The levels of girl power in South Bank are high. In fact, they are so high that we decided to sit down with the women that are kicking goals in the Brisbane restaurant industry. Meet Fara Sutjipto, fearless owner of Denim Co.

You’ve been in business on Little Stanley Street for 15 years now. What’s your secret?
Fifteen and a half years! We change, we adapt, we evolve. I started off doing coffee and cake and jeans. It’s important to change before you need to change. Eight years ago, we did our first renovation. It worked and made us busier. We are renovating again now. We didn’t have to, but I want to be on top. I’m not scared to change and make it better.

Did you always plan to own your own business?
Deep down, yes. Maybe because my dad was a businessman. Dad helped with my first investment, a takeaway shop on Ipswich Road. He encouraged me to go for it and give it a try. It progressed from there.

What is the biggest challenge for you as a businesswoman?
I just go with the flow. There’s nothing that can’t be fixed.

What’s the greatest reward in business? 
Customers keep coming back. I don’t usually work in the morning so if I don’t recognise a morning customer, the team tells me their name. They’ve collected their own customer base. My supervisors and main staff take ownership.

Describe the Denim Co. team.
When we started Denim, we had one boy with nineteen girls! We have more boys now but in the beginning someone pointed out to me that people hire staff they find similar to themselves. Maybe I affiliate better with girls. We can multitask. Unless the boys can fit in with us, it doesn’t work.

Do you have a female role model?
My mum. She was willing to take the three kids out of Indonesia, to be separated from my dad who was still working in Jakarta, to raise three kids in Singapore before taking us to Australia. What kind of family life is that? She didn’t speak the language, but she did that for our future.

How do you lead your team at Denim Co.?
When I ask questions, it’s always: “How did we do today? Was it busy? Did it flow well? Were there any complaints?” I don’t look at figures.

How do you maintain work/life balance?
I’ve learnt through the years. I used to have a say in everything and do everything. I’ve made changes and learnt that there needs to be a balance. I delegate so I can take time off. I learned to let go and surround myself with good, loyal people who support me. I’ve got mentors and managers I can cry to. I go to Greece every summer… My partner kind of forces me to take time off!

If you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what would it be?
Don’t take on too much without having good support. At one point, I had three businesses running at once.

What would you like most to change for women worldwide in 2017?
Female circumcision.

What advice do you have for women wanting to start their own business?
Don’t be scared. I used to be a student and I worked. I enjoyed work more, and was promoted to manager then supervisor. I had to open my own business. It just got to the point where I had to. People would say “You’re so young and there’s so much money involved”. But it’s only money. If it doesn’t work out, I can start again. Never be scared of trying.


Want to meet more inspiring women of South Bank? We also sat down with April Shen, owner of Espresso Garage and Elisa Cao, owner of MySweetopia.

Take me to Denim Co.

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