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6 Southeast Asian Entrepreneurs Reveal Their Secrets For Success

Here are their key pieces of advice to fellow entrepreneurs

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BY Alex Campbell - 17 Nov 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

To mark Global Entrepreneurship Week, I thought it was a great opportunity to pick the brains of entrepreneurs on what makes them successful. I spoke to six of Xero’s customers, all of whom operate in a diverse range of industries, to get their take on what helps their businesses run effectively. Each of their answers was surprisingly consistent, revealing four key pieces of advice to fellow entrepreneurs.

1. Take time to identify and understand your market

Lelian Chew of Floral Atelier, a boutique floral studio and online delivery service, encourages businesses at their inception to clearly identify their market, “The market won’t find you,” she says. “Have a target market and be consistent in your approach towards it.”

Similarly, Keyis Ng, CEO and co-founder of, an online coffee retailer and subscription service, emphasizes the value of understanding your customers: “Watch how they interact with your product – even the smallest changes should make you innovate and adapt.”

RSS feeds can also be very helpful in staying on top of conversations in the small business community, helping to build a mental model of the market. At the same time, new information should always be assessed on how it either reinforces or challenges that existing mental model, developing an understanding of what customers want and how they want it.

2. Invest in talent

“Don’t do it alone,” says Amira Priest, CEO of Zahara, an online retailer of halal makeup. The website acts as a supportive online community for Muslim women. While Amira did not have a team per se, she did have her husband Cam who acted as a trusted confidante and business advisor.

Fitness enthusiast Luciano Tesoriero concurs. The New Zealander, who started the first F45 gyms in Singapore, advises entrepreneurs to identify their business values and build a diverse and interesting group around them. A like-minded team that you can trust helps to take the pressure off doing it all on your own.

3. Explore new technologies

Michelle Koh of tech company Robust Tech took a cautious approach when it was starting out in order to avoid repeating the decisions which had led to the failures of other small businesses. However, with the business having grown and thrived, she now sees the value in taking leaps of faith. In particular, she says, “be open to exploring new technologies and ideas. Keeping an open mind leads to more business opportunities.” 

Ben Lee, the proprietor of bustling CBD sandwich shop, Sarnies, encourages the same, “Get the right technology tools to manage your finances!”

4. Keep an eye on your numbers

In that same vein, Lee highlighted the importance of being smart with your company’s finances. “Only invest what you can afford to lose,” he says.

This is an important one. There is a premium put on sticking out the struggle and being in the game for more noble reasons than money, but these noble pursuits have to be balanced with common sense. If you love what you do but are losing money, then get out of the business. Or make sure you find a way to make it profitable. After all, money and a positive cash flow are what keeps the machine oiled and running smoothly.


Alex Campbell is MD Asia of Xero, an online accounting software for small businesses

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