Commemorating Kartini Day – 3 Inspiring Women Entrepreneurs from Indonesia in 2018

kartini portrait and kartini school

On the 21st of April, Indonesians was celebrating Hari Kartini (Kartini’s Day). It is a day to commemorate and remember the Indonesian hero of women empowerment – Raden Ajeng Kartini (or Ibu Kartini). She is a pioneer in the area of women’s right and advocating education for female youth in Indonesia.

The Story behind Ibu Kartini

Born into a noble family on April 21, 1879 in Jepara, Central Java, RA Kartini was the daughter of the Assistant Head of Regency. Unfortunately, Java was ruled by the Dutch colonial administration and back then Indonesian women’s access to higher education was restricted. This is very contrasting with Dutch women who had the freedom to make their own life decisions, including pursuing education.

Kartini was very eager to pursue her higher education, but she was not allowed by her parents. Disappointed with her parent’s strict decision, she was determined to change her circumstances and shape her own destiny. At the age of 12, she stopped schooling to enter seclusion in accordance with the traditions of Javanese nobility. It was then when she started her fight for women to be educated by writing letters to her friends abroad. Through her letters, she passionately wrote about the discrimination and advocated the improvement of education, economic welfare, and public health in Indonesia. The compilation of those letters was eventually published as a book, called Door duisternis tot licht (“Through Darkness into Light”).

In 1903, she was married to the Regent of Rembang, Raden Adipati Joyodiningrat. With her husband’s support she established the first ever all-girls school (‘Kartini’s School’) for the daughters of Javanese officials, complete with her own system and syllabus as well. Sadly, she passed away after the birth of her first child in 1904 at the age of 25.

After she passed away, the book Door Duistermis tox Licht was read by many women until today, and it became a positive inspiration and a source of motivation to Indonesian women.

To commemorate her legacy and struggles, we would like to talk about 3 modern-day Indonesian women who have achieved great entrepreneurial success in the startup industry:

1. Diajeng Lestari, CEO of HijUp

HijUp is an e-commerce startup launched by Diajeng Lestari. The business focuses on selling clothes and accessories specifically for Indonesian Muslims. Diajeng first entered university in 2004, which was also the year when her father’s telco company went bankrupt. Consequently, as the 3rd child among eight siblings, she decided to take on part-time jobs, such as teaching and selling Hijabs and cakes, to earn additional income to support her family. It was through these side hustles that she had the opportunity to gain valuable experience that builds her character.

After graduating from Universitas Indonesia (UI) with a Bachelor Degree in Politics, she started working as a market researcher. Not long after, she got married to Achmad Zaki, Founder of BakaLapak, which was when she decided to quit her job to become a housewife and explore building her own business.

Her primary aspiration of establishing HijUp is to empower Muslim women who wears hijab to always feel confident. She discovered that the Muslim fashion industry has great market potential in Indonesia, which also happens to have one of the largest Muslim population globally.

However, just like many other entrepreneurs, she made many mistakes at the beginning. In fact, people often criticized her business – from the company name to the quality of the photos promoting her products. Additionally, it was a huge challenge for her to convince the tenants, investors, and designers to use her products. The only silver lining was that she had her husband supporting her through her hardships and business endeavours. She also attended many seminars and events to improve her business knowledge and expand her network.

After those tough years, HijUp has started expanded to the international market and now bringing in several million USD of revenue. The key success to her business is her innovative digital marketing strategies and her courage to persevere through the hardships.


2. Veronika Linardi, CEO of Qerja

Before founding Qerja, Veronica was the Founder of Linardi Associates, a recruitment consulting firm that has helped hundreds of multinational companies to find the right candidates. After gaining much experience in the field of HR and recruitment, she was inspired to create a transparent platform that offers career information covering aspects such as salaries, job vacancies, and company reviews in Indonesia. She also wanted to provide young talents with articles and tips to help with their professional development. Collectively, this was how Qerja was established in 2014.

Veronika Linardi’s mission is to create a one-stop career advice portal to provide people with information to help them make good career decisions.

Although Veronika did not have much IT expertise, her experience of establishing Linardi Associates proved to be very useful. She has an extensive professional network and her great relationships with the CEOs of her previous clients helped her in getting investors for this venture. After only 8 months of operation, Qerja successfully raised their Series A funding from SB ISAT Fund, which is a collaboration between SoftBank and Indosat. Through this funding, Qerja went on to achieve an 8-digit US dollar valuation, becoming one of the top startups in Southeast Asia in terms of valuation.

Qerja currently has thousands of members and fast-growing to become a leading platform for career development in Indonesia.

Related: The Unicorns of Southeast Asia: Meet the CEOs Behind Indonesia’s 4 Biggest Startups


3. Aulia Halimatussadiah, CEO of

Born in Yogyakarta, Aulia Halimatussadiah (Ollie) is an author of 29 books and CEO of, an online self-publishing platform where anyone can write a book and self-publish without having to go through a publisher.

Ollie is truly passionate with reading and writing great content. Part of how her idea of was conceived was when she noticed that many writers face great difficulties in getting their books published. It is no secret that the process of negotiation and agreements with the reputable publishers can be extremely tedious and difficult. She has also personally experienced this and faced rejection from many publishers in the past. Thus with 3 other colleagues (Oka Pratama, Brilliant Yoteenega, and Angel), Ollie officially launched their new startup named on October 8, 2010.

Basically, there are 2 main services provided by

  • Pre-Publishing Services: Editing, formatting, photos, cover designs, ISBN generation, ghostwriting, and translating services
  • Marketing Services: Social media, marketing kits, promo websites, and other platforms

Due to her contributions to the world of literacy, Ollie was formally recognized and received an award from the Ministry of Communication and Informatics RI as the Kartini Next Generation, Inspiring Woman in ICT 2013.


What a great inspiration for many women all over the world to remain passionate, strive for your dreams, and pursue your career!


Related: Resilience as a Trait for Success: What These Startups Can Teach Us on Grit


Written by: Josandy Maha Putra

Born in Bukittinggi, Indonesia, Josandy graduated from University Utara Malaysia (UUM) with Bachelor Degree in International Business Management. In his study period, he was elected as the President of International Students Society (ISSUUM) the first President from Asia and started to proceeded to engage in different cultures on his campus. He used to be part of ASEAN Future Leaders Summit, as a participant in 2016 and as a committee member in 2017.

Currently joining as part of the Research and Development team because he is passionate about leadership and self-development. Grateful for joining the team, he makes sure that his article will help many Millennials to flourish.

Feature Image is CC0 Licensed: Free for Commercial Use, No Attribution Needed


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