From Engineer to Fashion Company
Updated: Mar 9
An interview with the co-founder of Kalle Bag, Malika Rizqia Anindita by Elizabeth Harris.
From an engineer to a digital marketer and serial entrepreneur, Malika Rizqia Anindita is one of the founders of Kalle bags. Based in Indonesia, Malika’s company creates beautiful and functional bags for the working woman. She also has a blog sharing stories and reviews of life, running a business, and now being a mother.
I reconnected with Malika (we were friends in college) on her journey from an engineer to now the owner of an accessories company!
Malika, it has been so cool to see you start and grow Kalle after studying entrepreneurship together. What inspired you to pursue fashion after studying engineering?
I have always been fascinated by the idea of entrepreneurship. You identify something that the market wants, you find the gap that has not yet been fulfilled, and you deliver it to your market. It's so interesting and challenging!
In fact, I have been selling clothes and bags while I was studying engineering. That's when I realize that: wow this is much more interesting than the field I was currently studying! And decided to pursue it further until now.
I love the bags at Kalle, and how they combine function and classic fashion. What’s your story behind starting Kalle?
I started selling laptop bags in my college years studying engineering. I was reselling bags, I didn't manufacture them myself. At that time, I realized there was this unmet demand for a fashionable laptop bag for women.
Most of the laptop bags available at that time were for college students, certainly not appropriate for meetings. Or they might be too formal and not stylish. That's the reason my business partner and I created Kalle.
It’s been nearly 3 years since starting and you’ve sold out of bags over the years. That must be so exciting each time! How was it at the start getting Kalle up and running?
It was really challenging at first! I must say, getting a business to start is a lot of work.
Finding the right bag maker was tough. We did not know where to start, so we literally went to this area in my hometown where there were a lot of shoe and bag makers.
They were all handmade and home-based. So we had to knock on doors and ask if they could make the bags that we wanted.
Why not go to large manufacturers? Well, the minimum quantity that they required was too costly for us at that time. It was the only option we had.
And finding the right material, too, was challenging. Most vegan leathers that are strong were too heavy, and the light ones are easily torn. That's why we're super in love with our current material that is lightweight and really strong!
We spoke before about how the pandemic has affected the ebbs and flows of your business. What were some of the challenges you overcame?
At the beginning of the pandemic, around March, the Indonesian government imposed almost a full-scale lockdown. Every office must be closed, and everyone had to work from home. With that, our sales plummeted.
We had several bag makers hired at that time, and it was hard because we really did not want to let them go. Yet, on the other hand, we barely made any sales.
We asked them to make cloth masks at first. They were puzzled by the change, and we did not tell them how we struggled, because we did not want to worry them. We know they had families, and some even have small children.
Then, we pivoted to make hazmat suits for medical workers. We went to a government hospital, showing our material and a sample of a hazmat suit that we made. Thankfully it passed their requirements.
We didn't make any profits for the months that we made the hazmat suits because it was for charity. But we kept our bag makers, and that's what matters.
Once the lockdown restrictions have been relaxed, people were able to go back to work and our sales have once again gone back to where it was before the pandemic. We have even increased our production capacity and are buying new machines.
On your blog Malika, you write about your experiences, and one of the main themes this past year has been about being a working mom running a fashion company during a pandemic. How has that been for you?
My baby boy was born in May 2020, two months after the pandemic. Being a new mom is hard, even more so during a pandemic and when you're trying to keep your business afloat.
I think it's all about trying to do your best with the time and resources that you have, don't strive for perfection.
For instance, I sometimes feel guilty whenever I work on my business while caring for my baby. I feel that I'm not 100% present for him. But on the other hand, I would also feel guilty if I think I haven't done enough for my business! It gets more complicated because I couldn't hire a nanny during a pandemic out of health concerns.
Then I realized that time management is key. There will be times when I will put down my phone and laptop and just play with my baby. But there would also be times when I need to work, and I would make sure he plays by himself safely. And that's okay because you can't possibly do everything at once.
Malika, you have done a lot in your life and career and at Kalle! What are some of your proudest achievements?
I think the first time we hired machines and set up our own bag workshop! It feels so good to have full control over the bags that we make, from the material, quality, and production speed.
And to be able to increase our sales almost 100% from last year also felt really, really good. It's nice to bounce back from the lockdown effect.
What do you have next for yourself and for Kalle?
Going forward, we really want to expand our business, increase our sales, and ship overseas! We currently only ship to Indonesia and Malaysia, and it will be great if we could expand our shipping coverage more.
We also have so many ideas about new bags, both for laptops or daily bags. It's an exciting time to grow because our business has returned to normal now. And people are more optimistic because of the vaccine, and we really hope once the pandemic is over, we could increase our growth even more.
You can keep up to date with Malika’s adventures athttps://malikarizqia.wordpress.com/.