10 Singapore women entrepreneurs who are in a league of their own

10 Singapore women entrepreneurs who are in a league of their own
PHOTO: Her World Online

Power women - these women have torn down barriers, broken glass ceilings and pushed boundaries, subsequently opening doors and creating opportunities for more women in their industries.

Some have even fallen and gotten back up again - successfully. So there's no better time than International Women's Day to celebrate these admirable superwomen who are coming up tops in their fields.

We're inspired by them and we hope you are too.

VELDA TAN 

Photo: Her World Online

As if conquering the fashion world wasn't enough, Velda has also managed to become a successful restaurateur. Velda initially co-founded blogshop BonitoChico (which later evolved into Love, Bonito) at age 18 with her sister Viola and best friend Rachel Lim.

After leaving the label, she took some time out to travel, then ventured into the F&B scene with Pince & Pints, a quintessential lobster bar that's a must-visit for fans of the crustacean. This business was launched in 2014 with her husband, Frederick Yap, but she soon left him to run it and, a year later, Collate The Label was born.

The brand has been a success, with its focus on 'affordable luxe'. Velda didn't stop there; she went on to found womenswear label Our Second Nature with Lauren Tan, which has a focus on quiet sophistication through arty prints.

Velda was also involved in the Galboss Asia initiative, which saw her and four other female entrepreneurs lead a symposium that brought successful women entrepreneurs together to hear inspiring stories and participate in panel discussions. She is one of the most popular entrepreneurs in Singapore, with a large social media following - 155k followers on Instagram alone!

PAT LAW 

Photo: Her World Online

Founder of local social media agency GOODSTUPH, Pat definitely knows her way around the advertising and marketing world. After years of experience in both traditional and digital media, she set up GOODSTUPH in 2010. Her company was named 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.

She was in the news late last year for her posts on Instagram that delved into the hardships of hawkers in Singapore, which she was in a good position to share, being the daughter of one.

GINA HENG 

Photo: Her World Online

Gina is the co-founder of private investment group Marvelstone Group, which develops and invests in growing businesses. But it's her launch of Miss Kaya (because 'kaya' means 'wealthy' in Malay) in 2016 that has earned her a place on this list. Miss Kaya is an all-in-one financial management service that offers budgeting, investment tools and digital banking product.

The former banking analyst and hedge fund manager has made financial jargon easy for women to understand so that they can look after - and make the best of - 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. We definitely love women who look out for other women too.

PRISCILLA SHUNMUGAM 

Photo: Her World Online

Okay, so technically she's Malaysian but, last we checked, she holds a Singapore PR, and her fashion label Ong Shunmugam is a proudly made-in-Singapore brand. Priscilla went to law school at NUS and worked as an in-house lawyer after graduating, but it was when she went to London to do a course in dressmaking that she found her calling in life.

Ong Shunmugam - named after the surnames of her Chinese mother and Indian father - was launched in 2010 and has often been seen worn by wives of VIPs. Actress Tan Kheng Hua wore an outfit by the label on the SAG Awards red carpet in January. Priscilla's modern take on Asian fashion is refreshing and we can't wait to see what unique designs she comes up with next.

LYN LEE 

Photo: Her World Online

Lyn left her successful career as a lawyer and opened her first cake shop in 1998. Why? Because she couldn't find a simple dark chocolate cake anywhere in Singapore that she could tuck into anytime she wanted. Lyn started Awfully Chocolate with a group of friends - none of whom had any experience running a business - but has always been the face behind the brand.

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 the island to try it.

Awfully Chocolate now has 15 outlets in Singapore and more in several cities in China, such as Shanghai, Chendgu and Guangzhou. The brand also has a cafe, Ninethirty, which offers a contemporary selection of well-loved comfort food and (of course) Awfully Chocolate desserts, and vintage-vibe cafe Sinpopo, known for its range of local desserts. Sometimes, chocolate truly is the path to success and happiness.

