Six years back, school dropout Dody Syah Saputra would not dare to dream to become independent as he is now. Today, the 20-year-old has birthed his own small sewing business. Marcella Purnama brings you the story.
A beaming youth with big heart is how you would describe Dody. Meeting him in his rental workplace in Srengseng, Jakarta, Dody wears a dark grey t-shirt and blue jeans. We sit on the floor where piles of different fabrics lie. He smiles nervously, and yet while he has a difficult childhood, the spark of a little boy never leaves his eyes.
“I was born in Majalengka, West Java,” Dody says.
“I am the second child of six. My youngest siblings are two-year-old twins.”
Since young, Dody’s father works in Jakarta as a bajaj driver. His mother used to work in Middle East to provide extra earnings. Now, she’s a housewife taking care of Dody’s four younger siblings.
Left alone in Majalengka, Dody, 14 at that time, decided to move to Jakarta to be reunited with his parents and older sister. He brought along his Primary School graduation certificate with him.
“In a sense, I ran away,” Dody says.
“All my family is here in Jakarta and yet I was left alone with some relatives in Majalengka. I was lonely. I wanted to be with my family.”
For the first six months, Dody didn’t really do anything, as his father didn’t allow him to go to work. However, his family lacked the money to get Dody back to school.
“Actually, I did not have the chance to work in Jakarta,” Dody says.
“My Father always encourages me to not find work. He said, ‘Don’t go to work, you must go back to school.’”
However, during those times, Dody used to join his friends to become a three-in-one jockey to get extra cash. He did basking once, but left the profession as he didn’t like the system.
Dody first encountered Rumah Belajar (RB), or House of Learning and Development, a school built for underprivileged children who have dropped out of school, through his older sister by three years, Mela. Seeing his older sister continued her education, an interest to learn engulfed Dody. He then joined the school to take his student profession back.
“I didn’t dare to dream to be given this opportunity,” Dody says.
“I got my senior high school certificate in October 2011.”
During his time in school, Dody finds his interest to lie in fashion design. He starts to draw girls’ clothing in his spare time, and then joining sewing classes provided by the school.
“It was not really my initiative,” Dody says.
“My teacher, Mr. Purwanto, invited me to join the sewing classes. There, I learned a lot of stuffs.”
Upon his graduation, in a selection process among the alumni, YCAB Foundation decided to supply him with seed capital of two sewing machines and a handful of other materials to kick start his career. From there, Dody starts to produce bags, clothes, iPad and computer covers, and many other products. He used denim material as his trademark as it can be easily produced with his machines.
A dream comes true
Right now, Dody can make 10-15 pieces a day. He wakes up at 7am every morning, then works until about 6pm with one hour break in between. If he has a deadline, he works until late, even on the weekends.
His business then expands and he recruits a friend, also a RB alumnus, Rizal, to help him. Dody is now earning enough for him and his partner.
When asked about his dream, Dody admitted with a laugh that during his childhood, he wanted to become a singer. Later in life, Dody dreamed to become a businessman.
“I really want to become a businessman, even though I really don’t know how to realise that dream,” Dody says.
“But I really want to be one.”
Today, his business runs as he gets orders from YCAB Foundation, as well as getting extra money from door-to-door sale.
“My plan for the future is to focus on the marketing side instead of the production,” Dody says.
“I love to interact with people. I like to sell my products directly. That way, I can see if whether my customers like or don’t like my sales. It makes me happy if they say they like my products.”
When asked if whether Dody wants to go pursue further study, without skipping a beat, Dody says with his eyes beaming, “Yes. I want to study Public Relation in university. My parents also support me, but there’s still no way to go back to school.”
Upon parting, Dody tells me his dream for the future.
“I want to provide for my young siblings’ education,” Dody says.
“I have to put my brothers and sisters to higher education.
“I don’t want my siblings to pursue an education like me; I want them to pursue an education higher than me.”