Q&A With 8 Female Entrepreneurs In Celebration Of International Women’s Day

and how Entrepreneurs' Organization helped them achieve their success

This is a guest post by Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) Singapore.

In celebration of International Women’s Day, we are giving the spotlight to local women entrepreneurs who have made all of us proud to be women!

Such organization who has embraced the entrepreneurship spirit is Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) Singapore.

Made up of successful entrepreneurs across Singapore from various industries, we sat down with its 8 female members of EO to find out about their successes and challenges.

Here, they also impart their advice to other aspiring women entrepreneurs!


Violet Lim

CEO and Co-Founder of Lunch ActuallyCurrent President of Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) Singapore

 

1. How Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) Singapore has helped your entrepreneurship journey to reach your goal and maximize your business?

In the last 4 years, I have benefited tremendously from my EO membership. Through the application of all the learnings from EO, our business has since grown 4 times, expanded to new cities as well as went from 30+ associates to 110+ associates.

Personally, thanks to the encouragement and support from my EO mates, I have challenged myself to scale the tallest summit in South East Asia Mount Kinabalu and learnt how to dive so that I could see the beauty of the underwater world at Manado.

I have joined ABF (Asia Bridge Forum) where I met many EOers from across the region (Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, China, India etc.).

I learnt to see things from totally different lens, different perspectives and different cultures.

 

2. How has being a woman complemented your entrepreneur journey?

I think being female might actually have an advantage in the dating business that Lunch Actually is in, because this is a very people-oriented industry, and generally people be it male or female, are comfortable with sharing their relationship stories with a female.

Initially, I was worried that my age would be an issue because when I first started the business, I was 24 years old. I was concerned that people would ask, “You are only 24, and I am at least 34, who are you to tell me how to date?”

Interestingly, I have never been posed this question be it by a client or by the media. One of the reasons could be because, I have always looked older than my age? 🙂 I believe that by delivering professional and authentic service, we were able to convince our clients that we know what we are doing.

Hence, our strongest marketing tool has always been, and is still is: word of mouth. When clients have a good experience with us, when they have successfully found their other half through us, they will spread the words and tell their friends and family, and right now our branding is very strong because we have had such a positive and effective word-of-mouth.

 

3. Advice for other aspiring women entrepreneur

Stay hungry and focus on things you yourself can control – your drive, your perseverance, your tenacity. Because there will always be challenges for different types of entrepreneurs out there.

E.g. young entrepreneurs, F&B entrepreneurs or in some communities, even entrepreneurs from certain race or maybe background. As entrepreneurs, I believe that it is more productive and effective to create the right condition for ourselves rather than waiting for others to improve upon the existing conditions.

As female entrepreneur, we need to use our strengths to our advantage. For example, rather than taking on a more masculine persona to blend in with the guys, we can leverage on our fluid communication and interpersonal skills to achieve our objectives e.g. persuading the person to our point of view.

As females, I believe that generally, we are also more adaptable. Hence, we can use this to our advantage to make the best out of the market or industry conditions.

I would also encourage women entrepreneurs to open up and share with one another. The number one thing young female entrepreneurs or any business leaders need to know is: don’t be too shy to ask.

A lot of people, when they go into business, would feel like they need to do everything on their own. But the truth is that, there are a lot of people who have walked the same paths and gone through the same trials and errors, and if you would just ask for advice, help, or guidance, you’d be surprised that a lot of them are actually more than willing to share their experiences.

So you don’t have to go through what they have gone through and make the mistakes they have made. I have benefited from many female mentors, my da jie jies who have been very generous with their time and sharing when I first started out. I would love to be able to give back to young women entrepreneurs.

 

4. Common misconception about women entrepreneurs.

That our management style is either too ‘lenient/emotional’ or too ‘harsh’. That we can’t be objective or that we make decision based on emotions.

I think in this time and era, more women are thriving in business and it is no longer the case whereby they are not taken seriously just because they are women. Perhaps new women leaders or managers would face the challenge of management. Let me share my own experience.

As any new manager, when I first started, I wanted to be everybody’s best friend.

Maybe, as a woman manager, there is also expectation that I come across as warm and accommodating. And that did not work out very well because it’s hard to be someone’s supervisor and best friend. I felt very disheartened, and as a result I swung to the other side of the pendulum, whereby I drew a clear line that is work is work; but that didn’t work out as well.

But the lesson that I learnt is that there needs to be a balance. You need to be firm, but at the same time, be able to relate to the people you’re working with. So ever since I found that balance and my own management style which I’m comfortable with the company grow has grown leaps and bounds.

It might be different in different industries, or maybe in different countries.

