Words Of Advice From Women Entrepreneurs At DEMO Asia

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By Sharon Lourdes Paul (Contributing Writer, SGEntrepreneurs) Let’s face it. There is still a dearth of female entrepreneurs in startup land. As I walked around the booths at DEMO Asia 2012, only about 10% of startups had female founders. But what does this mean for all of us aspiring, or current, female founders?

I was fortunate to interview three inspiring women and capture their words of advice for us.

#1 - Being female does not handicap you.

Rebeca Hwang, co-founder and CEO of YouNoodle, expressed that gender-bias is not as rampant as perceived by some. Founded in 2007, Rebeca has some years of experience up her sleeve.

She disagrees that female founders have a harder time raising funds. At most, slight gender bias occurs when boardroom meetings are filled with middle-aged men. In such cases, questions related to finances were often directed to her male counterpart, whereas she often received queries related to team dynamics or social media. But once she stepped up and answered the “manly” questions, the attention was immediately directed back to her.

As you are well-prepared, women can command similar respect in boardrooms too. In fact, being a female in the startup community is often an advantage rather than a disadvantage.

“Being female helps you stand out from the crowd”, according to Pascale Helyar-Moray, founder of StyleRocks.

#2 - Be a help-seeker.

“We have a high level of honesty with ourselves, and are not afraid to ask for help,” said Lee Min Xuan, co-founder of Playmoolah.

Min Xuan highlighted that while setting up Playmoolah, co-founder Audrey Lee and her were often seeking for help. Though it is questionable whether this is a female-exclusive trait, this practice was also observed by Pascale of StyleRocks.

Time constraints due to being a mother to baby twins forced Pascale to recognize early on that she had to partner someone else to fill the tactical gap in StyleRocks. Through Mega, an pro-entrepreneurship course in Australia, she managed to find technical co-founders needed to complement her.

#3 - Find a support group.

“It’s important to have a bridge to the ecosystem; to be part of a support group with others whom you trust and share a bond with; to share intimate issues happening in your company,” Rebeca Hwang, co-founder and CEO of YouNoodle.

For all three founders, being part of a close-knit support group has been a vital part of their startup journey.

For Rebeca, it has been an informal group of Stanford alumni CEOs that meet up every month; for Pascale, it was a female-only networking group, Heads Over Heels. Min Xuan herself has built a network of mentors whom she looks up to for advice. Within all these groups, each founder receive both tactical and emotional support.

However, the emergence of informal networks usually happens when a city has a mature startup ecosystem. Hence, if you are residing in a place where entrepreneurship has not yet flourished, try taking the first step and join a formal support organization instead.

Rebeca advises that what’s most important is to find others who share a similar background as you, and can help you along different stages of a startup.

#4 - Dare to pursue your own dream, and lead by example.

Last buy not least, as women, we should not be afraid to chase our own dreams. Min Xuan observed that women has a higher tendency to be self-sacrificial. Occasionally, mothers forgo their own development paths and instead hope for their children to fulfill their dreams instead.

“I realized that the best way to help others is to lead by example”, said Min Xuan.

Pascale, in her strong pursuit for StyleRocks to be an internationally renowned company, is definitely being a role model for her children. Similarly, Rebeca is encouraging the next generation of entrepreneurs through her company’s summer immersion program, the YouNoodle Basecamp.

This post was originally posted at SGEntrepreneurs.