Learn How They Did It: Top Female Entrepreneurs in Singapore

Learn How They Did It: Top Female Entrepreneurs in Singapore

A 2012 report from Startup Genome, a nonprofit organization in the United States (U.S.) that tracks and measures startup communities in the world, revealed that an average of 10 percent women entrepreneurs in the startup ecosystem ranking. In 2015, the average jumped to 18 percent.


In the U.S., Chicago wins the title of being the most gender-diverse startup ecosystems with an average of 30 percent female entrepreneurs. Boston and Silicon Valley follow with an average of 29 percent and 24 percent, respectively. In Europe, Paris has an average of 21 percent. In Asia, Singapore leads in numbers with an average of 19 percent female entrepreneurs.


The world has seen the rise of female entrepreneurs in recent years. With Singapore’s pro-business policies and government grants, it’s no wonder that many startup businesses are popping up on this side of the world. Singapore’s close proximity to many emerging markets in Asia is also a factor that contributes to the rise of many startup entrepreneurs.


Singapore’s low corporate tax is just one of the many advantages of running a business in the island state. With a 17 percent cap in corporate tax, Singapore has a significantly lower rate compared to the regional average corporate tax rate of 21.91 percent. Additionally, newly-registered startups can enjoy full tax exemption of S$100,000 normal chargeable income during its first three consecutive years. These are just some of the many reasons that underscore why Singapore is really one of the best countries in Asia to start and grow your business. Registering your business as a Singapore company is easy. Whether you’re starting a new business or a branch office, we can help you bring your startup venture to the next level.


Today, we’re going to check out Singapore’s top female entrepreneurs and learn from their success stories on how they made a big splash in Singapore.


Lim Qing Ru, Zopim

Zopim is one of Singapore’s best tech startups. It offers a chat widget that enables customers to chat live with a support team. The Singapore-based company was formed in 2008 by Lim Qing Ru and three male co-founders, all from the National University of Singapore.


The beta version of the Zopim chat widget debuted in 2010. The first few years were hard for the founders who were earning just enough to cover their expenses. In 2014, American company Zendesk acquired Zopim in a whopping SGD 37 million (approximately USD 29.8 million) deal which instantly transformed the founders from new entrepreneurs to examples to be looked upon in the startup world. Both Zendesk and Zopim announced the marriage in their company blogs. Zopim had 40,000 business users during the acquisition.


In an interview with Her World, Lim Qing Ru expressed that because she was raised by frugal parents, a housewife and supervisor father, money has never been her main motivation in life. Yet, through hard work and passion, Lim Qing Ru became a multi-millionaire overnight. She is currently the Director of Customer Advocacy for Zendesk.



Huang Shao Ning, JobsCentral

The job search website JobsCentral was an idea formed in the late 1990s, considered by many as the ‘dot com boom’ phase. Together with her partners, Huang Shao Ning formed what was then called JobsFactory. To cut cost and avoid paying rent for office space, the tech startup operated in one of the partner’s houses.


JobsFactory soon became a household name in campus recruitment, which the partners perceived as their niche market. In 2005, the partners formed JobsCentral to entice experienced professionals. The online job portal soon gained a significant mindshare in Singapore for both fresh graduates and experienced professionals.


In 2011, U.S. company CareerBuilder acquired JobsCentral which enabled the U.S. giant to operate in 21 countries around the world, including Asia. The acquisition was deemed significant because of its timing. In 2011, acquisitions of Asian tech startups were rare. JobsCentral’s graceful exit remains an inspiration to many startup entrepreneurs.



Alexis Horowitz-Burdick, Luxola

Luxola is a luxury cosmetic e-retailer based in Singapore. Founded in 2011 by American expat Alexis Horowitz-Burdick who moved from Colorado to Singapore in 2008. In its early years, Alexis could not even pay herself and her team a meager salary. Her team shared her strong belief in the booming industry of online retail and soon, hard work paid off.


In 2014, Luxola’s online presence gained investors which led to its expansion in Southeast Asia. In early 2015, French luxury giant LVMH group, Sephora’s parent company, acquired Luxola enabling the Singaporean company to reach a wider market in luxury e-commerce.


Mouna Aouri Langendorf, Woomentum 

Founded by Tunisian expat Mouna Aouri Langendorf, Woomentum is a community-slash-crowdfunding website for startup female entrepreneurs. Woomentum’s online platform also offers mentoring and resource-sharing among its registered users. Mouna’s goal for Woomentum is to reach 20 million highly educated female startup entrepreneurs in Asia. The site was launched in late 2014.


“It’s very easy to build a crowdfunding platform nowadays. What’s really difficult is to build a community [around it],” said Aouri Langendorf in an interview with Tech in Asia. Woomentum’s unique strategy includes crowdsourcing events where startup entrepreneurs can conduct their sales pitch in front of a crowd. The audience can then ‘pitch in’ money for the startups.


Companies like MYMFunding, MoolaHoop, and Plum Alley share the same crowdfunding platform but Woomentum is the first of its kind in Asia.



Elim Chew, 77th Street

77 Street is a popular clothing brand founded by Elim Chew in 1988. Not only did she revolutionized streetwear fashion, Elim’s huge success also forged the way for local entrepreneurship in Singapore.


Canon Singapore featured Elim as one of their success stories. In the interview, she shared her secret for success: “My business philosophy is to always think big and think global. But it’s not enough to just think big. You have to go all out and make it happen. There’s so much you can achieve if you do. Because I believe the power to create the biggest change in our lives and in the world lies in our hands.”



Claire Chiang, Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts

In 1984, Claire Chiang and her husband Ho Kwon Ping were vacationing on the western coast of Phuket, Thailand. The couple came across a plot in Bang Tao Bay and expressed that it would make a great luxury resort. Upon purchasing the land, they discovered that the land was contaminated and could not grow any vegetation because it used to be a tin mine. After a 10-year regeneration program, the first Banyan Tree resort opened on the same land in 1994. It was called Banyan Tree Phuket.


In an article, Chang’s early life was described as very simple. She lived with her parents and 4 her four brothers in a shop house in Little India. Despite their poverty, she was raised with an excellent education. A Sociology graduate from the University of Singapore, she had an interesting academic career prior to conceptualizing and later on, serving as the Founder and Executive Director of Banyan Tree. In 1999, the multitalented social activist, author, and entrepreneur was named by Her World Magazine as Singapore’s Woman of The Year.


Today, Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts is one of the world’s leading names in the hospitality and spa industry with over 90 retail galleries, 70 spas, and 30 hotel resorts and 3 championship golf courses around the world. Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts has operations in 28 countries.


Are you ready to join Singapore’s army of female homegrown talents? If you believe you have what it takes to lead in Singapore’s diverse and dynamic network of entrepreneurs, give us a call today and let us help you set up your business in Singapore.