Keiko Nowacka:“No economy can really grow if 50% of their labor force is not proactively involved.”
Hami Kim:“Experience what you want at your age and what you want to do in your time, so you don’t have regrets, because regret is the worst thing for people to carry.”
Sarah Liu:“Ask for opportunities, you might just get advice. But ask for advice first, and you might get opportunities.”
Managing Director of The Dream Collective, a global diversity, equity and inclusion consultancy with a focus on the APAC region
There has been a huge upsurge in women-led startups all over the world. This roundtable featured three women from across the Asia Pacific region discussing women’s entrepreneurial journeys, including their own. Keiko Nowacka, Senior Social Development Specialist at Asian Development Bank facilitated the session. As funding is often the hardest aspect of launching a company, Keiko started by sharing her success stories of bringing women more opportunities for funding across Asia and gave some tips on how to challenge the status quo. She then introduced the other two panelists for this roundtable, Sarah Liu, CEO of the Dream Collective, a gender and diversity consulting firm, and Hami Kim, founder and CEO of Kooky, a live streaming app service for K-Pop artists and their fans.
Keiko launched the discussion by asking Sarah and Hami what inspired them to pursue their niche businesses. Hami shared her unique story as a successful singer who had great streaming numbers but was frustrated by not being able to monetize her music. She decided to develop an app and an entirely new ecosystem to connect artists with their loyal fans. Sarah explained how, like Hami, her inspiration to begin her own boutique diversity consulting firm was to solve a problem she faced as she climbed the corporate ladder; a lack of diversity in management ranks. Hami and Sarah shared the impact they have had on their respective industries and the ripple effects. Sarah, as a consultant, gave some great insight on how to measure this sort of impact as a woman entrepreneur. As a female artist and entrepreneur with a startup, Hami shared her recipe for success and what steps her company is taking to assist up-and-coming artists and spread the positive impact.
Problem-solving and changing mindsets was a key theme in this roundtable, and Sarah gave sound advice on how to maintain resilience in the face of “artificial harmony,” where organizations preach diversity but do not uphold their commitment in practice. Keiko asked, “Must women act like men to be successful?” Hami’s brilliant advice was to let the numbers do the talking. Sarah shared three reasons why men invest in women-led ventures at such a low rate, and again delivered some great ways to counteract this.
Senior Social Development Specialist (Gender and Development)
Another key theme today was the power of women when they band together, and this was reinforced when a participant asked for advice on how to scale her startup. Hami and Sarah gave direct advice and even offered to help her personally! Surrounding yourself with positive, supportive people is essential because the entrepreneurial journey can be lonely. Working together as a team is truly crucial, and at Keiko’s prompt, the panelists shared their experiences with delegating work as their operations grew. The panel fielded questions from participants about education, choosing a career, finding your niche in the changing economy, and the roles women can fill in the future.