RACHEL LIM 

Photo: Her World Online

This fashionista was listed in Forbes Asia's 30 Under 30 list in 2016 and that's no surprise, looking at how far she has come with Love Bonito, which she co-founded. 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 that its chief commercial officer says will go into three key areas of focus - technology, manpower and regional expansion.

Rachel has a strong social media presence too, with 106k followers on Instagram. And when she got married in Bali in 2016, the local media covered it as it would a celebrity wedding. Rachel 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 - and has managed to stay down-to-earth in the process too.

DR AYESHA KHANNA 

Photo: Her World Online

After spending more than a decade on Wall Street, where she developed large-scale trading, risk management and data analytics systems, Ayesha is now one of the leading female entrepreneurs in Singapore. She co-founded Addo AI, an artificial intelligence solutions firm, which counts Singtel and SMRT as its clients.

Impressively, Addo AI was featured in Forbes magazine in 2017 as one of four leading artificial intelligence companies in Asia and Ayesha was named one of South-east Asia's groundbreaking female entrepreneurs by the same magazine a year later.

Born in Lahore, Pakistan, Ayesha received a scholarship to Harvard in the United States and later lived in New York. She moved to Singapore in 2012 with her husband and they have since become Singapore citizens (so we're claiming them as our own). Ayesha also founded 21C Girls, a charity that delivers free coding and artificial intelligence classes to girls in Singapore.

CYNTHIA CHUA 

Photo: Her World Online

The founder and CEO of the Spa Esprit Group has evolved the beauty and lifestyle sectors in Singapore for over two decades now. It started with a Spa Esprit outlet in Holland Village and the company now has 17 brands under its belt, such as waxing studio Strip, brow-grooming salon Browhaus, and F&B joints Common Man Coffee Roasters,Open Farm Community, 40 Hands, Tippling Club and Tiong Bahru Bakery.

It was the launch of Strip in 2002 that brought Cynthia to the forefront of the local beauty industry. The concept of Brazilian waxing might be commonplace now but it was an unheard of concept in Asia at that time and gave women more than just nicely-groomed nether regions - it empowered them too. We're proud of the fact that a beauty brand from Singapore now has outlets in an impressive 12 capital cities around the world, including London, Shanghai, New York, Mumbai, Manila and Bangkok.

NANZ CHONG-KOMO 

Photo: Her World Online

Despite several road blocks, Nanz has been able to rise above and reinvent herself, making her a positive role model for entrepreneurs. After a successful career as a model, she made her first foray into business when she founded the One.99 Shop in 1997. From its initial location at The Heeren on Orchard Road, 13 more outlets sprouted all over Singapore within six years, as shoppers loved buying a range of merchandise at the flat price of $1.99 (these were the days before Daiso, remember).

Several accolades were bestowed upon her too, such as Woman Entrepreneur of the Year in 2000. Unfortunately, our nation was hit by the SARS outbreak in 2003 and her business was badly affected - she was declared bankrupt a few months later.

She then became a motivational speaker, business coach and author (she has published three books), while raising her three children. She has dabbled in a few other businesses along the way too but made a big splash in the business community again in 2017 when she became the Singapore (and later regional) distributor for SodaStream, the world's largest manufacturer, distributor and marketer of home sparkling water machines. She's still a sought-after public speaker and runs a business consultancy too.

KRYSTAL CHOO

Photo: Her World Online

This tech entrepreneur is a two-time TEDx speaker, was named LinkedIn Power Profile 2015-2018 (in the CEO category) and was chosen as one of Asia's 50 Women Leaders. The self-taught coder (she was making money designing websites for others at age 15) has helmed a number of start-ups such as ZipTrip, a travel-planning online platform, and Wander, a travel app for singles.

Her current venture is Tickle, a platform that offers community-driven experiences, where anyone can host a quality experience doing what they love (and make a living), with like-minded people. Krystal has also been open about her battle with depression in the past which, we think, makes her all the more inspirational as a successful entrepreneur.

This article was first published in Her World Online.

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