Working out, going to the gym or attending fitness classes can be daunting, especially for those who are not familiar with the fitness space. Especially for many who struggle with body image issues, a surprisingly common issue among women, the decision of just what to wear to workout can be a stressful process.
While we want to look good working out, we also want to be in an outfit that is functional, comfortable and flattering. That essentially brings out the confidence in women to embrace their bodies, while being active.
This National Day, Options speaks to Melinda Sutikno, founder of homegrown activewear brand Anya Active, which offers quality and flattering activewear for women, minus the premium price tag.
“We want to empower women to feel strong and confident in their workout. But beyond having an activewear brand, we also want to encourage more women to adopt an active lifestyle while embracing and accepting their body,” tells Sutikno.
“Everyone moves differently and with Anya Active, I want my consumers to find the joy in movement and being active. Here, we do not strive for perfection, instead, we celebrate progression, because we want to encourage everyone to pursue an active lifestyle in a healthy (both physically and mentally) way,” she adds.
Blessing in disguise
For Sutikno, starting Anya Active, her first ever business venture, was a dream come true.
Anya Active started in early 2020, but Sutikno was mulling starting her own business venture way before that. The brand, which means grace and kindness, is a testament to Sutikno allowing herself to be kind to herself and fuel her confidence to start Anya Active. “It has always been my dream to run my own business and be an entrepreneur. I had that opportunity in 2020 because my previous job did not workout due to the pandemic,” she says.
The way she sees it, the pandemic was a blessing in disguise, not just because it opened up the opportunity for her to start her own business, but it was during this period too that many started their own fitness journey.
In her previous job, Sutikno was with a tech start-up and before that with Honest Bee. She admits that her previous jobs are rather different from what she is doing now, but she recognises some of the business skills that she has learned from her previous endeavours helped her in managing this new business.
“I started Anya Active because I am a believer in embracing an active lifestyle. But most of the time, women, like myself at one point of time in my life, workout and push themselves because they are unhappy with the way they look,” she says.
“I too struggled with issues with my own body and I can relate with women out there who do too. It was a long and tough battle with myself, but it gets easier. As a brand, we want to send a message to women out there to love and embrace your body first, and we promise the journey gets easier,” she adds.
To that end, Anya Active’s apparels are made for “everyone”, such that it embraces all shapes and sizes out there.
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“As with our fitness journey, we all start somewhere. Let go of that expectation to perform or be a certain size and just keep showing up. Let the endorphins and sense of accomplishment carry you through your fitness journey,” shares Sutikno, who is somewhat of a fitness enthusiast herself.
One step at a time
For the longest time, Sutikno was a one-man show running the business. She shares that when she hired her first employee, it made the business seem “more real”, as it was time for her to step up to be a leader and employer. This was when she realised that as a business owner, there were more responsibilities than just to consumers, but to employees too.
Sutikno admits that the company is still very small now and there is still a lot more room to grow. Specifically, her near-term goal for the company is to scale it within Singapore and provide more offerings to consumers.
When asked about some challenges she faced with the business, Sutikno says: “I think the challenges that I have faced with this business evolve overtime. At the beginning, there were a lot of mental blocks that I had to overcome and navigate through several uncertainties, because this new business was uncharted territory to me.”
“Now that my business has reached a certain level, my challenges include remaining competitive, scaling and hiring talents. But overall, the biggest challenge is myself, regardless of the stage I’m in of my business development,” she adds.
Managing self-expectations is important for new business owners, advises Sutikno, as she elaborates that it is easy to spiral into negativity and want to give up during the tough times. It is important to be aware of self-sabotaging behaviour and throw it out the window. “I had to force myself to be mature, but I am lucky because I have my loved ones to lean on too. My strong support system and conscious initiative to be a better leader has led me to come this far,” she tells.
Just like the ethos of Anya Active, Sutikno realises that her business growth too is a journey she has to embark on, as she takes the steps towards becoming a better version of herself. While she strives for progression, instead of perfection, Sutikno says that it is also important to make room to make mistakes, because that is how we learn to be better.
COVER PHOTO: Albert Chua/The Edge Singapore