Viet Nam News
Founder of Soul Rich Women (SRW) network and former Miss Singapore, Genecia Alluora Luo, tells Việt Nam News reporter Phương Uyên that her mega mission to empower Southeast Asian women to succeed in business has a simple aim: change their lives for the better.
How did Soul Rich Women and female entrepreneur empowerment in Southeast Asia happen?
Back in 2012, I had begun to run my own multinational café chain, and I knew that going into the retail business means you have to go online for recognition and effective management. And though I wanted to, I honestly did not know how.
Since this involved a lot of trial and error, without a business mentor or a comprehensive source of helpful information, I felt the need to do something about it, and SRW was born. The aim was not just to help established female entrepreneurs in Southeast Asia, but also those were still working a 9-5 job but desiring to do something on the side.
In the information age, to get in touch with customers, gain market share and arrange inventory, I suggest the women make the most of social media networking, online shopping and delivery platforms. And by giving women entrepreneurs more access to capital, resources and investment opportunities, we can accelerate economic growth in the region, Việt Nam included.
With SRW, my mostly female team and I run mentoring programmes, offering more than 10,000 hours of online training in various business aspects and other forms of community support. I hope to encourage more and more women to advance and continue helping others run a business successfully and make extra income, no matter how big or small.
Why Southeast Asia, and what are the ways in which you plan to help women in the region?
I’ve noticed many women in SEA tend to place themselves behind family and children, becoming housewives with little skill and a lot of fear. That is why I believe having a trusting and guiding community for such women is important, for them to become better in life and successful in business.
So, for example, I met an Indonesian businesswoman and mother of five who went from giving out flyers to leveraging social media to expand her furniture selling firm, thanks to SRW’s help. Better yet, she will continue to share her experience with others like her in her own locality, thus expanding our support community to reach many more women.
I can see that the Southeast Asian region is going to welcome the next big wave of ecommerce. Regardless, the level of entrepreneur environment maturity differs by country. The best that businesswomen in this part of the world can do is to invest in themselves, become more aware of online opportunities and think outside the box with the correct knowhow.
By going slowly from starting a part-time business alongside full time employment, to a full time business, and finally to scaling and automating the business, female entrepreneurs, especially small and medium sized ones, can facilitate their own growth one step at time.
What are your objectives here in Việt Nam?
As Việt Nam tops the list of ASEAN countries for the highest number of female CEOs, I think Vietnamese women are business-minded, though they might find themselves limited in terms of business models and strategy, and still mostly confined to the domestic market.
So our focus for Vietnamese businesswomen now is to help them establish an online presence internationally, or at least regionally. One such case is the owner of a boutique chain called Lamy, who has already built herself a recognised brand and has come to us with hope of expanding regionally and internationally via the SRW network.
Having delivered some talks in Hà Nội and HCM City, I can see that the older female entrepreneurs see no need to expand their business using online platforms because they are well established and in a comfortable position in the market, while the younger generation is eager to engage with going online.
I can safely say that using automated technology can help these women scale up their business and manage operations across countries, achieving standardised retail structures through integrated software and ecommerce platforms.
Our partners such Shopify, Lean In Vietnam or even Facebook, can help these budding Vietnamese women grow their business selling internationally through drop shipping, point of sale system, and other ecommerce or advertisement tools, to build a commercial network beyond personal connections and word of mouth.
Any advice for dabbling novices and seasoned businesswomen based on your own experiences?
When I was 14 years old, our family was not financially sound and I, being the eldest sister, had to work to support myself through school and to put food on the table, despite being located in economically developed Singapore. With my mother’s motivation, I have chosen not to be a victim of my circumstances, and make a difference on my way, which is something I suggest we all strive to do.
The biggest fight is within the women and their own inert mindset, not their technical skills. Lots of women in Asia have a deep rooted fear of failure and a sense of comfort in their secure day jobs, while the education system does not equip them with the level of innovation and motivation needed to break free and act on their own.
I can say that all these women need a sense of hope to build a business and begin to grow, so they can utilise the tools we give them, enhance their lives and the lives of others like them and around them. I don’t expect them to change the world, but to change their own lives for the better, be happier. — VNS