5 Lessons from Singapore's Leading Business WomenDownload Now: FREE GST 2023 GuidebookDownload Now: FREE Employment Pass ChecklistDownload Now: Free Incorporation Checklist
Singapore is one of the most sought-after start-up hubs in Asia. However, it has not been a walk in the park for business women seeking to embark on their entrepreneurship journey in Singapore. Women entrepreneurs have faced numerous challenges, including discriminatory cultural norms, a lack of funding, and the high cost of living, to break the mould and take up critical roles in business.
However, gritty and determined women are breaking the glass ceiling to close the gender gap in entrepreneurship. Hence, this article highlights five lessons from Singapore's top-performing female entrepreneurs.
5 Lessons from Singapore’s Leading Business Women
- Breaking taboos
- Acknowledge and face your weaknesses
- Perseverance and Grit
- Own your identity and authenticity
- Believe that you were made for a purpose
1. Breaking Taboos
Cynthia Chua's awe-inspiring success story is deeply rooted in her admirable character. The beauty maven is a visionary and independent-minded woman who's unafraid to break all odds and set the pace. Her quest for making a difference has propelled her to scale the heights of the beauty and lifestyle industries.
An alumnus of the National University of Singapore, Ms. Chua founded Spa Espirit Group, a leading global empire. Established in 1996, the business has grown into a thriving conglomerate comprising 17 beauty, F&B, and lifestyle brands. Moreover, it has over 100 locations in major cities, including Singapore, Paris, New York, and Shanghai.
Growing up in a conservative society, Cynthia Chua understood the plight of women who couldn't openly discuss their personal challenges. It's been taboo for Asian communities to talk about private parts, and women secretly sought solutions related to their reproductive well-being.
Therefore, the unwavering beauty maverick broke the taboos to provide solutions and change mindsets.
Having identified a gap in the spa sector, Ms. Chua set up an urban spa in Singapore, targeting modern working women seeking a relaxing and pampering environment to unwind. In addition, she went against the norms by diversifying and setting up a Brazilian waxing salon (STRIP), which is now a leading global brand.
A hands-on and proactive business woman, Cynthia Chua introduced Cue. This Blackout mask moisturises, soothes, and relieves discoloration on the vulva after a waxing session. Ms. Chua aspires to break taboos further by enlightening women on caring for their intimate parts.
"Brazilian wax salons have really taken off in Singapore. The next challenge is to educate women about looking after the vulva, which is even more difficult to talk about."
The successful and unstoppable business guru also highlights what excellence means to her - passion, creativity, and tenacity. In addition, Cynthia Chua has identified and strives to maintain the biggest value she has given to her business: her vision and ideas.
2. Acknowledge and Face Your Weaknesses
Modern working mothers have one thing in common - maintaining a healthy work-life balance. However, this hasn't stopped female entrepreneur Rebecca Ting from elevating Singaporean design. Ting is the co-founder and creative director of Beyond the Vines, a top-performing design studio and retail brand in Singapore.
Rebecca Ting established the business as womenswear alongside her husband, Daniel, in 2015. But it wasn't until 2020 that Beyond the Vines revitalised the Singaporean design scene.
Ting and her spouse defied the COVID 19 challenges to rebrand and work towards impacting their community. Therefore, when other businesses kept a low profile, theirs went all out to connect with customers via transparent and honest conversations.
Going against the grain and sharing live streams with customers was challenging for Rebecca, an introvert. Nevertheless, she acknowledged and went beyond her weaknesses to boost engagement between the brand and its customers.
"It was very daunting, but when we decided to open up ourselves as a brand, the consumers started to speak back to us," says Ting.
The resilient and outstanding entrepreneur also had to overcome working mum's guilt, especially in her earlier days of motherhood. So Ting and her spouse identified a way to set precise work and family boundaries. And this has helped them make the most of their time with their sons.
The duo attributes their business success to their staying pragmatic and clearheaded. Moreover, Rebecca Ting encourages entrepreneurs and business owners to be realistic, especially in admitting and working on their weaknesses.
She points out that self-awareness helps one identify dreams to chase and augment their strengths.
3. Perseverance and Grit
"Necessity is the mother of invention," they say. This phrase hit Charlotte Chen, a Singaporean-based business woman when she hatched the idea of founding Everyday for Every Body, a skincare brand. The Australian-made label makes reef-friendly sunscreens and other skincare products.
