Buku Kami: An Update

“Is that Buku thing still running?”

I bit my tongue instead, and went, “Yep.”

A few weeks ago, another famous talkshow on national TV reached out to me and wondered if we’d like to appear on Hari Pahlawan as their guest. But I refused.

In July, one of the people who have been supporting a lot of things I do wanted me to go and see someone in the other continent who seemed to be interested in what we were doing to the human trafficking survivors. It was all free. I couldn’t say yes, either.

And those talks at reputable schools.

And those chances I turned down to meet and learn from important people in the country.

This year has been a series of NOs. It’s insane. And good at the same time.

***

What happened to #WriteYourOwnStory ?

Buku Kami started out as a social project. Some college students (except me, I was a dropout) gathered at UI. And revamped the plan and idea. Won something that allows us to walk the talk. It went well, although the word ‘well’ could never suffice what I want to express.

Many think it’s a startup. It’s not, really. Nor was it a failed project. I’ve been starting and running a lot of social projects before and this one went above and beyond (even to a ‘social project’ cynic like me).  I don’t get why people in a lot of places think it’s a startup. As long as it has a running website and a great team behind it, they’re free to start calling themselves as ‘founder and CEO’ and all that dreamy heavy term. I didn’t see it that way. It’s just a way I could learn more about the issues I deeply care about and the products we wanted to build. One more thing: it’s not a foundation either. Why? Because we generate money and use it for different purposes.

Short story, we started with some women in Bangkok and Jakarta. Trained survivors how to make quality recycled notebooks from real waste and sold them through our e-commerce website and partners in Indonesia and stack them in Copenhagen, Toronto, Sydney, etc. We got a bunch of interested clients from many interesting parts of the world, which was exciting because we had to learn much about exporting tips and all that.

We were rained by great news and I certainly felt like I knew what I was doing. I wanted to think bigger. I must’ve utilized every opportunity before me to make this ‘thing in my brain’ happen. I had a few in my own pocket to fuel the vehicle I wanted to move. Slept late woke up early. Handled 3 jobs on the side. I had most things in my list. But it wasn’t enough to move mountains.

I realized somewhere along the way that I didn’t understand the inevitable part: it was riskier than anything I could imagine to let this journey stop somewhere not very far from where it started only because I didn’t have enough resources. I wanted it to go far, not just something cool that shows up for a few months and then go off the radar. In everything I do, I question a lot about ‘in the long run’. I was horrified if I hadn’t learned as much as I needed to, these people’s lives I was dealing with would be turned to waste simply because I was in a big hurry. When you want something, you see yourself in a race that doesn’t really exist. Even Al-qur’an took 23 years to be handed down to prophet Muhammad. See what I mean? God didn’t just rush it.

And I learned that solving a complex issue is not as simple as finding a business model with generating revenue streams. Solving a social problem is not as simple as going to poor people and tell them to do this and that. Perhaps, there is a language we don’t quite understand yet, the language only them who are affected by the problem who can understand it. To my case, I needed to dig more into the issues I claim to care so much about. The idea of business doesn’t challenge me as much as social problems do. I’m all in for something I care about, even if I have to throw everything away first.

End of 2015, school came (I went back to school again). Love life drama came. Family stuff got in the way too. When you’re busy making plans, life wants you to step back and see the box you’ve put yourself into. Life overwhelmed me.

So I ran off. Left everything that was once half-built, like this unfinished website.

I didn’t quit. I wanted to rest. Took a break. Learned as much as I could. Learned how to gain back that appetite I once had in me. 2016 has been all about me finding myself again through people and places. And food. And selfies. And all the ‘being young and stupid’ journeys I’ve intentionally let myself sink into.

I’m about to end my step back ritual and the next chapter I’d like to make a toast to would be a much more fun journey with crazy surprises. Just a few more stops I’d like to make and few questions I’d like to answer.

***

A lot of people claim they’re so good at starting something.

I’d like to finish.

Selamat Hari Pahlawan!

2 thoughts on “Buku Kami: An Update

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