On centre-stage: Some enterprising women entrepreneurs from Singapore
A consistent pattern has been that Singapore has been a leading country of choice when it comes to doing business internationally. Factors like the abundance of skilled resources, efficient and open economy, and stringent intellectual property rights protection make doing business in Singapore a rich experience. In fact, in 2016, for the tenth consecutive year, Singapore was ranked as the best country for doing business in the ’13th annual Doing Business 2016. Singapore’s economic freedom score is 83.9, making its economy the world’s freest in the 2023 Index.
Factors that impacted Singapore’s potential to compete as a top choice for women entrepreneurs include – its high cost of living, lack of accelerators, among other aspects.
Here’s presenting some outstanding women entrepreneurs from Singapore.
> Velda Tan, Founder, Bonito Chico
When she was 18 years old, Velda Tan initially co-founded blogshop Bonito Chico (which later evolved into Love, Bonito) with her sister Viola and best friend Rachel Lim. After successfully mastering the fashion world, she went on to become a successful restaurateur.
And her business experience covers a remarkable stretch. After leaving the label, she stepped into the F&B scene with Pince & Pints, a quintessential lobster bar that’s a must-visit for fans of the crustacean. She launched this in 2014 with her husband, Frederick Yap: but the story took a turn, when she left him to run it and, a year later, Collate The Label was born. This is a successful brand, with its focus on ‘affordable luxe’. Then she forged ahead, and went on to found womenswear label – Our Second Nature with Lauren Tan, which focusses on quiet sophistication through arty prints.
Velda was also involved in the Galboss Asia initiative, a unique female entrepreneurs’ symposium. Currently, she is one of the most popular entrepreneurs in Singapore.
> Pat Law, Founder, GOODSTUPH
The Founder of local social media agency GOODSTUPH, Pat Law is familiar with the advertising and marketing world. It was in 2010, after a varied experience in both traditional and digital media, she set up GOODSTUPH. Her company bagged the title – ‘Social Media Agency of the Year’ in 2013 and she has over 30 global brands under her belt.
The digital marketing specialist also founded two other companies – Another Good Thing, a social laboratory behind retail label The Damn Good Shop (which sells made-in-Singapore products that will spark many childhood memories), and Good Chi, an experience marketing company.
> Gina Heng, Co-founder, Marvelstone Group
Gina is the co-founder of private investment group – Marvelstone Group, which is involved in developing and investing in growing businesses. But it’s her launch of Miss Kaya (because ‘kaya’ means ‘wealthy’ in Malay) in 2016 that gave her prominence. Miss Kaya is an all-in-one financial management service that provides a range of offers like – budgeting, investment tools and digital banking product.
Backed by her experience as a former banking analyst and hedge fund manager, she connects with women to manage their finances. Described as “a money management tool for the modern woman”, Miss Kaya makes financial planning fun, simple and trendy. Miss Kaya has also partnered with LATTICE80 (a non-profit fintech hub backed by Marvelstone Group) – to launch an accelerator programme for women entrepreneurs.
> Priscilla Shunmugam, Founder, Ong Shunmugam
Priscilla Shunmugam, Founder, Ong Shunmugam is originally a Malaysian, but her fashion label Ong Shunmugam is a made-in-Singapore brand. She worked as an in- house lawyer after graduating, (she went to law school at NUS); but it was when she went to London to do a course in dressmaking that she found her real calling in life.
Ong Shunmugam – named after the surnames of her Chinese mother and Indian father – was launched in 2010. This label is often worn by wives of VIPs. In January, Actress Tan Kheng Hua wore an outfit by the label on the SAG Awards red carpet.
> Lyn Lee, Co-Founder, Awfully Chocolate
It was after leaving a successful career as a lawyer, that Lyn Lee, Co-Founder, Awfully Chocolate opened her first cake shop in 1998. The reason being that she couldn’t find a simple dark chocolate cake anywhere in Singapore! With a group of friends, she started Awfully and none of them had any experience running a business. But she is the face behind the brand.
The starting point was interesting. The first outlet in Katong sold just a single item – a simple dark chocolate cake between layers of dark chocolate fudge. But it was so good that customers travelled from all over to try it out. The business has grown – for Awfully Chocolate has also expended to cities in China, such as Shanghai, Chendgu and Guangzhou. The brand also has a café – Ninethirty, which offers a contemporary selection of well-loved comfort food and Awfully Chocolate desserts, and vintage-vibe cafe Sinpopo, known for its range of local desserts.
> Rachel Lim, Co-founder, Love Bonito
After launching Love Bonito, which she co-founded in 2016, the business grew to throw Rachel Lim into the limelight. She was listed in Forbes Asia’s 30 Under 30 list in 2016. What started as an online blogshop has now expanded into a business with 16 stores in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Cambodia.
There are big plans for the brand, which recently secured S$17 million in a Series B funding round. And the company will focus on three key areas – technology, manpower and regional expansion.
With a strong social media presence, she has 106k followers on Instagram. Her marriage in Bali in 2016, was covered by the local media like a celebrity wedding. With so many feathers in her cap, she is a shining example of an entrepreneur who has grown a small outfit into a highly successful company, with no formal education/training in business.