High-potential Women Entrepreneurs in Asia-Pacific have Appetite for International Expansion

women entrepreneur asia pacific study 2016
women entrepreneur asia pacific study 2016

A new survey of Asia-Pacific women entrepreneurs has found that confidence and bold growth plans are trademarks of the region’s female business owners, especially among those in ASEAN, despite facing some behavioral barriers to successfully scaling their operations.

The survey was conducted as part of the EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women™ (EWW) Asia-Pacific program, which is sponsored by Standard Chartered, and assists established women-led businesses ready to become global market leaders.

ASEAN women entrepreneurs show ambition and farsightedness

An overwhelming majority (90%) of the 143 Asia-Pacific respondents reported that they plan to scale their business, with 60% planning to grow internationally. This appetite for global expansion is even stronger in the ASEAN region, with nearly 70% setting their sights on international growth.

To support their growth ambitions, 80% of ASEAN female business owners have explored external financing options and do not find the process difficult, while a lesser 58% of their Asia-Pacific counterparts have explored the same, with 73% saying they found the process “intimidating”.

Max Loh, Asean and Singapore Managing Partner, Ernst & Young LLP said: “Our research reveals an emerging cohort of women business owners in ASEAN who are confident and farsighted in their growth plans. These women entrepreneurs typically use personal savings as their start-up capital, spend years developing the business and re-investing profits, then turn to business loans as a source of operating capital later on. Most see the potential to scale their business quickly and place market expansion as their top priority. At the same time, they tend to have a strong sense of family and are inclined to have the business succeeded by a family member.”

Annette Kimmitt, EY’s Global Middle Market Leader and Executive Sponsor, EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women™ Asia-Pacific says:

Women entrepreneurs already add enormous economic value to the Asia-Pacific region, with this year’s 15 EWW participants alone generating a combined US$5.5b in 2015 revenues.   Despite this, our ground-breaking survey identifies some key behavioral barriers among women entrepreneurs that could prevent them from reaching their full potential.

Behavioral qualities needed for success

Building a key advisory network has been shown to yield new opportunities and ways of thinking. Yet only 35% of Asia-Pacific respondents have a network of trusted advisors, while a majority (67%) says establishing one is a priority. For those seeking to expand globally, building a public profile has been shown to accelerate growth; however, only 10% felt they were “very prominent” and almost half (43%) spend less than 10% of their time promoting themselves.

According to Singapore women entrepreneur, Susan Chong, Chief Executive Officer of Greenpac, who participated in the EWW Asia-Pacific program last year, she spends over 50% of her time building her own and her company’s profile – and she sees the impact it makes to her business.

“I made a decision several years ago to invest in building my company’s profile, and to also personally drive this. I’m involved in a select mix of promotional activities that work with my company’s business objectives – and I know what works and doesn’t because we measure it all,” she explains.

Kimmitt adds: “Research has shown that the most successful entrepreneurs accelerate growth through a set of key behaviors, including their ability to evaluate financing for expansion, establish key advisory networks and build a public profile. Through the EWW program, EY aims to provide the tools, guidance and networks needed to promote these behaviors among high-potential women entrepreneurs and help ensure that they are limited only by their own definition of success.”

Participants in the EWW program will come together at a two-day conference in Shanghai on 9-10 May, as well as join EY at the Strategic Growth Forum China™ 2016. They will also take part in a series of e-conferences, in-country business sessions and workshops throughout the year. The customized program focuses on key areas such as:

  • Expanding knowledge through the latest information, research and executive dialogues
  • Identifying and building strategic alliances
  • Providing access to formal and informal guidance and support networks
  • Strengthening executive leadership skills and identifying opportunities for
    business growth
  • Increasing visibility for women entrepreneurs and their companies.


For more information on the Asia-Pacific Class of 2016, visit ey.com/ewwasiapacific.

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