Fashion blogger Diana Rikasari. (Beritasatu Photo/Angguni Suminarto)

Diana Rikasari: From Blogging to Boardroom

FEBRUARY 10, 2015

Fashion blogger Diana Rikasari. (Beritasatu Photo/Angguni Suminarto)

"Motherhood has been very messy -- but a beautiful mess," fashion blogger Diana Rikasari said while getting herself comfortable in her seat during a recent visit to the Jakarta Globe newsroom.

"It's pretty fun, because I'm running my own business, blogging, I have new projects on the way, I have my new book and I don't have a baby-sitter. I have to do everything at home, so my baby would be in the play pen, and I'd be working. But it's fun. It's very hectic."

For small talk, it sure sounded like a lot to anyone listening. But being articulate in her explanation, jumping at each questions with firm answers every time, only stopping once throughout the 45-minute interview to quickly gather her thoughts, Diana easily oozed determination and considered passion -- two handy qualities that have brought her a long way.

She admitted to never having planned her life to turn out the way it has: becoming a local fashion icon, running a shoe label with a consistently growing customer base, becoming a social media sensation, and then some.

An old pair of chucks, ripped jeans and a simple white T-shirt were the closest she got to the world of fashion back in her days as an engineering student at the University of Indonesia.

It was a few years later, around the time she was studying for a master's degree at Nottingham University in England, that her life took a detour.

"I think it's because I fell in love," she said with a laugh.

"I met my then boyfriend, now husband, while studying for my masters ... and once I fell in love, I found my girly side. All of a sudden I started liking fashion and I wanted to try different things, and that's about the time I created the blog, got into photography, and everything just flowed from there."

In her blog, titled simply "Hot Chocolate Mint" -- named after a drink she used to order from Starbucks during her studying days -- Diana has for years documented events in her life, big and small, and the bright, colorful outfits she wore through them all.

Patience over passion

In 2011, four years since she first begun sharing her life's story and her quirky sense of fashion to the world, she established her own shoe label, known as Up. Now, four years after its establishment, the brand business is growing stronger than ever, despite a few expected hiccups.

Some 90 percent of Up's customers are based in Indonesia, while 5 percent are scattered across neighboring countries such as Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia.

"This year our goal is to expand the Malaysia and Singapore market, because we see a lot of demand from them. But the problem is they find the shipping cost too expensive, so we're trying to figure out a way to curb the shipping cost," she said.

"Can I say that my investment is patience?" Diana answered, when asked to pick between money or time as her biggest investment for the business.

"I see that many startups fail after a year, because they were not patient enough. They get carried away when they're doing business, rent a certain space, hire a lot of people, but end up with insufficient sales to cover up the costs, hence failing only after a year. But I started very patiently," she said matter-of-factly.

In the first year of her business, Diana handled every aspect of the business on her own, from customer service to accounting, with little help. It was awhile after she started that Diana begun hiring -- one qualified person at a time. And this, too, was about the time life came full circle for her.

One of her very first hires was her very own dad, a retired central bank worker, who now manages the financial aspects of her business.

"Literally, my dad is now on my payroll. I was like, 'dad, you're getting old and you're not doing anything at home, why not work for me -- and he said 'OK,' " she said. "He asked what he needed to do, and I then taught him this and that. But he's very slow on social media."

The business has gone from being run from a small office, to employing nearly 40 people in total, with the administration side of things taking place in a much bigger space decorated to clearly reflect the unique taste she is most commonly known for. Bright colors, quirky decorations and patterns mix together across the room, pictures of which she would often share to her hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers.

Her patience also takes form in her designing.

"[Up] is a shoe line, and we specialize in wedges. I wanted to just build that brand positioning, for people to associate Up with wedges. For two years, I launched nothing but wedges. People have often asked me why I don't release new models like boots or stilettos. Well, patience," she said.

After two years of wedges, the line started releasing other designs such as heels and sandals, and later, boots.

A book to inspire

With a bigger team to back her up now, Diana finally has time to do a great many other things, including caring for her family, although she admits delegating tasks to be difficult at first.

In November last year, she released a book filled with short musings on life and love that she hopes would inspire people who follow her work and others out there. Shortly after its launch, the book, "88 Love, Life" became a best seller at the Gramedia chain of bookstores.

"We did not intend for the book to be a hit. I just really wanted to make something from my heart. I wanted to make a collectible book, one that's pretty, photogenic, and I guess it's something new and interesting, and it's also very light reading, so the response has been very positive," she said.

Her creativity doesn't just stop there. With a huge following on social media, Diana made sure the release of the book was well documented online.

A website was setup as a gallery for beautiful pictures of her book taken by fans are available on display to the world. A special Instagram account was also setup to ensure interaction with her audience by reposting their pictures, giving fans a sense of pride when interacting.

Staying true to blogging

But in between her family, her book, and managing her social media accounts, Diana admits she remains true and faithful to the platform where things started out for her.

"I still write every day. Haven't stopped for the past seven years," she said, adding that she also had little interest in changing her domain to a dot-com platform.

"Many people ask me [why I keep the domain]. The hesitation is because I feel like I owe my life to blogspot, and by keeping that name, I'm giving the platform the credits they deserve."

"Blogging has been free, but look where it brought me. Everything happened because of my blog," she said.