Women Entrepreneurs: 5 Paths to Entrepreneurship

Peiru Teo Labelle Couture Managing Director
Peiru Teo Labelle Couture Managing Director

So you want to be an entrepreneur? Firstly, you should understand all women entrepreneurs have took different paths to be who they are today. However, there are a few models which you can look at to consider which is the right path for you.


Freelancer to Business Owner

The freelancer route is probably one of the most common ways to enter entrepreneurship. It is most suitable for people with highly marketable skill sets such as web design, web development, graphic design, communications, public relations etc. The typical route looks like this

  1. Work in a company and learn the required skills
  2. Start taking on clients on a freelance basis on the side while still maintaining a full time job (Do check if your company policy allows this as it is frowned upon in some companies)
  3. Becoming an independent freelancer
  4. Hiring staff to become business owner

Moving from part time freelancer to independent freelancer is a hard one to swallow as you are essentially giving up a fixed pay and moving into variable income. After being an independent freelancer for some time, you may find yourself having difficulty to scale up your business being a one woman operation. That’s where you move into step 4, hiring people to do the work while you build the business.

Read how Lydia Neo built from Helios Media from being a freelancer initially.

img lydia neo


Technology Startup

In this day and age, technology startups are the big trend. With the amount of venture capital money floating around, grants available, the opportunities available are huge. However, it doesn’t mean it is easy as many startup companies are normally running at losses for significant periods of time while they rush to build the product, acquire users and traffic to raise the next round of capital.

Comparing to the freelancer to business owner model, a technology startup will need multiple skill sets to survive from day one, such as the product design, development, leadership, pitching and more while freelancers generally focus on what they do best. A startup doesn’t have the luxury of time to build a business as they are racing against time since they are usually burning cash.

The upside though is that if successful, you would have built a business of a much larger scale within a short period of time. A successful startup is usually measured by having a sizeable exit, whether through a sale or listing or becoming a profitable business.

Read how Andrea Loubier started popular email client Mailbird

Andrea Loubier Mailbird
Andrea Loubier Mailbird


Taking over an Existing Business

Don’t know what business you want to do? Sometimes an opportunity can just arise when another business owner decides to call it quits. Say for example a cafe owner decides that he or she wants to sell the business, you can take over the existing assets, employees and customers that they have built up over time. There should also be a training period where the previous owner should train you on how to operate the business.

The key is to buy a business which you have a strong passion for, do proper due diligence into the history of the business, the accounts and more. Never take the words of the owner for granted, if it’s such a great business, why would they be selling it right? Hire professional auditors to check the accounts and also spend time monitoring the business. Are there as many clients coming in everyday as they say? Are there any hidden liabilities you should be aware of?

Whether you are buying the business because or the good investment returns or because you believe you can manage it better, it’s important to have a business plan in mind before even negotiating.

Read how Teo Peiru started her business by buying over La Belle Couture.

Peiru Teo Labelle Couture Managing Director
Peiru Teo, Labelle Couture Managing Director

Buying a Franchise

Buying a franchise used to be very popular in the past, especially in the days where bubble tea was everywhere. It is still a viable model to begin a business as you seek to leverage on the brand, products, structure of an existing business. The cost of a franchise can be pretty hefty, especially if you are buying restaurant franchises like Subway or a retail store like 7-Eleven. It can easily cost $150k up to even $500k or more to get started.

There are even different levels of franchise, such as country master franchise or regional master franchise. For those of you with deeper pockets, you can even consider venturing overseas to US, Europe to spot opportunities which are not yet in Asia and negotiate for a master franchise agreement. A notable franchise brought over to Singapore from Malaysia will be Old Town Coffee by local comedian Mark Lee.


Securing Distributorship

Instead of franchising, another business model is to secure distributorship of brands. This usually works for overseas product brands which are not available locally or regionally yet. Compared to franchises, you may not have to pay large amounts to buy the franchise, however you will need to demonstrate competence and experience for the brand owners to trust you to distribute for them. They may even require you to commit to marketing budgets to push the brand in exchange for sole distributorship.

It is a great way to leverage on a brand which is already successful overseas and make use of available marketing materials and support from the head office.

Read about Tahnee with the master distributorship for popular Dutch interior design brand HK Living

MAKE ROOM Barbara Fritschy Tahnee Foo-Kong
MAKE ROOM Barbara Fritschy Tahnee Foo-Kong


So in short, simple rules of thumb are

Freelancer to Business Owner – Highly marketable skill set and client relationship skills

Technology Startup – Multiple disciplines required within founding team

Taking over an Existing Business and Buying a Franchise – Deep pockets to not just setup the franchise but survive the initial period

Securing Distributorship – Exhibiting skills, knowledge and experience in handling the brand’s products


Which is your path to entrepreneurship?


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