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