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Speech by SMS Koh Poh Koon at the Women Entrepreneur Awards 2019

Speech by SMS Koh Poh Koon at the Women Entrepreneur Awards 2019

Ms Stephanie Cheo, Chairperson, Women Entrepreneur Awards,

Excellencies,

Distinguished guests, award winners, judges, 

Ladies & Gentlemen,

Introduction

1. Good evening. I am delighted to join you at the Women Entrepreneur Awards (WEA) today. 

2. Into its third edition this year, the WEA is a community-led initiative to celebrate the achievements of our female entrepreneurs. WEA winners then go on to support their fellow businesswomen through the Women Entrepreneur Club (WE Club) by offering practical assistance, cultivating a close network of support and encouraging collaboration through networking events and mentoring programmes. The WEA and WE Club help build a sustainable ecosystem to support our women entrepreneurs.

Supporting Women Entrepreneurs in Singapore

3. Home-grown enterprises have been part of the growth of Singapore’s economy for many years. The Government remains committed to supporting and strengthening the local ecosystem for our entrepreneurs, male and female alike. Women business leaders are an integral part of our enterprise landscape, with about 1 in 3 business owners in Singapore being female. I am therefore heartened to learn that for two years in a row (2017 and 2018), the global Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs Report has ranked Singapore as the top Asian market offering female entrepreneurs supportive conditions and opportunities to grow their businesses. While this is encouraging, there is room to enable more women to achieve greater business success. 

4. Technology has given many of us the freedom to work on-the-go. Digital advancements have enabled entrepreneurs to run their businesses even when out of office, therefore allowing them to use their time more efficiently. Women at every stage of life can take advantage of this flexibility to bring business ideas into fruition even if they are juggling other personal and professional commitments, such as a full-time job, or motherhood. My wish is that our women entrepreneurs will lead the way and show how Flexible Work Arrangements can become pervasive in the workplace to unleash the full potential of many of our women in the workplace while allowing them to meet their family care obligations. And by extension, catalyse a more pervasive flexible work culture based on delivering work outcomes rather than mere clocking of hours in the office, regardless of the gender of your employees. 

5. New entrepreneurs can also start their businesses off on the right foot by leveraging the Start Digital pack, which provides foundational digital tools to manage payroll processes, accounting and digital marketing, among others. To enable companies to adopt technology tools to improve overall productivity, the Government has rolled out the Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG) which provides funding support for a range of pre-scoped digital solutions to enhance business processes in areas such as customer management, data analytics and financial management.

6. But surely beyond technology, we want to do more and the Government recognises that having a capable team is key to business success. Many of you here as business owners would agree on this point that it is not technology that your company has but the people that house the processes in the company and people that drive the outcome are the most important. I encourage you, as entrepreneurs and business leaders, to build capabilities in your employees even as you shape and transform your businesses for the future. In this way, your employees will be equipped and empowered to contribute to the success of your businesses. The newly announced PSG (SkillsFuture Training Subsidy) is intended to support such capability-building efforts. The Government is also taking active steps to minimise regulatory costs for our businesses and companies by developing a pro-enterprise environment where new business ideas can thrive. For those looking to tap on internationalisation opportunities, Enterprise Singapore can support your business’ entry into new markets with Plug & Play Networks in key markets including China and especially the region around us, Southeast Asia. 

WEA Winners – Inspiring Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow 

7. Ultimately, the Government’s aim is to support entrepreneurs like yourself in building companies that form the foundation of our economy. Our WEA winners tonight have each gone above and beyond to achieve great success. I hope that your entrepreneurial spirit, evident in the hard work and passion that have fuelled your success, will serve as a motivation for others to follow. In an award ceremony like this, it would be remiss if we do not take some time to share the success stories of some of our winners tonight. Allow me to take some time to share about the journeys undertaken by Ms Jamie Koh from Brass Lion Distillery, Ms Novie Djayayanti Tjoa from Eatz Catering, and Ms Ang Jolie Mei from the Life Celebrant. Each of their journey into entrepreneurship and business success tells a story and is a useful lesson for all of us.

8. Some of you may have heard about and sampled the uniquely blue Butterfly Pea Gin from Brass Lion Distillery. Brass Lion Distillery is the first standalone micro-distillery in Singapore and producer of The Singapore Dry Gin. Jamie’s 6-year journey to launching the distillery was not a straightforward one – she had to acquire distilling knowledge and skills that were not readily accessible, build a strong supporting team and overcome regulatory hurdles. Fuelled by passion, grit and determination, Jamie led her team to pioneer the creation of a truly Singaporean gin, made in Singapore, by Singaporeans for the world. 

9. Innovation and passion are not unique to the development of new products. These are common qualities that all of you share as businesswomen, regardless of industry. These qualities were key to next winner, Novie’s development of Eatz Catering from a modest eatery more than 10 years ago, to a full-service food catering company today. Building on her self-made success, Novie continues to be on the lookout for new ways to improve and streamline Eatz’s catering processes. Under Novie’s leadership, Eatz is also committed to serving our community, such as by offering dollar-for-dollar donation matching to encourage staff to give back to society. I am heartened to know that female entrepreneurs like Novie are not only committed to building up their businesses, but are also supportive of uplifting our society through these community efforts. 

10. The third winner which I would like to share her story is a somewhat unique one. Having a heart for service led Jolie to carry on her father’s legacy in the funeral services industry to found The Life Celebrant. I’m sure many of you here will agree with me that this is an unusual career choice for a lady. As the only funeral celebrant in Singapore, The Life Celebrant offers services that help meet the emotional and practical needs of families and loved ones during difficult times. Jolie recognises the importance of good service in her field of work, and adopts a hands-on approach in training her team to ensure that the needs of her clients are met. Jolie also actively identifies new ways to streamline operations and offer better service. In 2018, The Life Celebrant adopted fleet management with support from Enterprise Singapore. With this system, Jolie’s company was able to obtain real-time updates on her drivers’ locations to facilitate overall coordination and improve productivity. Her pioneering spirit has not only led to the success of her company, but has also offered comfort to many families in their bereavement. 

Conclusion

11. I hope that those present here today will gain inspiration not only from Jamie, Novie and Jolie, but also from past and present winners and other businesswomen amongst you. Your achievements and contributions to our business landscape have indeed set a high bar for the women entrepreneurs of tomorrow. 

12. Close partnership between the public and private sector is critical to achieve this. In addition to Government support, initiatives such as the WEA and the WE Club are important in empowering our businesswomen through networking, mentoring and capital raising opportunities. I hope that collectively, we can also leverage on technology to push the envelope of flexible work culture here in Singapore. 

13. On this note, I would like to thank the WEA organisers, S. Auxano and partners for their commitment and contributions to female entrepreneurship. I am very heartened by the ambitions and entrepreneurial spirit embodied by our Singaporean businesswomen, which augurs well for our future.

14. Ladies and gentlemen, have a good evening and thank you very much.

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