Female entrepreneurs are taking centre stage with their innovative creations and ideas
by NURUL SUHAIDI
THE e-commerce industry has become a fertile ground for businesswomen to thrive in the digital market. Whether it is retail or beauty, food or financial services, female entrepreneurs are taking centre stage with their innovative creations and ideas.
One such individual would be the CEO and co-founder of Nuren Group, Petrina Goh, who took inspiration from a challenging pregnancy and motherhood experience to establish the e-marketplace Motherhood.com.my in her mission to curate a one-stop platform for new mothers.
One-Stop Platform for Mothers, Mothers-to-Be
Although building a brand and managing a digital community-driven company is tough, the company now is one of the most recognisable brands among the South-East Asia e-community and has about three million monthly users from active mums.
According to Goh, the idea struck her after her personal struggle during pregnancy, while searching for the right baby products and information to learn about parenting with the right guidance.
“During my first pregnancy, I was clueless about what to expect and super overwhelmed by the pregnancy and baby products that I needed to prepare and get the right resources.
“That was about seven years ago when most of the online resources found were international-based and not localised, and we still depend on magazines and books to learn about parenting.
“As such, I decided to curate a list of vendors and services under one roof that will be the safe haven for mothers and mothers-to-be to discover and shop for reliable and practical products for their everyday lives,” she said.
Coming from a management consulting and investment banking background, mompreneur Goh is supported by a diversified team of 70 people with strong domain knowledge and capabilities.
“I am also fortunate to be supported by my family, partner and children. They understand how passionate I am about the business. I considered myself as lucky to be able to leverage my personal experience as a mother to grow the business,” she added.
Goh shared that Covid-19 brought unexpected growth to her e-commerce business and that was partly due to its unique position as a niche online marketplace focusing on females, motherhood and family, thus eliminating a lot of other mass e-commerce players.
“We have grown 30% in revenues and profitability over the last year. We are expecting this trend to continue as Motherhood strengthens our leadership position in this space,” she told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR), adding that Covid-19 also supported many female entrepreneurs and home-bakers in providing them access to sell their products and services in a cost-efficient manner.
To date, the platform has more than 5,000 baby brands and Nuren Group has received many accolades since its establishment. It will soon launch its Motherhood Super App to better connect users.
She hopes the platform will inspire more women to make decisions to contribute meaningfully to the community and society.
“The start-up journey can be lonely, and most friends and family may not understand the things we as founders experienced, therefore entrepreneurs must have passion, persistence and perseverance on the start-up that they are venturing into,” Goh stressed.
Taking a Big Leap of Faith
Another female entrepreneur who knew she needs to bring a purposeful change and was always drawn into entrepreneurship is Winnie Chua, co-founder of PolicyStreet, a tech insurance company that focuses on powering up businesses and consumers with digital insurance solutions.
PolicyStreet primarily works directly with renowned insurance providers to ensure consumers are adequately insured by combining innovative products with digital solutions.
Chua told TMR that although the idea excites her, she once had doubt and that kept her on the fence for a while as she dealt with imposter syndrome.
However, after much intense deliberation and encouragement from her business partner, she decided to take a big leap of faith and venture into the insurtech industry although it is a male-dominated industry.
“I realised that my ambitions outweighed my fears. At that moment, I decided to become the female leader I hoped to see more of, within the industry,” she said while revealing that prior to co-founding PolicyStreet, she was the strategy and planning manager for Allianz Group.
The mushrooming of e-commerce businesses to her is inevitable as it helps the market improve and inspire business to redefine their strategies, especially for an emerging giant in the insurtech landscape like PolicyStreet.
“During the pandemic, we saw accelerated growth of the digital economy regionally and within Malaysia, and consumers were becoming aware of the importance of being adequately insured, but yet many are still financially struggling to afford insurance,” she told TMR.
From there, she saw the aware- ness as an opportunity to ride the growth of the gig and digital economy by protecting the social and financial welfare of gig workers and the underserved, hoping one day it will become more sustainable.
“This is achieved through our range of innovatively embedded insurance products, employee benefits and digital solutions that simplify insurance operations, providing the underinsured and small businesses with peace of mind knowing that their future is safeguarded,” she added.
Attributing her success to a supportive husband, she believes being a woman is not a disadvantage; instead, it is empowerment if you know how to overcome the odds stacked against you.
“While I embark on this entrepreneurship journey at PolicyStreet, my husband is holding down a stable career to ensure our household’s financial stability,” she added.
For those planning to start or embark on their e-commerce journey, she advised listening to your conviction and belief despite your doubts.
“Take baby steps and never turn down opportunities to learn something new,” Chua said.
As a result of her determination and hard work, PolicyStreet was named one of the 100 Leading Emerging Giants in the Asia Pacific by KPMG PLT and HSBC Bank Malaysia Bhd, and was awarded the Young Entrepreneurs’ Award in 2020 by Asean Business Advisory Council.
Filling the Gap between Jewellery Trends and Community Bond
While e-commerce brands within the retail and beauty industry has gone through transformations, a local digital brand has also been thriving and setting a new trend around jewellery.
Founded by Jenn Low, Wanderlust + Co is 90% female-powered jewellery brand with a focus on empowering its customers known as #WCOgirlgang community to unite them with positivity and a sense of good feeling.
Her journey started while she was in her early 20s, living and working in the fashion industry in Australia. She realised that there was a gap between the jewellery trends that spoke of individuality while having a community bond.
“The idea of Wanderlust + Co first came about even before the era of platforms like Instagram existed.
“Back then, there wasn’t a digital jewellery brand that emphasised on design, based on intuition and individuality which focused on building a community around jewellery trends, affordability and the feel-good accent that accessories added to any outfit,” she told TMR.
To her, a brand is like a person with a personality but always growing and living. Instead of merely selling the accessories and design, the brand purpose has now geared towards spreading social impacts.
“Looking back, our mission and purpose have transformed into spreading social impacts to the digital community through optimistic messagings that inspire our #WCOgirlgang to consume joyfully and consciously,” she added.
Her journey in Wanderlust + Co also has redefined what entrepreneurship means to her as she believes that while it is important to celebrate the brand voice and its audience, one should not overlook from prioritising things that matter and staying true to oneself.
That means putting her family first and taking an occasional break while allowing herself to rest when needed.
For her, being in an e-commerce environment enables female entrepreneurs to build an online presence that’s meaningful and intentional.
“That includes the purpose of why a design looks the way it does, the copy that accompanies a campaign, visuals and captions on social media, all the way to how our customer service representative responds to a query,” Low told TMR.
During the pandemic, the brand took a sabbatical for two years and went fully digital, although that wasn’t a huge shift as it has always been originally digital.
“At the time, we took the opportunity to reiterate our brand values to stand by our #WCO- girl gang community and amplify ways to stay positive, hopeful and grounded while staying safely at home,” she said.
Twelve years on, the company which started off as a purely digital brand has now evolved into an omni-channel and experience-centric business, and will be opening its first physical store in Sunway Pyramid along with other renowned and homegrown brands.
“We’re looking forward to expanding to more physical outlets both locally and globally in the coming months and years, while continuing to do things in more dynamic and creative ways,” she said.
She reminded all potential entrepreneurs to persevere to achieve their dream and success. Low believes open and honest communication is a way to empower women within her community.
“I believe that success is a very traditional word and the concept of success has really evolved. Today, success to me is about being comfortable and happy as yourself. The true you!” Low concluded.
Wanderlust + Co’s pieces have been worn by beautiful and prominent celebrities including Gigi Hadid, Jessica Alba, Chrissy Teigen, Chriselle Lim, Aimee Song and many others.
- This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition