She started Anya Active to better cater to different body types

PHOTO: Anya Active

As someone who does long-distance running, yoga and high intensity interval training, Melinda Sutikno decided to venture into activewear when she found herself without a job during the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

And she knew exactly what she wanted to offer women with her line of products: Sportswear that fit well and thus make the wearer feel good, facilitating a cycle where they will feel encouraged to "adopt an active lifestyle and embrace their body".

"A little goes a long way in your pursuit of an active lifestyle. And since I exercise regularly, I have an understanding of the pain points of wearing sports bras or bottoms that do not fit well. I've experienced chafing during my long runs and know the discomfort that comes with bottoms that keep moving around," explains the 28-year-old.

The brainchild is Anya Active, which offers a range of sports bras, tanks, tees and bottoms for women. She tells us about its product features and how she manages the entrepreneurial challenges that have come her way so far.

Flattering and functional styles

In recognising the different body types women have and the different activities they do, Melinda makes sure to offer a wide variety of designs to better cater for these differences.

"For example, the Unrestrained Bra comes with adjustable shoulder straps and a back clasp for a highly customisable fit. This makes it suitable for women with fuller busts, a broader underbust, and shoulder pain or injuries as it can be difficult for them to raise their arms to put on and take off sports bras," she says.

"The Cloud Leggings are made of a mid-compression, quick-drying fabric that make them suitable for higher-impact workouts like running while the Everywear Leggings are stretchier and less restrictive, so they're great for yoga or certain types of dance."

And given that most people are one with their phones, she also makes sure to incorporate functionality into the designs by including details like side pockets.

If you're wondering, Anya means 'grace', and Melinda so named the brand because its ethos revolves around "the grace to be kind to yourself and your body". This is something she strongly identifies with as she used to struggle with a series of eating disorders.

"I went from being underweight to overweight within the span of a few months, and then fell into depression. The turning point for me was when I made a conscious effort to be kinder to myself — to not beat myself up when I fell back into unhealthy eating habits or over-exercising. That changed everything for me because it kickstarted a true, sustainable process of recovery."

A matter of perspective

Having worked full-time for four years before launching Anya Active, Melinda was able to start the company with her savings. But even though funding wasn't an issue, she still had several other bumps on the road, the biggest one of which was finding the right manufacturer.

"It was a very long process with plenty of trial and error. It also didn't help that I was totally new to this industry and there was so much I did not know. And I didn't know what I didn't know," she lets on.

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She adds that she not only found it extra hard to build connections because of her introverted nature, but also struggled with self-doubt. But in having to face up to these challenges, she had the opportunity to hone the skills she lacked.

"Our perspective changes everything. Yes, it was challenging having to navigate the many unknowns, but I found it fun. I enjoy troubleshooting and learning something new. Plus, every time you solve a problem, your self-confidence grows a little more."

"I also learnt to manage myself better, like not letting myself get too affected by the little things and keeping my eyes fixed on the bigger picture. This is especially important now that I have a team — I have to make more mindful decisions and not be too impulsive or reactive," she muses.

Melinda has plans to expand her product range with designs that address more pain points. But till then, her advice for anyone looking to embark on an entrepreneurial journey is to have a strong sense of self-awareness, including your strengths and weaknesses.

"This will help you stay true to your mission. It is also equally important to be fluid and adaptable as there are many unknowns and unforeseeable circumstances when you start a business. You have to be comfortable with change."

READ ALSO: Activewear comparison: Brands (below $50) that are cheaper than Lululemon

This article was first published in Her World Online.