Melissa Lim was thumbing through her Instagram feed when a whimsical illustration caught her eye.
It was a hand-drawn picture of architects, teachers, writers, you name it, with the words “Powerful People” on its header. Melissa felt a tumultuous tug on her heartstrings – but what hit home was the black-haired girl at the bottom right corner.
It had the words: “Women who keep fighting for what’s right”.
She reposted the picture right there and then. “Female empowerment is something close to my heart,” the entrepreneur says.
LadyBoss, Charlie’s Angels-esque
When Jacqueline Yeo, a fellow entrepreneur, brought up the idea of starting a women-centric community, Melissa knew it was something she needed to be a part of.
A natural in marketing, Melissa relishes in dreaming up creative marketing ideas. This new initiative was an opportunity for her to put both of her passions – female empowerment and marketing – to great use.
She was game.
The pair, together with Liyana Stuart, launched LadyBoss, a digital magazine and online portal with a queenly quest: to empower and inspire women entrepreneurs and leaders in Asia.
The formation of LadyBoss brings Charlie’s Angels to mind. Only in this case, instead of three nimble private investigators – it’s a group of three high-flyers with a brilliant business acumen.
Right from the beginning, Melissa knew they were onto something momentous. Here was a community that rallies behind women trailblazers and nurtures sisterhood. The timing couldn’t be more fitting.
“We had first-hand experience that being a woman entrepreneur is a lonely journey. Women should not have to work in solos,” she says.
Life Is As Interesting As You Want To Make It
Melissa’s sentiment on working in a supportive community echoes a famous African proverb (“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”).
It was also borne out of a personal experience.
A decade ago, Melissa was an uneasy teenager who often spent her days brooding over living a purpose-driven life.
“I wondered a lot about my purpose since I was a teenager. I was miserable even though I lived a comfortable life. As the years went by, I realised it was up to me to take charge,” she shares.
Years passed and she soon discovered her remedy to living with intention. Hint: it’s got to do with her love for business. But you probably know that already. After graduating with a degree in marketing and management, Melissa started getting her feet wet at her mother’s small business.
She worked her way up.
After craving for a change of scenery, the then 25-year-old moved to Yangon, Myanmar to start her own online retail store. It was Melissa’s first proper venture; she described it as “a crash course on entrepreneurship”.
Many would have labelled the abrupt relocation to Yangon as a quarter-life crisis, but Melissa begged to differ. “It worked out well because life became exciting and fulfilling from then on,” she says.
Having initiative and creating a life on her own terms paid off.
Back To Singapore
After a year of living in Yangon, Melissa was ready to move back to Singapore to take on a new challenge. Before long, she, along with Jonathan Lee, co-founded BiTS, a business intelligence tech startup.
Whatever made her launch a startup like BiTS?
“SMEs in Singapore are in dire need to keep up with the times and we can’t afford to watch them deteriorate as they are the backbone of our economy,” Melissa insists.
“Manpower costs are so high in Singapore and these businesses could definitely use some help with automation of mundane, repetitive tasks. Employees will then have more time to do meaningful work,” she adds.
Remember the business acumen mentioned early in the article? As the interview glides by, it’s becoming clearer why Melissa’s started BiTS and LadyBoss with her co-founders.
The marketing gigs and business opportunities she’s taking on are adding up to a big life change in her career.
Sisterhood Of Women Entrepreneurs
Despite the footprint women entrepreneurs have left on the world, it’s impossible to underestimate the enraged elephant in the room – the stigma around women entrepreneurship is dreadfully apparent, especially in a country like Singapore.
“Someone told me that women shouldn’t be too ambitious or capable. Men would be intimidated and would not want to marry you. It may sound absurd but these are real issues that local women face. That said, I have met many women entrepreneurs who have very supportive husbands!”
The entrepreneurial marathon is an anxiety-ridden journey.
Coupled that with the double standards, it looks like there’s an awful long way to go. Melissa hopes that LadyBoss can help put the stigma to rest and cultivate a group where women can have each other’s back.
“Our latest event had three panelists who have built million-dollar businesses. We want local women to have role models to look up to. Our previous event revolved around the theme of ‘Passion to Profit’. We want to show women that it’s possible to love what you do and build a profitable business based on your passions.”
“An Ukrainian woman came up to me and said she enjoyed our panel discussion. She realised she doesn’t have to be someone special to be successful. All she have to do is put in the hard work. This is exactly what we want our entrepreneurs to take away from our events,” Melissa says.
It’s definitely empowering to see women joining forces when the going gets tough and proving stereotypes wrong, and is surely a sight to behold.
The fire in Melissa’s soul ignites and nothing’s going to smother the flames.
Featured Image Credit: Melissa Lim