4 Southeast Asian Women Entrepreneurs to Inspire You

They’re changing not just the start-up landscape but the world

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BY Pauline Mendoza - 22 Mar 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Traditionally in business, men dominate. The biggest start-ups you can think of today are founded and run by men. However, times are changing and women have proven they can contribute and make as much of a difference in the start-up ecosystem.

This Inc. article by Margarita Hakobyan lists many reasons why the world needs more women entrepreneurs — from economic growth to improved innovation — showing that women entrepreneurs can be among the best.

With women’s month nearly coming to an end, it is not too late to be inspired by these women entrepreneurs who surely won’t disappoint.


1. Michelle Phan

Michelle Phan is the Vietnamese founder of Ipsy, a cosmetics subscription company. Every month, Ipsy sends its customers beauty care products selected and used by Phan herself, capitalizing on the popularity she gained as a beauty care and makeup guru with her videos on YouTube. Ipsy now earns millions of dollars annually.

From living through food stamps and being abandoned by her father at an early age, Phan now owns a company with partnerships with multinational beauty companies and wields a tremendous amount of influence through her YouTube channel’s millions of subscribers.


2. Huang Shao Ning

Singaporean Huang Shao Ning is the co-founder of job-hunting site JobsCentral, and has been invaluable to numerous start-up companies by providing essential advice learned through experience in Singapore’s competitive environment. Originally from Taiwan, she arrived in Singapore without learning a word of English. JobsCentral was acquired by U.S. based CareerBuilder, with the acquisition rumored to be one of the highest in Singapore’s start-up history.


3. Hooi Ling Tan

Malaysian Hooi Ling Tan, GrabTaxi (now Grab) co-founder, conceptualized the popular taxi service with fellow Harvard alumnus Anthony Tan. She knew that taxis operating in the Southeast Asian region needed to be safer and reliable. Grab is now valued at $3 billion and has formed partnerships with companies that offer the service in India, China, and the United States.


4. Reese Fernandez-Ruiz

Reese Fernandez-Ruiz is from the Philippines, and is the co-founder of Rags2Riches—a social enterprise that helps women in Manila’s poor regions to directly access consumers and retailers with their unique “upcycled” products. Fernandez-Ruiz realized that the handcrafted recycled products produced by the women in the low-income community of Payatas had their earnings significantly reduced due to the middlemen. She founded Rags2Riches as a bridge between the women and the top retailers in the Philippines, raising the income for some 300 women in the area.

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