Founder and CEO of Tickled Media
Businesses have so much to gain by being run by women. (Shutterstock/File)
The curiosity of a 3-year-old prompted me to start my company – amidst the turmoil of a financial crisis. Not a promising start, right?
I was 25 years old in New York, babysitting an adorable toddler who wanted to hear all about where I came from: Singapore.
Wanting to share some of my favorite dishes with her, I googled “Can you feed a 3-year-old paneer?” Not finding the answer, I knew there was definite space for online information on Eastern child care. That’s how theAsianparent.com was born.
How I sustained the startup despite a bad economy and early struggles was through a combination of grit, amazing people and everyday miracles.
One thing I never ran short of, was Female Capital. Have you heard of it?
It’s “the value women deliver not just as homemakers, or consumers, but as wealth creators, inventors, pioneers and leaders.”
I write as we near the anniversary of when we at Female Founders worked with J. Walter Thompson (JWT) on a panel discussing the concept. The campaign involved a study conducted by JWT, and one of its findings left me all at once shocked, dismayed and perplexed.
Sixty percent of the women surveyed said that financial independence was important in their lives, but only 11 percent said that starting/running a business would be a priority.
Most women do not see entrepreneurship as a way to gain financial independence.
This is the simple truth behind why more women aren’t starting their own companies. Yet it comes in complete contrast with another truth that actually even overshadows it:
Businesses have so much to gain by being run by women.
The 2017 BNP Paribas Global Entrepreneur Report focused on ‘Elite Entrepreneurs’ – “highly successful business leaders… firmly in the top 1 percent of the global population in terms of personal wealth levels.”
The women entrepreneurs in their study averaged US$15.9 million in personal net worth and $8.6 million in primary company turnover – both figures higher than that of their male counterparts.
They also owned 3.6 companies on average – yes, still higher than the men.
The best of the best are women entrepreneurs and the world needs more. We need more role models, more glass ceilings being shattered, more female founders in every industry.
What we need less of is the negativity surrounding female entrepreneurship.
Let’s move forward.
Recently, a lot of light has been shed on gender discrimination and the inappropriate – all the way to abusive – behaviour of some VCs towards women looking to get their startups off the ground.
When I was starting my company, I had my fair share of male business owners in their forties not taking me seriously – they would direct their questions to male junior employees instead.
In the past eight years, so much has changed. I now run the company behind the largest parenting portal in the region, with over 10 million users monthly across Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, India, Vietnam and Sri Lanka.
I have also become a mum in the past two years, and Vertex Ventures, the early stage investment arm of Temasek Holdings, one of our lead investors, supported me throughout the transition.
They never once questioned me on my plans to balance the roles of mother and CEO – for I had not just their trust, but also their confidence.
Success stories and role models, supporters and mentors, opportunity and positivity – these are elements of the ecosystem that will forge new truths for this and future generations of women entrepreneurs.
Last year, just over a tenth of the women surveyed by JWT believed in their own capital, their aptitude for wealth creation.
Our task is to raise this number by building up the said ecosystem of support, while getting the message across that business creation is a viable bridge over the troubled waters of doubt and uncertainty, a rocky-rickety albeit direct path towards financial independence.
Give it a shot, ladies, and give it your all.
Roshni Mahtani is the Founder and CEO of Tickled Media, the company behind theAsianparent.com, the largest parenting portal in the region, reaching 10 million users monthly across Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.
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