The stylish entrepreneur kicked off her career in the banking sector. But she realised that she wasn't cut out for employment and quit in 2011. Since then, Ms. Chen has ventured into different businesses, including tech, digital marketing, and media start-ups.
Charlotte Chen offers valuable insights for young entrepreneurial leaders. First, she acknowledges that success in business and life is a product of grit, perseverance, and a willingness to be a lifelong learner.
"It's not the person who is the smartest in the room that is going to succeed; it's the person who keeps trying and persevering and having grit who is going to succeed."
The start-up expert also maintains a healthy daily routine that involves kicking off the day early and working out. And this enables her to tackle complex tasks throughout the day. In addition, Ms. Chen has embraced sustainability and green practices and incorporated them into her business.
Inspired by the book An Inconvenient Truth, Charlotte Chen's brand has produced eco-friendly sunscreens and packaged them in Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-Certified paper.
4. Own Your Identity and Authenticity
Female entrepreneurs have to overcome bias to climb the business ladder. Gillian Tee, the co-founder and CEO of Homage, an on-demand care and health services platform, tells women to identify and own their space.
The unwavering entrepreneur identified a gap in the provision of senior care when she was her mother's caregiver.
Gillian took the plunge into entrepreneurship as a software developer and co-founder of a tech-based start-up. However, her entrepreneurship journey has been characterised by challenges, especially in seeking funds and gender balance.
Yet, despite the obstacles, Gillian didn't give in. Instead, she braced the hurdles to set up Homage, a sought-after brand with branches in Singapore, Australia, and Malaysia.
The serial entrepreneur encourages brands to champion gender equality, diversity, and women's leadership, proven strategies for enhancing business growth. In addition, she encourages other business women to identify their purpose and work toward achieving it. Moreover, they should build a reliable team that backs them up in the face of challenges, enabling them to maintain their focus and overcome problems.
"Own your identity and authenticity - there's power in finding what makes you unique as a woman and drawing confidence from it."
Finally, Gillian Tee notes that technology and problem-solving capabilities will help equalise the gender disparities, enabling women to venture into the male-dominated business scene.
5. Believe That You Were Made For A Purpose
Finding your purpose will not always come in a silver package. We often wander around trying different unfulfilling things before landing on 'our true calling.' Pang Gek Teng, the brains behind an Australian grocery cafe in Singapore, had to quit her banking career and try several ventures to identify what she wanted to do.
"I learnt that we all have something that we are made for, and you will know it when what you're doing is not quite what you're meant to do–it's like an instinct."
Pang's idea to try her hand at a food-related venture was born during her visit to Melbourne after closing down her former businesses. In Australia, the female entrepreneur saw a gap in the country's food scene, mainly in providing inexpensive, healthy foods.
Therefore, she founded Surch, a farm-to-table cafe that made Pang discover the potential of a food-based business.
The food-preneur sold the cafe and returned home following the COVID-19 pandemic and Australia's bushfires. However, this didn't dampen her entrepreneurial spirit, as she decided to replicate the Australian-inspired grocer in Singapore.
Pang's emotional attachment to Australia and the quest to uplift microfarmers in the country were her main driving forces for establishing an Australian-inspired grocery store in her home country. Hence, she established Surrey Hills Grocer in 2021, giving an authentic Australian experience to Singaporean customers.
The food-to-table store sources high-quality food items from Australian farmers, whom Pang relates to on a personal level. In addition, she only partners with a few food brands in addressing their interests and telling their stories to their Singaporean market.
Pang's passion, grit, and determination have seen unheard-of Australian products enter Singaporean markets. Nonetheless, making this work for her business is challenging, and her hands are usually full.
But despite this, the female entrepreneur is motivated by her purpose to provide affordable, premium-quality items to her customers.
Pang believes in finding the right teammates to complement her shortcomings, empowering them, and trusting them. Moreover, she acknowledges that failures are part of life, and they should encourage one to try again.
Finally, the Singaporean start-up leader encourages business owners to only take 'calculated and mitigated risks,' as not all are worth their time and effort.
Entrepreneurship isn't for the weak-hearted, especially for a woman. You must brace for difficulties as you journey through the dynamic business scene. However, top-performing female entrepreneurs from Singapore have quieted the noise by breaking the mould in this male-dominated industry. Their valuable lessons and success stories prove one can make it despite cultural or gender limitations.
If you are an aspiring entrepreneur who are looking for the next big break, look no further on how to start one in Singapore. Going on this journey alone will be tough and full of unexpected challenges, if you ever need a hand or a guide, we are always ready to back you up.