Liyana Stuart spoke to Facebook’s Clair Deevy to learn how the social media giant is supporting female entrepreneurs in Asia
On March 8, 2016, Facebook celebrated International Women’s Day with the launch of #SheMeansBusiness, an initiative that celebrates more than 8,000 women entrepreneurs across Asia Pacific.
As part of the initiative, social media giant Facebook encouraged people to celebrate the inspiring women who run small businesses around the world by sharing the business pages, photos and videos of these women to their Facebook timeline using the hashtag, #SheMeansBusiness.
Through a series of workshops, training sessions and online resources, #SheMeansBusiness hopes to arm women entrepreneurs with the knowledge, connections, skills and technology required to build and grow their business online.
The initiative will run in collaboration with business leaders, civil society, NGOs and the public sector across the region.
“When women do better, we all benefit”
In Singapore, #SheMeansBusiness was launched in partnership with CRIB, a Singapore-based social enterprise. The event was attended by over 100 female entrepreneurs, as well as Grace Fu Hai Yien, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth & Leader of the House.
“When women do better, we all benefit. #SheMeansBusiness will not only connect entrepreneurial women with empowering tools, peers and networks, but will also raise greater awareness of the importance of women’s entrepreneurship for overall economic and social development. We know Singapore is a great place to do business, but today we are closer to making it an even better place for women to start and run a business too,” said Clair Deevy, Head of Economic Growth Initiatives APAC at Facebook.
Different countries, different challenges
“What we found is that depending on the country there’s different challenges. In Indonesia, it’s about knowing the steps on setting up a business. In Singapore and Australia, it’s a gender conversation about what it’s like to be a woman in business, looking for opportunities. Women are hungry for networking opportunities and training opportunities, and really thrive when brought into the company of other women,” said Clair.
Providing women with more opportunities could have the potential to bring more economic growth to Asia.
According to UN estimates, women have the potential to add US$89 billion to the Asia Pacific economy each year.
In the Philippines, for example, 45% of small businesses are owned by women, according to the Global Economic Monitor.
On why #SheMeansBusiness was launched, Clair said, “We wanted to build something specifically for women … we want to make this about the women, we want to highlight inspiring women, we want to share their stories, and we want to get other people involved.”
Facebook users have been encouraged to celebrate inspiring women by sharing the business pages, photos and videos of these women to their Facebook timeline using the hashtag, #SheMeansBusiness.
“The viral aspect is getting people to tell their friends and families about a woman entrepreneur. That really brought to life for so many people why this is important,” explained Clair.
Explosive Growth of Small and Medium Businesses Pages
Globally, 50 million Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs) have Pages on Facebook.
The number of new women-owned SMB Pages on Facebook has increased approximately four-fold, nearly doubling in the past year.
In Singapore alone, there has been a 50 percent increase in the number of new women-owned SMB Pages in the past year.
Through these pages, women are connecting with existing and new customers all over the world to grow their businesses.
“It is a really easy way to come online. So many women are on Facebook already, the step across to moving to a business page is an easy step for them. Women are starting to realise they can start small,” said Clair.
Making the World More Connected
“Facebook’s mission is to make the world more open and connected. What we’re trying to do is to make women entrepreneurs more connected,” said Clair.
Indeed, Facebook is a powerful social media tool, with half of the world’s online population on Facebook.
More than 1.59 billion people now use Facebook each month. Facebook is a powerful advertising platform, with 3 million active advertisers, and more than 50 million SMB Pages.
In APAC, Facebook has 540 million monthly active users. In Singapore, there are 3.5 million active users.
Dea’s Story: Bringing Batik Creations to the World
Clair shared the story of 22-year-old Dea Valencia – a female entrepreneur in Indonesia who has harnessed the power of Facebook for her business, Batik Kultur.
“Dea makes batik clothing. She realised that her orders are coming from Europe and overseas. She started targeting women in Sweden and Europe – a mix of the Indonesian expat community and people who have fallen in love with batik. She didn’t realise when she started the business with her mum that it would be a big brand selling all around the world,” said Clair.
Dea first ran the boutique with the help of her mother, but demand for her garments has grown so rapidly that she now employs 66 people, including a number of disabled employees, to manage the orders coming from more than 60,000 Facebook fans.
Genevieve’s Story: Food by hand, not machines
Another story showcased on the #SheMeansBusiness website, is one from Singapore.
Genevieve Lee founded a handmade food business, The Edible Co. She was driven by her passion for natural food made by hands, not machines.
The idea stemmed from Genevieve’s time caring for her father post-heart surgery. To avoid unhealthy ingredients in store food, she started preparing food, ingredients and granola from scratch.
The business serves an assortment of granola and snacks, and believes in ‘providing good food for good people’.
Today, The Edible Co operates out of a brick and mortar store and kitchen, in addition to its e-commerce portal.
#SheMeansBusiness Training Program
Part of the #SheMeansBusiness initiative is about giving female entrepreneurs the necessary tools to grow their business, using 2 of the most popular social media tools today – Facebook and Instagram.
“People on average check Facebook 14 times a day. Now imagine your business getting in front of people 14 times a day,” said Clair.
The core foundation of the training program will focus on three areas including content, targeting, and measurement.
There are 10 training modules, including modules on Facebook and Instagram including, “Introduction to Facebook Business Pages (Design)”, “Growing & Understanding Your Audience”, “#SheMeansBusiness module: Mums’ Presentation”, and “Introduction to Instagram for Business”.
No stranger to empowering women
Facebook is no stranger to initiatives to empower women – it is also known for its high-profile Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg, whose book Lean In became a massive cultural phenomenon. Lean In has also had a huge impact on women, and many women have attributed Lean In circles to their success. According to Lean In, there are more than 27,000 circles in 137 countries and growing.
The philosophy of empowering women seems to be alive and well – Facebook practices what it preaches, and has programmes to help women in the workplace.
“We have Lean In circles, and we have women’s leadership days where we bring women together from the region for training and support,” said Clair.
“It is a wonderful environment for me to be a woman in tech.”