maintaining health based on Indonesian traditional medicine, like using kombucha for the skin. The story was so tasty, like the recipes she showed us for daily health and Bali skin spa rituals, that we all signed on–heart, mind and soul!
YOSHIKO: While I really liked my job, the idea of creating a brand from scratch based on an ancient tradition was absolutely fascinating and sharing that vision with the world was irresistible. Plus, I really believed in Metta not only as a friend, but as a business partner and visionary, as I did in my two other business partners, so it was no question–I wanted to be on board!
LABG: What were some of your biggest challenges as fledgling entrepreneurs? What was scary?
YOSHIKO: I don’t think we realized how little is actually in your control. You discover you can do everything right and yet things don’t immediately work out the way you thought they would. And to me, that lack of control was initially quite scary.
METTA: I think if I stopped to think more, a lot of things should have scared me. But there’s a hair of truth to, “ignorance is bliss.” We were new to the industry, and sometimes underestimated the cost and effort required to break into a competitive industry without experience or any real contacts. It was scary to not know if our efforts would work or if people would like our products and story of Indonesian botanicals because the whole idea of a prestige skincare line that was natural and based on an exotic tradition was so new–but we believed in it, and in time, people paid attention.
LABG: What is it like when you’re working with business partners that are also long-time friends?
METTA: We had to find the balance between how to agree and disagree with friends who become business partners and how to maximize partnerships and stay focused. We as individuals learned about ourselves and grew a lot–and it really worked out well.
JILL: It was a challenge learning how to be a good partner and friend in the face of disagreeing on something that matters to you. But I was lucky because my partners are all patient, industrious, kind, well-meaning and generous. It’s always scary to try something new but it’s great to have the support and kinship of my partners.
LABG: What advice what you give young women who want to become entrepreneurs themselves?
JILL: Know that starting a business takes time and dedication. You will work long hours and think about your company all of time…but you will do it, because you love it. And you can’t do it alone!
YOSHIKO: Connect with people in the business or who have launched similar businesses themselves to learn about their experience and to get feedback about your idea and how you think you will go about doing it. Don’t be afraid to ask detailed questions. But also know that ultimately you are the one making the decision to go forward, so take the time to also reflect about who you are and how much risk you are willing to stomach.
METTA: Have the courage to follow your dreams. But it’s also not an all-or-nothing thing, meaning don’t quit the day job until you figure out that your idea is something you really want to do.
And make sure there’s a viable market for it. We created Juara based on a belief and a passion, but did a pretty significant proof of concept to check viability. We also checked in personally to see if we were really up to do the heavy lifting to get there. I’m really glad we did, since it turned out to take more effort and time than we expected. So start one step at a time, check in with yourself often and you’ll get there!