Certain industries might still be very male-dominated. However, I have had female friends who are in the construction industry, and they still managed to thrive.

I understand that there might still be glass ceilings in certain companies. In our organisation, 75% of our associates are ladies. For me, I do not care whether the person is a male or a female.

Ultimately it is about delivering the results and sharing similar core values. I believe that more and more companies will move towards this direction.


Dr Shiau Ee Leng

 

Founder & Global Medical Adviser, ClearSK Orchard Pte Ltd

In her forties, Founder and Global Medical Advisor for the 8 year old ClearSK ® Healthcare Group with 12 outlets in Singapore and a aesthetic clinic, cosmetic surgery clinic and dental centre in Shanghai.

 

1. How EO Singapore has helped your entrepreneurship journey to reach your goal and maximize your business?

I was in the very first inaugural EO spousal forum for 2 years from 2014 to 2016 before joining as a main EO member myself last year.

As you might know, the very unique characteristics of EO compared to other business groups worldwide is the ‘forum’ phenomenon where small groups of entrepreneurs meet together to learn and share in a strictly confidential environment.

I enjoyed brain-storming new business ideas / options with my forum mates like when I was planning my latest cosmetic-skincare center with Shanghai partners last summer.  I also learned from them authentic tips on the less-known short cuts and pitfalls of running a business. Having a group of smart, forward-looking yet completely honest team of confidantes is a rare privilege.

An even bigger benefit I see is knowing my own strengths better through our in depth coaching-sharing and expert-teaching sessions. I then maximize my new-found strengths to develop my business, eg I realize that I am gifted in learning and training, so I now plan the curriculum of our on-the-job OJT training program recognized by the Institute of technical Education or ITE S’pore. I also draft the in house training for our leak and China staff to elevate the skills set of my team of doctors and nurses.

 

2. How has being a women complemented your entrepreneur journey?

The medical field is a male dominated field , and during my days as a medical trainee,  women doctors only form 1/4 of the medical fraternity. I did faced certain degree of discrimination: I worked under strict and hard-to-please senior male professors and had learned to be diplomatic and  extremely patient when under duress, and ready to work thrice as hard to get recognized by my seniors and peers.

Starting out as an entrepreneur 17 years ago  and then creating a new brand ClearSK was difficult because I had little support from my skeptical family, and I learned through trials and errors because there were few peers for me to learn from or share with. It was also  as easy, because I chose a field that’s very much my interest and my strength – medical aesthetics. I guess the fact that I am a lady doctor with a big smile certainly helped me to draw women patients as well as recruit great women staff who helped grow and expand our business.

 

3. Advice for other aspiring women entrepreneur

Entrepreneurship is a tough, less-trodden road, and comes with many sacrifices in terms of time , money and relationships. You need passion, brains and courage to get in, and after that, patience and even more courage, to stay.   But it is excitingly challenging and I would highly recommend it !

 

4. Common misconception about women entrepreneurs.

I believe many people think that women entrepreneurs are a scary breed who are

  • go-getter, ( grab every deal and does not keep the rules)
  • tough as nails, ( rude and fierce)
  • petty, back-stabbing ( lie through their teeth )
  • unreasonably hard-to-please ( change their minds a dozen times)

Haha, nothing can be further from the truth!

Those I’ve met and grown to respect are the smartest, most unassuming, kindest, warmest bunch of fun-loving women who are true to themselves and others, and who just dare to turn their dreams into reality. They just swallowed their tears and put on a brave smiley front even when the goings get tough!


Jazz Chong

Founder & Director, Ode To Art Holdings Pte Ltd

 

1. How EO Singapore has helped your entrepreneurship journey to reach your goal and maximize your business?

EO Singapore has helped my journey through being corporative and through gathering many like-minded people who run their own business. With similar problems we face in the business world, we are able to give advices and share our stories with one another. This peer-to-peer learning relationship that EO Singapore has forged for many business people is something very precious to me and has helped maximize my abilities in running my business.

Recalling an incident that happened in 2011, EO Singapore has indeed influenced the way I operate my business. Then, the market was doing relatively well and many people were changing jobs and turnover in HR in companies are generally higher. I vividly remembered a sharing by one of our counterparts who decided to push forward their own business evaluation much earlier between August and September instead of doing it in December. This had given the company an allowance of time to propose an action plan to retain more staff. Such sharings have provided me with insights and a different perspective in business management which I am utterly grateful for.

 

2. How has being a woman complemented your entrepreneur journey?

Being a woman in the 21st century, and in a vastly open-minded society like that of Singapore’s, I am very privileged. I love art and it is that same love for art that is translated into the love I have for running this relatively small business of my own.

