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Joelle Pang, Market Launcher of Wantedly

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Joelle Pang saw the opportunity to disrupt retail and started her first venture, Dressabelle, a leading online fashion platform that caters to professional women.

What’s your story?
I’m an energetic and empathetic entrepreneur and market launcher from Singapore, and also a passionate advocate of women empowerment in the workplace. With 10 years experience in technology startups in e-commerce, big data, mobile and on-demand space, I am currently spearheading business expansion for Wantedly, one of Japan’s largest social recruiting platform. Having successfully launched Wantedly Singapore, I am now tasked with launching the brand into the Hong Kong market.
I entered the tech scene back in 2008 when fashion e-commerce was on the rise. Seeing the opportunity to disrupt retail, I started my first venture, Dressabelle, a leading online fashion platform that caters to professional women. After exiting from the business in 2013, I went on to be the key driver for the Data Innovation Challenge platform in partnership with iDA, founded my second mobile tech startup, GetKlarity, and also spearheaded regional growth for Honestbee.

What excites you most about your industry?
My personal mission is to drive social inclusion by empowering the society’s excluded. I believe this can be done through technology-enabled startups and enterprises where technology is harnessed to create environments for marginalized communities to thrive and have better livelihoods. Technology plays a critical role in designing environments for the industry and educational institutions, so as to tackle social and economic challenges, cost effectively and at scale. It is especially exciting to able to continue leveraging my 10 years of experience in entrepreneurship and tech startups to institutionalize the role of technology and entrepreneurial solutions in tackling social and economic challenges, and in promoting sustainable and equitable built environments as Singapore strives towards digital transformation and its future economy.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I am born and bred in Singapore, the sovereign city-state in Southeast Asia which I call home and have learnt to speak, read and write in both English and Chinese. To broaden my perspectives and worldview beyond the little red dot, I have made it a point to let work take me to different parts of Asia–namely, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines and Hong Kong SAR, so as to gain a comparative perspective of how different Asian markets and cultures function.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Not to be tooting our own horn, but after driving several launches in various Asian markets, my favourite Asian city for business has got to be Singapore. The generosity and resolve by our government to foster an entrepreneurial culture has given rise to a bevy of grants and schemes, making us one of the world’s easiest cities to start a business. Being Singaporean, my ability to access these grants, combined with the network I’ve built makes this a no-brainer. That said, there is also a strong need to keep pushing for growth outside of Singapore due to its tiny home market, and to stay grounded with the realities of doing business successfully in Asia.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
To learn to have focus, and stay focused. While it’s great to take on as many learning opportunities as you can in your younger years to build the foundation, it is important to make it a discipline to center in on what you’re passionate about. If you’re not lucky enough to figure out what your passion is, then look at which area you want to excel in. Only with focus can you accelerate your learning and work towards becoming the best at what you do.

Who inspires you?
Sheryl Sandberg. Not just because she’s one of the world’s most accomplished female professionals, but because she effectively finds the lesson in her life’s experiences–whether they be achievements or even her sufferings–to connect and empower people at scale. She could very well have chosen to enjoy her lifestyle as a top executive, but she chose to put herself out there in the public forum to talk about topics that are controversial or hard to even begin talking about; and because of her stepping up and speaking out, many of the rest of us are also able to find our own voices.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Having only been previously informed of the wealth gap in Hong Kong, I have come to see it firsthand while residing here. What really blew me away is how desensitized the wealthy are in relation to the plight of the low-income individuals and families have not been able to benefit from the economic growth. In my neighbourhood, the same person who pays HKD 50,000/month for an apartment also attributes “economic efficiency” to justify how it is alright for the elderly to be going through trash for recyclables until the wee hours of the morning for basic survival.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would take the time to distinguish the opportunities and distractions that were presented to me in my younger years. Distractions are usually disguised as opportunities, but do not take you very much closer to where you want to be in life. While I agree that the experiences associated with my distractions still taught me something and made me who I am today, I sometimes think about the number of years I would have “saved” if I had started to grab hold of opportunities and firmly rejected distractions at a younger age, instead of saying yes to everything regardless for the sake of “learning.”

How do you unwind?
I am very disciplined in my unwinding. I make it a point to take 1 full day a week and avoid anything work-related. On that day, you’ll find me at church, in a cafe reading a book, or just grabbing a drink with my friends.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Japan. Because I don’t yet speak the language, I can’t really tune in (i.e. eavesdrop) to the conversations and chatter going on around me, nor could I easily start chatting with random strangers; and I remember how I felt for the first time I was truly alone. It was a very zen moment where I felt like there were endless possibilities of how I could spend my day.

