Women Impact Entrepreneurship Day 2024: Inclusive Entrepreneurship - Diverse Voices; Fresh Perspectives

12 Mar 2024
Three women embarked on a journey of passion, taking a leap of faith to start their own companies. Today, entrepreneurs Nayada Thippayaatsawapakin, Founder of BeWise Academy; Nattakan Denwanitchakorn, Founder of Joy Ride; and Sisrimas Suwanwijit, CEO of Sex-O-Phone stand as successful businesswomen, a testament to their courage and determination to follow their dreams. Nayada discussed her journey of starting a tutoring school to provide academic support and opportunities for Thai students, overcoming discrimination as a transwoman. Nattakan shared how her personal experience with depression led her to establish a professional caregiver platform for older adults. Sisrimas emphasized the importance of addressing sexual education in Thailand to combat teenage pregnancies and promote adolescent health. “When I started BeWise, I started with the thought that if we cannot innovate new approaches for Thai students, we may consider adopting international global education to provide students in Thailand with access to it,” she said on the panel discussion at the Women Impact Entrepreneurship Day 2024 on March 1, organized by Sasin School of Management. Sisrimas stated that many Thai teens often face problems alone, as consulting their families is not an option. She said that there are around 60,000 teenage pregnancies from age 15-19 in Thailand. “We extend our services not only to sex education but also to adolescent health and education,” she said, adding that Sex-O-Phone provides privacy, trust, and professionalism, which are the qualities that teenagers seek when consulting problems. The women entrepreneurs acknowledged the progress made in women’s entrepreneurship; however, global gender disparities still persist in entrepreneurship and economic empowerment. Supapim Wannopas, Regional Programme Coordinator & Thailand Project Manager at UN Women, addressed the underrepresentation of women in policy-making decisions and the challenges they face in accessing economic resources and opportunities. “The main cause of violence against women, the main reasons why the victim can’t get themselves out of the abusive relationship, is due to their lack of economic power or lack of ability to access resources, which leads to the underrepresentation of women in society,” she said. She also pointed out that the global procurement market in the Asia-Pacific region is estimated to generate between USD 11-13 trillion annually. Despite this, Women-Owned Businesses (WOBs) receive only 1 percent of public and private procurement spending globally. The dialogue further sparked a conversation about empowering future entrepreneurs. The speakers highlighted the importance of cultivating entrepreneurial skills in young people through education and mentorship programs, fostering creativity, resilience, and adaptability. “I’ve always wondered what it’s like to live in a world where women are treated equally,” said Sumalee Kristarnin, Country President of Novartis. She shared, “When I entered the pharmacy program, my family advised me to choose an easier path. They believed that girls’ future should involve marrying a Chinese man who earns a good income.” Instead of following her family’s advice, she traveled to the U.S. to pursue an MBA. Reflecting on her journey, she realized that initially, she acted as a follower and was passive. However, by learning how to overcome obstacles and hurdles, she eventually had the experience to become a leader.

“Being an entrepreneur requires resilience. I’ve gone through many mistakes in my life; I learned, grew stronger, and became wiser. All the women here have endured so much before they came to present this beautiful picture for you today.” – Sumalee Kristarnin, Country President of Novartis

The women in the panel discussion attested that entrepreneurship is not merely about starting a business; it’s about embracing growth, learning, and breaking barriers. Sumalee’s words resonate with the essence of this journey – to realize the untapped potential within us and rewrite the narrative of success regardless of our backgrounds. Despite facing obstacles as a transwoman, Nayada learned emotional intelligence, which nudged her to develop soft skills in entrepreneurship. She said that negotiation and leadership skills form the cornerstone of effective business management, laying a strong foundation for success. Sisrimas encouraged aspiring entrepreneurs to step out of their comfort zones. She said that today, professionals like doctors are venturing into entrepreneurship by opening their own clinics, demonstrating the diverse paths available in this journey. “What’s really important are the skills, the ability to change, the resilience, and the encouragement. You have to have support from your parents and school to guide and encourage you in whichever direction you choose,” she said. Supapim advised entrepreneurs on the importance of data-driven decision-making in entrepreneurship. She stated that analysis and data collection skills are crucial for informed business decisions, ensuring that ventures are built on evidence-based insights rather than intuition alone. In addition, she advocates for applying the gender lens perspectives in organizational processes: By integrating gender considerations into procurement, marketing, and decision-making processes, organizations can foster inclusivity and diversity, paving the way for a more equitable entrepreneurial landscape. While many hesitate to embark on a new startup journey, Nattakan embraced entrepreneurship with determination, believing that as long as one is driven by goals and purpose, other skills can be acquired along the way. Viewing the skills gap as an opportunity for growth, she committed herself to continuous learning and upskilling. Since founding Joy Ride, she has garnered support and funding from various sources. Her achievements include being awarded second runner-up in the product and service design category at the National Innovation Awards 2023, as well as winning the Creative Social Impact Awards for the Elderly category. Nattakan also secured a 50,000 Baht grant from the ‘We Rise Awards,’ an empowerment campaign by UN Women and the Kenan Foundation, through the Idea to I Do initiative. “As an entrepreneur, we don’t need to have skills in everything,” she said, adding, “I use my creativity and communication to decide on the platform for Joy Ride, discovered how to improve it by myself, and what other technology to use.” In conclusion, speakers urged aspiring entrepreneurs to prioritize skills development, embrace diversity, and leverage support networks. They called for collective action to challenge gender stereotypes, promote inclusivity, and create a supportive environment for women entrepreneurs to thrive.
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