"Health," says Melinda Sutikno, founder of activewear brand Anya Active, "looks different on every body". We sit with the founder of an activewear brand dedicated to the fit and confidence of all their customers.
Sutikno started Anya Active in the unprecedented environment of Singapore's circuit-breaker era (April 2020), the equivalent of many nations' lockdown periods. Undaunted, Sutikno started with the mission to encourage more women to adopt a healthy lifestyle and embrace their bodies -- and she is just getting started.
"We design our pieces to flatter the women's body - we want women to put Anya on and feel good and confident." Anya Active wants to ensure accessibility of the brand's activewear: affordability, sizing, and designs that flatter and support different body types. Design functionality is critical: from pockets and longline bras suitable for casual wear or work to back clasps and adjustable straps of ease of wear and customisable fit. Sutikno's dedication to the fit and comfort of women of diverse body shapes and sizes can be seen in Anya's meticulous effort to understand and then design activewear for different body types, not simply a single fit model.
Her painstaking care is rewarded with a success that "goes beyond numbers". Sutikno recounts a customer personally thanking her for creating activewear that suited her body type. "I saw how she felt when looking at herself in the mirror -- she was excited, confident, and felt good in her body. That, to me, is priceless". By actively building a community around Anya's purpose through offline activations such as community classes, Sutikno can meet and personally engage with her customer's desires and demands.
"It gets easier. Every day it gets a little easier, but you gotta do it every day. That's the hard part." -- Bojack Horseman (TV Show)
Underneath the joy of engaging with happy customers, Sutikno walks us through the stumbles and lessons learnt to get her to this place. She recounts past incidents of launching collections that were not as well-received due to inconsistencies in sizing relative to previous collections. This error resulted in increased operational costs due to product exchanges and affected the brand. Sutikno's decided to sit down and analyse the root causes of this tactical error -- something every entrepreneur must do in the face of a setback. She shared the three root causes of this tactical mistake. Firstly, she put "too much focus" on numbers by emphasising revenue targets at the expense of other factors such as Anya's branding. She also realised that she was stretched too thin in the process and needed to trust and hire new team members to improve the standard of each task better. Finally, she shared the importance of being more detail-oriented and the need to take the necessary time to test the products before delivery. Sutikno's honesty and self-reflection is a key takeaway for all entrepreneurs -- at the end of the day, it is only with such levels of self-honesty can one hope to improve in the long game of building purposeful businesses.
Sutikno also attributes her progress to her people: her partner who encouraged her open-minded resilience and her friends and mentors who pushed her to go beyond her comfort zone and start Anya, despite the initial discomfort. "Yes, I can do it. If I can't now, I can find ways to learn so that I would be able to do it." Led by a founder who truly embodies her brand's purpose, Anya Active will go far.