Everyone in business should read this book:
How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton M. Christensen
There are many books which taught me skills, processes and techniques to become more creative, effective and empowered at work. This book by Clayton Christensen used business frameworks and principles to teach me how to think, and center me back to what was truly important to me in life. It was quite life-changing.

Shameless plug for your business:
Wantedly is a Tokyo-based social recruiting platform founded in 2010 with a mission to create a world where work meets passion. We do this by connecting like-minded talents to companies, based on passion and interests instead of the traditional focus of pay and benefits. We believe this this will solve not just the problem of talent acquisition, but also talent retention at the same time. We do this by helping companies to create their unique brand story, and help them to get discovered via social media, so that they can connect with like-minded talents in a super casual but high impact way. We currently have 22,000 companies onboard and over 1.5 million monthly active users in Japan, and are used in 15 countries.

How can people connect with you?
linkedin.com/in/joellepang/
instagram.com/miss_pang
[email protected]

Twitter handle?
@miss_pang

This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:

CallumConnectsCallum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries. He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence. A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.

Take the ‘Key Person of Influence’ scorecard <http://www.keypersonofinfluence.com/scorecard/>

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Get his free ‘Asia Snapshot’ report from www.callumlaing.com

Callum Connects

Mikyung Kim, TV Commercial Producer

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Mikyung Kim is a savvy producer who runs her own TV and print production business, based in Hong Kong.

What’s your story?
I am a TV commercial and print producer working with advertising agencies and brands to bring their communication needs to the screen. My background is in film production and I started my career in Hollywood working with Oscar winning directors Michel Gondry and Alejandro González Iñárritu. Before starting my own company last year to produce content directly with agencies and brands, I was with Ogilvy & Mather Hong Kong for nearly five years as the Senior Producer and Head of TV running the film production department.

What excites you most about your industry?
How it’s constantly evolving! Every day is different and it’s certainly never boring. I love that it’s a creative industry and that my job involves talking to people with creative minds on how we can bring a story on paper to life. It’s exciting that the advertising industry places high value on the creativity and effectiveness of content. I’ve produced a few commercials that creatively push the envelope with fun and sometimes wild ideas that have converted into positive brand awareness. Ever heard of KFC Finger Lickin’ Good…Nail Polish that yes, tastes like chicken? https://www.adweek.com/creativity/kfc-just-made-edible-finger-lickin-good-nail-polish-yeah-tastes-chicken-171245/

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Seoul and raised in Hong Kong until graduating from high school at HKIS. I spent my university years in Boston at Emerson College and worked in Los Angeles at Anonymous Content and Partizan Entertainment. But on a brief visit back to Hong Kong in 2010, I decided to move back and continue my career here, and it was the best decision I ever made.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Hong Kong is my home so it will always be my favourite city for business and for me personally. What I love about Hong Kong is that while I am based here, I can actually work with agencies and brands from anywhere in APAC. If I need to attend an important meeting, I can just hop on a quick flight easily. I spent most of 2017 working in Seoul with Korean agency Cheil and Samsung, and currently I am working with Japanese agency ADK and Toyota based in Singapore.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Fake it until you become it,” from Amy Cuddy’s TED talk. Worth a watch. This helped me early in my career when I felt like I was under qualified for the job I was in. I learned to fake my confidence and fake a powerful body language until I truly felt that confidence became something real. It was nerve wracking at first but it worked and now I don’t have to fake it.

Who inspires you?
My friends. Noelle who worked part time jobs while being a full time student to pay her own tuition while we were in college together. Osti who is a lawyer focused on supporting developing nations and a board member of Redress, an environmental NGO working to reduce waste in the fashion industry. Vanessa who runs a real estate company, co-owns the gym Crossfit Asphodel, started a health foods business called Quo and NGO The Keep Moving Project to promote wellness in our community. Cathy who will be the first Asian woman to direct a big budget superhero film starring Margot Robbie with Warner Bros and DC. And too many more to name!

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
5.2 million plastic bottles are thrown away in Hong Kong every day. Plastic pollution is a major issue for the environment and we as responsible citizens can do our small part by reducing our consumption of unnecessary plastic. I do mine by having a water filter at home and carrying my own reusable water bottle with me everywhere I go. I love the brand Hydroflask because the stainless steel material keeps water hot or cold for hours, so I don’t feel tempted to buy a cold water at 7-11 on those hot, humid days we have here.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
About five years ago I purchased my very first stock and put one month’s salary into it, which at the time was a lot of money for me. Knowing how that stock has performed now, I would have put all my savings into it.

