Posted on March 18 2021
#PowerfullyPetite Interview with Dr Imelda Juniarsih
Dr Imelda Juniarsih, clearly petite standing at just 5 feet tall, tells me how she came to divide her time between venture capital, property investment, commercial photography and yoga. An amazing mix to have. Imelda is dynamic, analytical, creative, entrepreneurial and wonderfully engaging - a fantastic example of a powerfully petite woman.
Imelda has been a fabulous customer of Jennifer Anne since 2017. Right from the beginning she has been so encouraging and appreciative of our aim to provide petite women with a wealth of choice of good quality, well designed clothes.
J: Imelda thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed. Tell me first about your route to becoming a biotech venture capital investor?
I: Growing up in Indonesia, I loved right from a young age, the discipline and structure of science but was always drawn by the intertwining of science and business. After I came to the UK and had completed my BSc in Biotechnology and Business Enterprise, I went on to study for a PhD in Biotechnology. While at university I became involved in helping start-up Biotech companies and found myself becoming interested by the role of the venture capitalists sitting on the other side of the table.
J: Where did that interest lead to?
I: I made the move over to the venture capital side and now as a venture capital partner I analyse and invest in healthcare opportunities helping the investee companies grow and develop in their field. I love working with the management team and see building that up as a puzzle, a jigsaw puzzle. You have to take a long-term view, look critically at the skill sets of the CEO and the senior team and fill any gaps with the right people.
J: What is your female take on the challenges of being an investor?
I: It is a very male dominated area – particularly at the board level. I don’t feel however that there is any particular difference – we are all human beings. I have not come across any prejudice against me as a woman in this area. I do see though that women are particularly good at multitasking and getting things done. Women are also more open to suggestions than men.
J: I see that in 2018 you were named as a rising star by BioBeat’s 50 Movers and Shakers for your role as an Investment Analyst with BioCity. It particularly recognised your strength in unlocking the potential in first time CEOs and how you helped numerous start-ups to secure investment. That is a fantastic achievement. But that is not all that you do. Imelda tell me about your other roles.
I: I also work in the property sector, sourcing cashflowing properties for investors and as a passionate photographer carry out photoshoots of these investment and renovation projects.
J: I took a look at the photographs on your website (https://www.imeldaphoto.com) and testimonials from property investors – it looks to me as though you could have easily been an interior design photographer full time if you had wished. You have a really creative side in addition to your highly analytical scientific side. Do you find that there is sometimes a pull between the two?
I: That is a really interesting question. There are certainly these two parts to me, the analytical/scientific and the creative. Rather than a pull, I would say that I enjoy the combination and certainly feel the creative side is incredibly useful in commercial situations. I love having these two sides and would not want to give up following either.
J:If you meet someone and describe what you do, which do you put first – investor, scientist, photographer?
I: I often say I am an entrepreneur/investor – or a corporate hippie!
Imelda pictured above (wearing the Persephone Shirt and Maia Skirt)
J: Do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
I: My grandma was very entrepreneurial. She and my grandfather had 11 children and she still managed to run a number of businesses at a time in Indonesia when women were not really allowed to work. She definitely passed on her entrepreneurial instincts to the next generations. My mother supported me in going to university and doing a PhD but she always told me I would be very good in commercial settings and should own my own business. She spotted my entrepreneurial instincts when I was a child – at 7 or 8 years old I made my own notebooks out of craft paper and started selling them to my classmates!
J: You were clearly born with this, so interesting how it comes down in the genes, that’s fantastic.
J: Do you think your size has affected your self-perception?
I: Absolutely. I constantly strived harder in my school days and academia so that I would achieve highly – being small I needed to prove myself. It might be a subconscious way of ensuring people would notice me – I am pretty small so otherwise they might miss me altogether!
J: How about sport as you are so into yoga now and the pictures I have seen of you practicing yoga and participating in yoga masterclasses are quite amazing.
I: Even at school I never considered myself to be sporty or even fit. Being so tiny I was never selected for teams; I couldn’t run fast or tackle my schoolmates. So, I was drawn towards individual sports such as gymnastics and trampolining.
J: Goodness that is so interesting as I was the same. I just adored gymnastics and then went to take up trampolining. I was even in the university trampolining team which I thought was amazing after having been so dreadful at team sports in school!
I: Yes it was so much easier not being in a team that relies on your body size. After moving to the UK from Indonesia to study at Manchester University, I started to do trampolining and realised I was after all pretty fit and strong. Recently I have found bouldering and climbing suit me well, a great combo of flexibility and strength.
J: Just what we like to hear from our powerfully petite interviewees! So, your physical side became part of your self-perception in a good way
I: That’s right, so when I meet other petite women I look on them as being strong inside as they have had to deal with the same issues you and I have had. I think tiny people are really badass!
J: It is interesting how this physical self-perception translates into clothes and how you use your clothes to help you feel confident. I love the red Flora dress you are shown wearing in the picture below with Anna Maxwell, the founder and CEO of Maxwellia, one of your investee companies where you advise. If you wear that red dress to a business meeting full of men in grey suits, you will stand out and be noticed. It makes you feel fantastic and puts you on a different level.
I: 100%. I love clothes that are very classic that you can wear – the clothes represent who you are and I like that.
J: How do you see your work dress style?
I: Classic clothes, that you can wear for a long time, good quality and shaped well. I am not into throwaway fashion at all.
J: Glad to hear it!
I: I don’t buy clothes often but when I find clothes I like then I do buy quite a lot – that’s why I have so many Jennifer Anne clothes! The fit and quality is so important.
J: Which are your favourite Jennifer Anne clothes and why
I: I love the Beiwen Dress in red which you had made for me specially in a size 4 – it comes in just perfectly at the waist and sits beautifully, it also makes me look as though I have longer legs. I love, love the colour and the perfect fitting – hands down my best ever dress in my wardrobe.
Imelda pictured above wearing the Beiwen Dress in red
The Flora Dress in ivory is so simple and so classy; The Hebe Polo Dress is so perfect for a casual outfit, so comfortable, so easy to feel ‘well put together’ and the Freya Dress for days when I want to feel a little ‘loose’ but still formal.
Imelda pictured above wearing the Flora Dress in ivory with the Olwen Jacket in Blush
J: Outside work you are also a dedicated yoga practitioner. I have seen some amazing pictures of you in yoga poses. It is clearly another important part of your daily life. I would imagine that yoga has been central to your well-being during this Covid period. How have you had to adapt work wise in these tricky times.
I: Absolutely yoga is important. In some ways, the new way of working has been easier for me. I am quite a fidgety person and I like to get up and move around and do some stretches. I have my yoga mat near my desk so I can do that just when I like without anyone thinking it looks strange! In the office I'm not usually able to do that. So now I can do a quick downward dog! It’s quite nice to have that freedom
J: What would your 18 year old self think of where you are now?
I: Who would have thought, a tiny girl with 2 giant suitcases, barely spoke much English, very proud of this journey. When time is tough, remember, things happen for you, it will all make sense eventually. The moon doesn’t compare itself to the sun, it simply shines on its own time.
J: It has been so lovely Imelda to talk to you and to see you even if on a screen. I know we tried to arrange to meet up before in person pre-Covid and for one reason or other it didn’t work out. The benefits of Zoom! Thank you so much for taking the time to have this interview and for your appreciation of Jennifer Anne. It means a lot to me.