I also think that women are generally more intuitive and attuned to their emotions, which help a lot as art has an emotional facet to it. With this softer touch and continual involvement with artists and their artworks, I have had the privilege to access different cultures and perspectives.

I have been able to forge friendships with clients and exchange interesting repartees whenever they visit the gallery. This has helped me understand more about my clients’ style of art and I am better able to propose certain art pieces catering to their style. However, it is not always about the dollars and cents opening Ode To Art gallery, but more for art enthusiasts to gather and appreciate art altogether.

 

3. Advice for other aspiring women entrepreneur.

I think for women it can get a little tricky especially when thoughts about starting a family are in the picture. In essence, it is a lot about managing your priorities and time. Knowing where you invest your time and energy in is crucial. When priorities are set, work hard towards it. There is really no secret formula to success. Having a strong support group is very important. My family, friends and close business partners are strong pillars of support that I know I can always count on.

 

4. Common misconception about women entrepreneurs.

Some common conceptions about women entrepreneurs is that they are workaholics and are not family-centric. I believe that as women, we have duties to fulfill at home as a wife, a mother and a daughter. Life does not revolve around work all the time. I am serious at work no doubt, likewise, I would strive to be a dutiful wife to my husband at home. There is a time and place for everything, I strive not to bring work home


Viola Tan

Co-founder & Business Development Director, VRV Ptd Ltd

 

1. How EO Singapore has helped your entrepreneurship journey to reach your goal and maximize your business?

EO is one of the wisest and best decisions I have made in my journey as an entrepreneur. Back in 2014, Elim Chew recommended me to join EO during one of my lowest times as a business owner. I took up the challenge and EO has transformed my thinking for the business and provided me a support system of business owners I can bounce ideas off with. More importantly, being in EO has strengthened me as a leader and this gave me confidence to emerge from the lowest point, a stronger leader.

 

2. How has being a women complemented your entrepreneur journey?

I think gender has nothing to do with starting or building something. However, if there’s anything a woman has, it would be deeper connections and empathy to whoever and whatever we are dealing with.

 

3. Advice for other aspiring women entrepreneur.

Surround yourself with a support system of like minded people. You are never alone in your entrepreneurial journey.

 

4. Common misconception about women entrepreneurs.

 We are dreamers and not ambitious.


Bonnie Wong

Director of Marketing and Business Development, Creative Eateries Pte Ltd

 

1. How EO Singapore has helped your entrepreneurship journey to reach your goal and maximize your business?

The best part about EO that it has collected such a myriad of entrepreneurs. It has been a great platform for networking as the member are friendly, welcoming and open. Just attending any of the EO events, and learning more about other’s businesses is so interesting. Through EO Forum, I got a better understanding of how each business functions so differently, but our challenges are really all the same. Sharing of experiences allow us to better benchmark ourselves against other companies, and it also highlights potential pitfall or better methods to deal with challenges in the business. This could be about issues such as expansion of the business, retaining upper management, etc. Finally, the events run by EO expand our minds to improve ourselves as leaders, and suggests new ways to improve and grow the business.

 

2. How has being a women complemented your entrepreneur journey?

While this may be a generalisation, women tend to be better at maintaining relationships and perceiving how others feel. This has been a helpful skill when trying to develop relationships with partners, clients and staff.

 

3. Advice for other aspiring women entrepreneur.

If you have an idea for a business, talk to as many people as possible in the industry, or other entrepreneurs. I have learnt so much from other people just through random conversations at events. It is important to join a few associations as a good network of friends can really make a difference in business.

 

4. Common misconception about women entrepreneurs.

Successful women are not all “Dragon Ladies”! I would like to believe good management comes from a combination of strength, clear instruction and cajoling.


Amanda Koo

Director, eClarity (Wah Chan Consolidated Pte Ltd)

 

1. How EO Singapore has helped your entrepreneurship journey to reach your goal and maximize your business?

I joint EO Singapore in a low point of my life. It was a low point in every aspect.

In October 2015, eClarity, which I started in year 2005 and had been growing annually in sales, staff strength, brand awareness, and product lines, was determined to stay stagnant. I was once inspirational, enthusiastic and knowledgeable. But at that 10th year mark, I had nothing else to give, I felt that I had given everything I had.

This, together with my mum’s passing, and raising 3 growing up boys singlehandedly (I grew up as the only daughter), was the moment I signed up with EO.

“If you want something you have never had, you must be willing to do something you have never done” – I read this quote on the day I submitted my application form.

My life pre-EO was one that revolved around my diamond clients, and my 3 boys. I had almost never attended a happy hour, sharing forum, or learning seminar.