How do you unwind?
Exercise is essential in my daily life to help clear my head and de-stress. My go to is a workout at Crossfit Asphodel, running outdoors, yoga and hiking. But a glass of red wine and live music at Soiree in Soho on Sunday night works pretty well too!

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
One of the best trips I ever took was to the island of Lombok in Indonesia. Two girl friends and I did a 3 day 2 night hiking and camping trip to summit the Mount Rinjani Volcano. It was physically challenging but mentally relaxing. There was no cellphone reception, no distractions, we had the company of nature and nights with skies full of shooting stars. It was pretty magical. We then went to the Gili Islands for a few days of scuba diving, yoga and sitting on the beach doing nothing but sipping on coconuts. That was pretty relaxing too.

Everyone in business should read this book:
“Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office” by Lois P. Frankel and “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg. Essential reads for every working woman and/or man who wants to know how to support the working women in their life.

Shameless plug for your business:
I am a TV commercial and print producer that can plug into an existing advertising agency or brand team to produce their communication needs. Many advertising agencies these days are scaling down so they have creative directors and account services but may not have an in-house producer, so I can fill that gap by becoming a part of the existing agency team. For brands that want to produce content directly without involving an agency, I can also bridge the gap by bringing my production knowledge in-house and working as part of the marketing/brand team and liaising with the other departments in the company such as product team and ecomm.

How can people connect with you?
They can email me at [email protected]
or visit my website at mkimproducer.com

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started,
built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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Callum Connects

Renne Ballard, Owner of Renée Ballard Communications

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Renne Ballard runs a social media agency working with business women, helping them find their business’s voice.

What’s your story?
I began my career in PR/communications ten years ago in Australia, after arriving home from two years in Dubai. In Dubai I was working for Emirates Airlines as a flight attendant and flying around the world non-stop for two years. This really sparked my interest for how people communicate. I started out as a community manager for an online advertising company, then moved into the corporate world of outdoor advertising, managing internal and external PR and communications. After having a baby four years ago, I decided to leave the safety net of corporate, and stride out on my own. I now run a social media agency and I specialise in working with business women, helping to find their business’ voice so they can use social media to achieve their business goals.

What excites you most about your industry?
I love the open accessibility online provides. It’s free for businesses to get online and connect with their target audience. Twenty years ago, advertising and PR was insanely expensive and quite elitist, but through incredible platforms like Facebook or Twitter, any business can connect with who is looking for their product/solution. Social media is particularly effective for small businesses because they have the edge when it comes to authenticity and a clear voice.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m in Hong Kong because I’m a trailing spouse. I know it’s such a daggy term, but I love it, it makes me sound so dedicated to my husband! Alas, we came to Hong Kong for my husband’s work. He’s the Design Director of Asia for an international retail design agency. We’ve been here for almost two years and it’s been a huge learning curve in terms of business and culture. We love the fast-paced nature of Hong Kong and the fact that everything is open late – it suits me perfectly because I’m nocturnal.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
That’s easy, Hong Kong. It’s the perfect blend of start-ups and mothership-sized institutions. I love the small business side, watching the collaborations between workshare spaces with galleries, networking groups and foodies; it’s a hothouse of creative partnerships here.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
When you’re are feeling scared about your next step, lean in and feel the difference. Is it fear mixed with excitement? Or fear mixed with dread? Always go with the former and cut loose the latter.

Who inspires you?
I love Tamara Mellon (Jimmy Choo founder). She has created multiple empires and she never stops trying new business models and pushing her limits. It helps that I love shoes too.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I just turned 40 years old. At best, I’m probably halfway through my life. It makes me constantly question, “Am I where I want to be?”

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have asked more questions to the people I looked up to, and listened less to the people telling me I won’t achieve my goals.

How do you unwind?
In this day and age, it’s scandalous to say, but I love sunbaking. At any chance, you’ll find me poolside, laying in the sun in a trance-like state.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Northern Danang in Vietnam. We were there at Christmas, at the foot of the mountains and it was beautiful. Heaps of wildlife and jungles and enough five star resorts that I was never parched once.

Everyone in business should read this book:
‘The E Myth’ by Michael Gerber. It’s an oldie but a goodie because it succinctly outlines how to transition from a one person operation to a global business like McDonalds. Once you see how important systems and processes are, you can recognise shambolic companies a mile off.

Shameless plug for your business:
Renée Ballard Communications is a social media agency that works with business women who are ready to make social media work for them. We create effective, powerful social media strategies that are tailored to the people who will be breathing life into them. We hand on heart promise to never use annoying, marketing buzzwords and that we value laughter above everything else.

How can people connect with you?
[email protected] or www.reneeballard.com or +85296670115

Twitter handle?
@ballard_comms

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started,
built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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