Edward Forrer: Local Shoemaker Expanding Business Overseas

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THOSE who keep up with the latest trends in fashion, including footwear fashion, must be familiar with Edward Forrer shoes. He started marketing his footwear door-to-door in Bandung in 1989, and now has outlets in other regions as well as overseas. “Nothing is impossible” is Edward’s motto. All dreams can be turned into reality by hard work, consistency and perseverance in upholding values and putting them into practice. It was these ideas that served as the background when he decided to become an entrepreneur.

“I believe everyone has a unique gift that they can use to lead their lives,” said Edward, who was born in Bandung on Oct. 25, 1966.   

Perhaps it is this attitude that has enabled Edward to be successful as a footwear businessman. There are now 50 Edward Forrer outlets in the country. However, only one-third of these outlets belong to Edward. The rest, including those overseas, belong to franchisees. As the franchisor, Edward provides his franchisees with training on inventory management, merchandise visual design, customer service, financial management and planning, employee recruitment, production selection, order placements, outlet design and grand openings.   

Edward Forrer has been doing business in leather footwear (and bags) for over 16 years. Edo, as he is intimately addressed, can hardly believe that his products, particularly footwear, are so popular among fashion buffs. At present, his monthly production stands at some 35,000 pairs of shoes.   

Life is really full of surprises. When he was 22 years old, Edo was just an ordinary employee at a footwear factory. After working there for 11 months, he was inspired to design his own footwear and run his own business. “I wanted to run my own business. I wanted to lead and work with a team and solve problems,” he said.   

Of course, running a business is not easy. Besides finding the courage to take such a bold step, he also had to compete with the footwear made by his former employer. That’s why he decided to choose a different market.

“I think these are the values that I must get across. Your initial motivation when running a business must be pure and you should not harm other people. Instead, you must complement other people. It means you must do your business with integrity,” he said.   

So, armed with courage and a dream, Edo entered a new phase in his life. He had capital of just Rp 200,000 and spent it all on raw material for footwear. He visited acquaintances, relatives and friends to offer them his footwear designs. He would make a pair of shoes only when someone placed an order. He hired two shoemakers to make the shoes. “My capital came from advanced payments on orders,” said Edo, who said he had to go from one place to another on his bike to peddle his footwear.   

As luck had it, many people are interested in customized products. His footwear was promoted by word of mouth. Eventually, customers went to his house to have shoes made. At that time, he could accept 30 orders a day. To develop his business, he increased production so that not only would he be able to offer custom-made shoes but also ready-made shoes for customers coming to his house.   

The growing market for his footwear encouraged Edo to further develop PT Edward Forrer. He opened his first shop in Bandung in a three-by-four-meter room. The first shop turned out to be the gateway for Edo to reach his dream. In just a few years, Edo realized his dream to be a successful entrepreneur.   

To increase his market, he opened another shop on Jl. Veteran. The response was extraordinary. Customers came not only from Bandung but also from other cities, particularly Jakarta. His success prompted Edo to expand into other places, like Bali, Jakarta and other cities in IndonesiaMalaysia, Hawaii and Australia. and even   

Edo carefully calculated his overseas expansion. “I trust my brand and my products,” said Edo, a father of two. Edo has made Australia his head office for going international. From the Gold Coast, Australia, Edo began to take steps to win over the international footwear retail market. The “best shoe store in the world” is his marketing vision.   

Edo said that the quality standard of Edward Forrer was different because the intended market segment was different. “We are going to turn our Australian store into a model shop project for our international market,” said Edo, who opened his first outlet in Australia in 2003.   

However, not all of Edo’s business ventures have been successful. He said that in the span of 18 years, he has failed several times for various reasons, ranging from less strategic locations to human resources. “What matters is that we are willing to learn from our failures so that we won’t stumble for a second time,” he said.   

The key to the success of his business, Edo said, is that he always gives satisfaction to his customers. His footwear for women, men and children are affordable for most people. With his footwear costing Rp 150,000 to Rp 400,000 per pair, obviously Edward Forrer is intended for the middle and upper classes. In addition to quality, “A comfortable atmosphere must be felt when a customer shops. Shop assistants must be hospitable and the store comfortable,” Edo noted.   

Meanwhile, the key elements to customer loyalty, Edo said, are the products and services. “The Edward Forrer community has been formed. They are fanatical,” he said. That’s why innovation must continue to be introduced to Edward Forrer products. And so besides ensuring that his footwear is fashionable, Edo also regularly asks his customers to give him feedback on the shoe styles they would like to see in his stores.   

Edo believes that a business is a powerful tool to build people’s lives, either in terms of finances, health, knowledge, perspective, conviction, skill and character. To keep his employees enthusiastic, leadership is needed, and there must be no gap between word and action. This principle is very helpful in building a sound business. “When your business is sound, it will automatically develop. When your business develops, this means your cash flow is positive and there is a profit,” he said.   

It is this understanding that he always instills in the minds of his 250 employees. “So they know which course the company is taking and the goal it is aiming for,” Edo added. (Burhan Abe)  

The Jakarta Post, November 19, 2008

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