BlueStocking – Entrepreneurship And Girl Power
In 2005 a friendship was formed between three Singaporean girls in Silicon Valley, California that would form the basis of Bluestocking, a fledging community that connects women in Singapore who have an interest in entrepreneurship. Raine Lai, Kat Neo and Janet Neo were in the United States through the NUS Overseas Colleges program, and found support in each other in what they call a “male-dominated entrepreneurial environment”.
When they returned to Singapore, they realized there was a need for a close-knit network of women entrepreneurs who can enable and empower each other in their entrepreneurial journey. Partially influenced by the women who set up Women 2.0, and despite having full time jobs, Raine, Kat and Janet started Bluestocking.
The term Bluestocking originated in the early 1750s, when a group of independently-minded women eschewed stultifying sessions of card playing and idle chatter and began to hold literary evenings that mimicked the established salons of Paris where well-known men of letters would be invited as guests to encourage discussion. A better (and shorter) description, would be women with intellectual interests involved in starting a social and educational movement.
“Our group is set up not to inspire a feminist movement but rather to connect ladies who have interests in entrepreneurship in the context of Singapore,” explains Raine, who works as a compliance analyst at the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS). “We are keen to see more women in Singapore embarking on the entrepreneurship journey, facilitate them in their journey as well as to connect the successful entrepreneurs to aspiring ones.”
Raine shares that Asians are the least entrepreneurial in the world, and female entrepreneurs, even less so – the number of women business owners per 100 male business owners in Asia and the Pacific is only 22 in the 1990s. This is the lowest among the scale with a high of 56 in Eastern Europe and a global average of 42.3. “Despite the bid to encourage entrepreneurship with dedicated support groups set up and introduction of a multitude of incentives, it takes time to change cultures and mindset. Some of the business practices, such as benchmarking and best practices, are not exactly in tune with the promotion of entrepreneurship,” Raine says.
All three agree that networking is important and vital to entrepreneurship and business. Bluestocking recently organized StepOut, a debut event attracting over thirty young women (and a smattering of men) who were interested to hear words of wisdom from three women entrepreneurs – Yiping Goh of near-field communications services provider Human Network Labs, Virginia Cha of private investment firm WOVE and Kim Faulkner from brand consultancy Activiste. “There is a demand among the community at large to network and share in an informal setting. We hope that Bluestocking will be the rightful platform for the female community (with) an incredible plethora of opportunities that will ultimately define their quest for success,” says Raine.
StepOut is the first of many such networking sessions Bluestocking plans on organizing. “(StepOut) features the start-point of the entrepreneurship journey,” says Kat Neo, who works in Exploit Technologies, the marketing and commercialization arm of Singapore’s Agency of Science Technology and Research (A*STAR). “It celebrates the success of established female entrepreneurs, enriches the knowledge of green-horn entrepreneurs and encourages aspiring entrepreneurs to step out of their comfort zone.” The last in the trio, Janet, heads business development in Quaffs, a web2.0 social networking start-up based in Singapore.
“As the first step is always the toughest, StepOut brings the community back to their entrepreneurship journey origin, to share, reminisce, remind and learn from one another,” says Kat.
You can join Bluestocking on Ning.com, or find out more by contacting Raine at raine248 at gmail dot com.
Young Upstarts is a business and technology blog that champions new ideas, innovation and entrepreneurship. It focuses on highlighting young people and small businesses, celebrating their vision and role in changing the world with their ideas, products and services.