Agustina Diana Sitanggang, or Diana to her friends, had not expected that she would establish a business with her five friends at her young age. This 24-years-old woman from Sarotari village, Larantuka district, East Flores regency, East Nusa Tenggara, has started selling her own tuna and skipjack tuna-based fish balls under the Diana’s bakso brand, since September 2021.
It started a year after she decided to quit her job in a fish processing factory in East Flores. She was then invited to participate in the Training on Entrepreneurship, Access to Financial Institutions and Development of Fish Produce held by the Pondok Pergerakan in September 2021.
The training was part of the Employment and Livelihood project supported by ILO and three United Nations (UN) agencies in Indonesia. This project was funded by the UN COVID-19 Response and Recovery Multi-Partner Trust Fund (UN-MTPF) and aimed to provide equal opportunities for vulnerable groups in improving their income and quality of life.
In this training, women’s groups, village community members, former migrant workers, people with disabilities, and youth groups were trained to gain income by establishing new businesses or developing existing ones by taking advantage of the rich maritime resources in their local areas.
“The processing industry will contribute significantly for the local economy that has been depending on raw material sale. We hope that this skill improvement and entrepreneurship training will be beneficial for business owners or people who want to start a business to process local resources such as the fishery sector in East Nusa Tenggara,” said Navitri Putri Guillaume, ILO’s National Project Officer in Jakarta.
Diana explained that she felt challenged to start her own fish processing business when, during the training, the participants were asked whether they had any good business ideas related to the potential maritime resources in East Flores. She explained that while they had abundant maritime resources, they were still traditionally processed. “Fish would only be processed very minimally for household consumption or sold directly outside of East Flores,” said Diana.
She added that so far it is only tuna and skipjack tuna from Maumere, Sikka regency that is well-known. Fish products are also famously known to originate from Maumere although the raw material comes from East Flores. “Our fishermen catch the fish but since they send their catch directly to Maumere, it is Maumere’s fishermen or fish that are now known widely,” she said.
She believes that the fish processing business is the first step to modernise the fishing industry in East Flores. The young generation, she argues, must share the responsibility in creating additional values for the fish caught by the fishermen.
Besides adding economic values, she also thinks that the processed products will open a way to introduce fish products from East Flores to a wider community and even to the global market.
Diana explained that the 6-days entrepreneurship training she had participated in has provided her a lot of new knowledge. She learned how to recognise potential business ideas, encourage intergroup cooperation, plan and manage finance, calculate production and marketing costs, and process fish.
“I came to realise that setting the correct sale price, promoting and providing quality assurance of my products are the foundation for a successful business,” she said.
She immediately applied her new found knowledge by starting her production one day after the training. With five friends in her village, she went door-to-door to promote and market their products.
Aside from conducting offline marketing, she also tried to reach consumers through online marketing. Using “resources-based products” as her tagline, she used Google My Business to provide information about her business and products.
She explained that she and her partners managed to gain up to IDR 250,000 turnover every week. She is optimistic that her fish ball business would continue to grow and provide job opportunities for community members in East Flores.
“Hopefully, there will be more young people who can participate in providing additional values to the fishermen’s catch and also introducing the richness of our maritime resources more widely,” she said, adding that she was very proud that she could play a role in developing local potentials and wisdoms of East Nusa Tenggara.