To put the above numbers into colloquial lingo, it simply means that more members of the fairer sex are launching their own entrepreneurship ventures. While one 2002 GEM study done across 37 countries quipped that women are 50% less likely than men to become entrepreneurs, these studies also suggest that women take a more cautious and prudent approach to entrepreneurship.
Shirley Kuan, above, is the chief wine orchestrator and owner of Martina Singapore.
Naturally, the reputation women have as being more emotional isn’t ill-deserved, but as Shirley Kuan, chief wine orchestrator and owner of Martina Singapore, reveals, her method is to thrash things out with her female staff, “I know of companies where guys start swearing when they’re stressed but they know how to move on, whereas girls tend to keep it in.
Before anything gets out proportion in the company, I tell my team we have to put things on the table and discuss it, do our thrashing and move on. It’s important to look forward and not carry around old baggage.”
Martina Singapore was set up in 1998, but Shirley only took over in 2000 when she bought over the company. Her company aims to integrate wine into people’s lifestyle and dispel the myth of exclusivity that surrounds wine.
“For many businesses in Singapore to survive, you have to do export. We’re looking into exploring other markets and product. Singapore is a great country to start a business and use as a gateway to other regions because of the way Singapore is set up,” explains Shirley, “There is business here, but its small compared to a lot of markets.”
Women don’t generally possess huge egos and their willingness to listen to others might prove beneficial to the company. Shirley explains, “It’s important to have fresh blood in your company. I can’t find myself coming up with new ideas all the time. When I have no more ideas, I’ll sit down with people from other trades and talk about things. I never imply that everything new has to be my idea. It’s always through other influences.”
One can’t help wondering if women are just proving to be as capable if not more efficient than men, or so to speak. It could be the present society’s increasing willingness to accept women as being equal to men.
Above: Cindy Goh, Jewelry designer and owner of Club Jewel, with one of her creations.
Jewelry designer and owner of Club Jewel, Cindy Goh, 29, maintains that women “don’t turn out like that overnight. It’s the society, culturally. People are starting to accept the fact that women can be independent”
The talented lady graduated from LaSalle-SIA College of Arts with a Jewelry Design Diploma with Distinctions in 1996 and she has since made her mark in the jewelry trade.
Being blessed with skilled hands is one thing, but it was through pure determination that led Cindy to her peak. She got her fingers into the business when she was only 19. “I was doing wholesale for diamonds when I was 19. I was still schooling in LaSalle. But I was attached to one of the biggest diamond wholesalers in Singapore”, says Cindy.
Cindy admits that it was not a smooth ride being an entrepreneur, “initially it was tough… to start a jewelry shop, you must not only know how to design and make, you must know all aspects – from retail to sale tactics also”. Quiz her about the secrets of her success and she will tell you that “I believe in focusing on my strengths instead of weaknesses”.
“If you never try, you never know. If you fail, you learn from experience. From experience, you gain more exposure. And from exposure, you push yourself more”, adds Cindy.
Sometimes it is easier said than done especially. It appears that women have it differently, due to the fact that they belong to the so called ‘weaker’ sex. But are women really weak to begin with? Today, the stigma of women having to stay home to manage the household is starting to fade away, “now it’s different, there are women in parliament, there are woman presidents; women are fighting”, adds Cindy.
Are women then posing as a threat to men? Cindy thinks that the whole situation can be viewed in a positive light, “men do not always have to feed the lady, if a woman is able to help a man lighten the burden, then it’s also good because you need both hands to clap”.
However, in an Asian society such as Singapore, many have the conservative mindset that women should be the one staying home taking care of the kids but this traditional belief is slowly changing. “I think the society should educate the men that us women can help them as well. We’re not trying to outdo them, but rather, trying to contribute in a way that helps in the family and the society”, explains Cindy.
Cindy rationalises that “if women are always staying at home, then what happens if one day there are not many men? Then I think there’ll be more and more women at home not doing anything and I think the society will also be upset, so I also think it is good that in the world, people are accepting women as one of them.”
Iris Tan, founder of Mosaico, the first mosaic gallery and studio in Singapore, couldn’t agree more, “the women now are very different from our parent’s generation… society has changed and we have changed the society too. Women are stronger and more independent now. We dare to be ourselves and stand on our own”.
Most people would chide Iris for leaving her rather stable and coveted job as an assistant marketing communications manager of a Telco and think of her decision to venture into her current mosaico business as an impulsive move. Iris however thinks other wise, “if you don’t explore new ventures, then what is the meaning of life if you always stay within your comfort zone? I believe in challenges in life and pursuing your own dreams because I do not want to live life with regrets”.
To Iris, she says “no more of ‘The men work, the women stay at home and look after the kids/households.’ The society and even the government now has given each gender equal chance and equal rights”. She has made the choice of following her heart instead of worrying about the salary and the uncertainties, “I dare to take up challenges, I am not afraid to fail”.
Her ex-principal even gave her an inspirational quote when she heard Iris was going to quit her comfortable job to start her own business; she said, “Be the lighted-candle to brighten the world or be the mirror who reflects the light.” Iris, upon hearing that, instantly knew she wanted to be the lighted candle, “I want to lead and not to follow. I want to create a successful business to call my own.”
She sincerely believes that she “can bring mosaic art to the next level in Singapore and build the love and appreciation of mosaic art here”. Iris, Cindy and Shirley have all bucked the trend and took the huge risk in striking out on their own. They were aware of the problems that might come their way, but hey, each one of them has proven that they could wear the pants and strut damn well in it.
After all, God didn’t say women could not be equal, if not better than men. The only difference that separates women from men is their gender. Beneath the facades lies a living walking breathing human being. So to the women out there, we hope you are listening and do take Iris’s advice and “pursue your passion, live without regrets, cos’ you only live once!”