Yasminida is the driving force behind Yasminida Bali, an eco-friendly, sustainable, fair trade company that makes reusable bamboo utensil sets in a specially-designed cloth roll or zip bag, as well as cloth and muslin bags.
BA: Can you tell me how you got started?
Y: Plastic waste is becoming a serious problem in Indonesia. And so about four years ago, I’m starting to really embody change, really cut down my plastic consumption. I don’t use single-use plastic anymore. When I go shopping, I bring my own bags. Indonesia doesn’t really have a waste system. So everyone’s telling us don’t litter, don’t throw garbage and don’t consume plastic, but we’re not being provided with any solutions.
I [wanted to] create an impact on the [plastic problem.] An old boss showed me a wooden reusable cutlery set she got in India. She thought we should make it in Bali, but then I saw them in the market everywhere. There’s nothing special about it. But then my creativity kicked in and I said, Oh, what if I make a casing from beautiful fabric? I think people will like that. I thought about bamboo [for the cutlery]. We’ve been using bamboo for centuries [in Indonesia]. It’s sustainable. So I chose bamboo as our main material.
[We use a] special food grade coating [for the utensils]. I started buying it from a company that has FDA approval and they gave us lessons on how to use it. [So I had a product] that is not really available in the market.
The whole [first] year was just trial and error finding the right material [for the cases] because we practice zero-waste. Everything was an experiment. So we got any scraps or leftover material [from other companies]. I think the first year we were still trying to create an identity. Now I’m more confident saying that we are a sustainable company.
Then we started selling more and more and then people [started saying things] like, Oh, your fork looks funny. We kept open to feedback [from customers] and finally found designs [that everyone liked].
I was [making the cutlery and cases] in my free time. My house was turning into chaos. Then my husband basically said you need to move. So I bit the bullet and decided to rent a space and hire six people at the beginning.
BA: How many people do you have now?
Y: Now we have 30 staff starting six months ago.
BA: Did you plan to hire disabled people? [About 20% of her workers are disabled].
Y: No, we found each other and they have such a strong work ethic. They’re no different from anyone [else]. Whoever show ups and can do the job [I will hire].
BA: What’s your workplace like?
Y: It’s really important to build a good work culture. There’s always issues between staff [but at Yasminida Bali] no one is allowed to talk behind each other’s backs. No one is allowed to make sarcastic jokes, no sexual jokes. I’m basically implementing a family mindset. Also, every role is very important to make an excellent high quality product – no one is more important than anyone else. It’s kind of encouraging everyone to take ownership and responsibility [across the company].
BA: Where do you sell your products?
Y: People can come and visit [our facility]. We have nothing to hide, and everyone can see what we’re doing. We’re running an ethical, sustainable and fair trade company. [They sell through KAFE, Bali Buda and other outlets]. Whatever I do, I [try to ] create an impact in environmental ways. So I’m providing alternative options to single use plastic, something that you can reuse multiple times. And making things really high quality. Whatever we made we want it last for years and we also provide a warranty [for our products].
BA: That’s unusual in Indonesia. Can you tell me more?
Y: If you buy our products, one year down the line it’s broken, we give you a replacement. [We design our products] so we can recycle them. We want to make things sustainable. Also, if [past the warranty], you can return it to us and we’ll give you 50% off a new one. We want people to really change their habits, not get used to throwing things away.
BA: What marketing do you do?
Y: (Laughs) We have zero marketing, except Instagram. [She is so busy that the only time she can find to post on Instagram is while she’s in the loo each morning.]
BA: Do you have any new products planned?
Y: I’m planning to make water bottles, because everything that’s available in the market is from China. I have nothing against China. But I have to think about the carbon footprint because if I buy [products] from there, I don’t know exactly how they made it, I don’t know exactly how they treated their workers. I don’t know how they mine the [materials].
BA: You can’t follow the supply chain.
Y: Yes, all these elements you need to know when you call yourself a sustainable eco friendly company. You have to know every aspect; you cannot just have the slogan of eco friendly. You really have to be able to walk the talk. I refuse to buy anything that comes from overseas, if I can source it locally. Or we make it ourselves. There are a few things that we want to make it in the near future. Like machines [for production]. At the moment, the majority of machines come from overseas. And it will actually cut down a lot of costs in the end.
At the moment, we source our batik locally in Bali. But, about 70% of the material in the market, comes from China, even the ones sold here Indonesia. But, you know, honestly, the textile industry is the most damaging industry. So we have to be really careful, know who we work with. When I find new suppliers, I talk with them. I don’t want to work with a supplier who is using cheap labor. I want to make sure [their workers] have a good working space and stuff like that. We also print ourselves; we probably will have to do it ourselves in the future, making our own fabric. [We are looking into new suppliers] using natural tie-dye, organic fabric, and dyes made from plants. Before any of this, I was really in love with textiles. I love textiles and I think Indonesia is so rich with textiles. I want to travel around Indonesia and buy all kinds of textiles and make products from it and tell stories about every tribe, as [a lot of these traditions are dying out].
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