One year later, my business is now seen as a legacy and an empowerment. I have been reminded of my passion.

My team has grown with great structure, we have proper financial budget and business development plans in-placed. I now run meetings that intrigued my team members to speak about their own goals, aspirations, and challenged them on their problem solving skills positively. From diamond business, eClarity, has branched out to dance lessons Dancing Under The Chandelier, Counselling app Listening Therapy, and mass jewellery line

Finally, the most precious value that I have owned, is the like-minded friends I made, who are relentlessly supportive and delightfully inspirational. They made me realize my life and business purposes – which are to love, to inspire, to provide, and to empower.

 

2. How has being a woman complemented your entrepreneur journey?

Women are innately blessed with countless lovely qualities – We are beautiful and sociable, we are patient and we listen, we have greater resilience and we are adaptable. I am happy to embrace these wonderful gifts and shine with them.

As a woman entrepreneur, I am thankful that at the start of the journey, I was structured enough to register every mistake in a SOP, warm-hearted enough to truly care for the needs of customers and team members, creative enough to launch original marketing ideas, artistic enough to embrace new designs, meticulous enough to be watchful over income and expenditure, and humble enough to dedicate work or ask for help.

While being a woman has definitely complemented my entrepreneurial journey, the journey has immensely made me feel more complete as a poised and feminine woman.

 

3. Advice for other aspiring women entrepreneur.

Embrace the beautiful qualities that we own as women – besides those that were mentioned above, don’t forget that we are multi-taskers, we have natural instinct, and our pain tolerance is higher than what the men could ever imagine.

When you are faced with low energy or an obstacle, it is fine to shed a tear, give our children a kiss, have a chat with our loved ones, hit it out with the girls, or buy yourself a little gift. You will emerge intelligently, beautifully, and joyfully.

Remember that you can govern the rule of balance – you have a logical mind and an emotional heart.

Lastly, when you are doubtful of yourself – read articles like this –

According to Harvard business review article 2012, women are better leaders – http://www.businessinsider.com/study-women-are-better-leaders-2014-1?IR=T&r=US&IR=T

 

4. Common misconception about women entrepreneurs.

That women depend on men. I remember when I first started eClarity, my customers, suppliers, contractors who renovated my first office, unhesitatingly assumed that I married a rich man, or I inherited the business, or it’s a partnership and someone else is the real boss behind the scene.

The stereotype is minimal in Singapore. Whatever misconception we face as women entrepreneurs, it gives us space to grow, and when we achieve milestones, it’s always a pleasure surprising those around us positively.


Teresa Chan

Executive Director, ITC Refrigeration Pte Ltd

 

1. How EO Singapore has helped your entrepreneurship journey to reach your goal and maximize your business?

​Being in a community of extremely driven entrepreneurs encourages me to constantly push my limits and strive for more. There is also beauty in diversity – EO members have businesses across different industries, their companies are of different sizes and at different stages of growth, and it has been very interesting to hear them share experiences, what they’ve learnt and what they’re looking forward to. ​I’ve been very inspired by my fellow EO members.

 

2. How has being a women complemented your entrepreneur journey?

​It’s made me more aware of the “soft touches” of a business – how you treat an employee, how you present your company etc. My industry is very male-dominated, and I realize that sometimes male bosses overlook these things, thinking they aren’t important.  ​

 

3. Advice for other aspiring women entrepreneur.

​Don’t let men tell you what industry you can or cannot, should or should not work in. Recognize your own strengths, know what you’re good at, and then just do it. ​​And persevere. ​​Being tenacious and gritting your teeth to get the job done is crucial. ​

 

4. Common misconception about women entrepreneurs.

​That we are more suited to certain (less glamorous) industries, and not others. ​​That we’re “soft” and can’t make hard decisions when necessary, ​​and that we don’t have what it takes to succeed. Wrong, wrong and wrong on all counts! ​


Shalini Kamal Sharma

Managing Director, Formula 1 Furniche Pte Ltd

 

1. How EO Singapore has helped your entrepreneurship journey to reach your goal and maximize your business?

EO is one of the best peer to peer networking organizations, brimming with positive

energy, opportunities and a refreshing learning experience at each event.

 

2. How has being a women complemented your entrepreneur journey?

Being creative, positive and focused you do things differently and create great

value along the way. “Leaders think and talk about the solutions. Followers think

and talk about the problems.” Women know that you don’t have to change your

goal, change your path.

 

3. Advice for other aspiring women entrepreneur.

Think big and live even bigger. You can accomplish anything.

 

4. Common misconception about women entrepreneurs.

That they are women.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.