Laurence Fauchon, Co-Founder and CEO of HelperChoice.com, writes about her journey starting a social impact start-up in Hong Kong.
Gone are the days of companies paying lip service to CSR and it being accepted by society. Corporate Social Responsibility has given way to entrepreneurs with a vision who challenge themselves to not only earn money, but to also do good.
Women entrepreneurs like you and I are not just sitting back to wait and see what happens, instead we are the frontrunners of social change.
In early 2015 I made a decision that would change my life. I quit my well-paid, challenging job as an investment banker, doing mathematical modelling, and started to work full time on my own social impact startup. I had founded the company in 2012, but only worked on it at night and weekends until one day I realized I could have more impact if I went full-time. I wanted to do something more meaningful for the community that I had come to see as mine. I took a big leap of faith and have not regretted it since.
Women have started to catch up with men when it comes to setting up their own businesses. It’s relatively easy in the day and age of advanced technology and it gives us, especially young mothers the flexibility to work when our children are napping or at play dates with friends. But why do women in Singapore only account for 5% in the startup scene? It’s time we grasp our opportunities and take matters into our own hands. We can become entrepreneurs, be good mothers and impact our communities.
Plant the business seed
How many of us have come up with ideas for setting up a business and do nothing with it? Of course, not all ideas are equally good, but they can become. Our world is becoming increasingly complicated which is confusing, but also liberating. We, women, can do whatever we want and we can become our own lady boss! In today’s world everyone can start a business provided we’re armed with a vision. It won’t be easy. Thousands of capable people are cooking up ideas this very single second. But that shouldn’t stop us from trying. Many people thought I would never make it, but I’m still standing strong.
I wanted to contribute to society after I found out that my helper was charged more than 2 months of her salary in illegal hiring fees. After looking into the issue, I realized that the industry was incredibly outdated as it was completely offline. I decided to give my solution a shot especially since it has become easier than ever to launch thanks to today’s technology and investment environment. Within days of launching, our testing website got a lot of traction, even though it was far from perfect. Don’t waste your time building the perfect product, but take it one step at a time.
Startups are a hot topic and Singapore is Asia’s hotbed for innovative companies. This makes the competition very stiff. Many of us will dream of owning companies valued over 10 million US dollars. The reality is that few of us will ever reach this, but don’t let this stop you from setting up shop. The recipe for success is innovation, scalability, sustainability and a tea spoon of luck. If you’re really passionate about your idea and have received good feedback, just do it.
Become a modern day hero and do good
When asked about successful entrepreneurs, many of us will immediately think of companies that focus on revenue. But this is backward thinking, in today’s world many people run successful businesses that have a big social impact.
Not all of us can become the next Facebook or Google, but we can certainly change the lives of hundreds and thousands of clients for the better. With HelperChoice, we’ve helped over 5,000 employers find a great domestic worker and workers have saved over US$6 million in illegal fees. We even became the runner-up in an international competition supported by the UN Foundation for female entrepreneurs who put social purpose at the core of their business model.
In the early days when all I had was ideas, I decided to launch following a startup model. There are already many NGOs dedicated to domestic workers and they do great work, but I wanted to create a sustainable model that would be scalable and would not depend on donations so that we don’t fight with one another for the same funding sources. Ultimately it is about doing something good for the community, being responsible and being your own boss.
Doing good is sexy
People love it when I tell them I’m running a social impact startup. Having a strong social mission will give you a competitive advantage. You’ll have your pick of the best employees because people love to work for a greater purpose. Clients will come by the drones and your influence will be remarkable. And being for-profit with a social mission will also push you to innovate. At the end of the day, you need to make money and survive.
Running a company is not easy and some days I want to throw the towel into the ring, but then I think about what I’m doing and I just keep going. The next day I’ve often forgotten why I was so frustrated in the first place. On those days I reflect back on my previous banking career and I realize how much I love running my own startup and doing good. Every time a domestic worker writes to me and thanks me for helping her escape debt, I can’t stop but smile. What are you waiting for?
Take matters into your own hands and become a social impact LadyBoss!