SingSaver spoke to four female business owners where they shared their personal finance secrets not just in their personal lives but also on the business front.
We’ve heard of Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates doing amazing things for not just their own companies but for the world. But this International Women’s Day, SingSaver would like to pay tribute to all local female entrepreneurs who have made their mark on this little red dot in their own ways.
We’ve asked four Singaporean female business owners to share their own personal finance tips, in hopes of providing other women (and men) with savvy real-life sources for inspiration as they embark on their own personal finance journeys, while also empowering all females out there to channel that girl boss energy!
What’s the secret to managing their personal finances?
According to the Founder of Time Enterprise, Dr Susan Lim (57 years old), the secret to healthy finances is making sure that all bases are covered. This includes “having good foresight by planning for the long term, making good investments and putting my money into insurance plans that are tailored to my needs”.
Local entrepreneur and founder of PaperMarket, Elaine Ong, 48, shares that as a business owner, her personal finances are “pretty much affected and influenced by what the business needs”.
She says that aside from “consciously saving and investing for her family and children’s education in the future, (she) also needs to set aside funds to support the growth of the business and for rainy days when the business is down due to circumstances not within our control, like SARS and COVID-19”.
Elaine also reveals that she relies on “relationship managers and financially savvy friends for advice” to manage her finances.
Beverly Chew, 24, the young co-founder and CMO of wellness platform Frankie and the Community Advisor of dating platform NADA shares that having the discipline to save plays a big part in keeping her finances in check. She does this by tracking her expenses on an Excel sheet and keeps her expense ratio to 1:5 of her income and saves the rest for rainy days.
She does give herself treat days too (what she terms ‘budget barbie sprees’), but she makes sure she doesn’t get carried away with spending and keeps her shopping strictly to the discount section. “Yes, it sounds a little cheapskate, but you know what? I still get to look good on a budget,” she says.
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What are some challenges female business owners faced while setting up their ventures?
Being a female business owner in a largely male-dominated industry can be daunting, thanks to unfavourable gender stereotypes that may put female entrepreneurs at a disadvantage.
Elaine shares that the biggest challenge for her came when she decided to start a family of her own while launching her business. “Juggling a business and a family makes it far more challenging as a female entrepreneur!” she says.
On top of that, she also struggled with the fact that she “no longer had the support of a large team, funding to kick start the business and the negotiating clout that comes with being part of a large global brand”, as she had previously worked in a large MNC. She thus had to “shoulder the financial risk and workload all on (her) own”, and the “first few years were the toughest”.
Lai Han Sam, 49, a life coach for women and the founder of Lifework Global, dives into the practical problems that she faced at the start. The hardest challenge, according to her, was identifying the right target audience that her company aspires to serve. “It took many iterations of reflection, experimentation, feedback and execution to get this right for my practice. Once I identified my target audience, the other aspects like marketing, sales, administration, and coaching development were all developed with the ideal client in mind.”
On the other hand, though Beverly did have her fair share of hurdles as a business owner, she acknowledges the rising support given to aspiring business owners. “There has been an increase in the amount of resources allocated to female entrepreneurs and young entrepreneurs in recent years,” she says and adds that she has been “very fortunate to be a recipient of support from people who are gender-blind. Instead of looking at gender, they look at capabilities, enthusiasm, vision, and character.”
Finance tips that helped these female entrepreneurs in their business
When it comes to money matters for the business, Sam believes that simplicity is key. She uses a tracking system to help her get an overview of her expenditure, which helps her to “plan out (her) next steps more confidently”. She also prioritises setting up a budget. “This helps me to see if I am able to run my business efficiently, and exactly how much to budget for different areas of my business.”
On top of that, she understands the importance of protection, which many business owners may often overlook. “I converted my sole-proprietor business to a private-limited business to protect my personal finances. This means I am prepared to step up as a responsible tax-paying entity and see this as an important part of my life. I also took up professional liability insurance to protect my practice.”
As for Elaine’s business, she shares how investing time to handle your cash flow properly is paramount. “Just because your company is profitable, it does not mean that you will never run out of funds”, she says. Elaine also practices “periodic reviews on recurring expenses” as she believes that “there will always be an opportunity to lower expenses or get more savings or value out of contracts.”
Beverly echoes the same sentiment as the rest, ensuring that budgeting and planning are extremely important for any business to succeed. “We constantly have to maintain a fine balance between growing fast and ensuring that our staff and other expenses are accounted for. The key is to ensure that growth projects are not hampered by cash flow issues”, she adds.
Parting words for aspiring female entrepreneurs
As female entrepreneurs, these four strong women have blazed the trail and paved the way for other aspiring female business owners to follow in their footsteps. Though they all fall into different age groups, what they have in common is their unwavering commitment to their dream, no matter how tough things get.
“You need to be diligent and persevere — things may become difficult but don't give up easily and try your best”, Dr Lim advises. “It is always an issue of mind over matter.”
Sam resonates with the sentiment that having the right mindset is half the battle won. “The greater fear of scarcity I bring into running my practice, the harder it is to get the clients I want and at the fees I prefer.” This is why she emphasises that she has to be clear about her worth and work hard towards her goal.
Beverly shares her key message to all aspiring entrepreneurs and wraps this article up nicely: “I would like to see more female developers taking key positions in startups. I often hear from talented female developers about how male-dominated the industry is, and how it is time for a more equal playing field. The time is now!”
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