27 Oct 2015 – Why do we All need Mentors and a Business Community

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Over 100 business owners, aspiring entrepreneurs, and professionals joined the first event of a “Women in Business Series”, hosted by Connecting Founders and the US Embassy in collaboration with MOXY, an online shopping destination for women on October 27th in Bangkok.

The Series, the first of its kind in Southeast Asia, celebrates female entrepreneurship by discussing what it takes to build successful businesses in the region through the eyes and experience of seasoned businesswomen. It provides a forum where women entrepreneurs can share experiences, learn from each other, and build valuable connections with the goal of building a trusted community where women can collaborate, inspire, and support each other.

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The first event focused on the role of mentors, role models, and business networks in supporting women entrepreneurs to grow
their businesses. Three female founders – Ms. Ploy Lumthong (Zae), founder of C’est Design; Ms. Nathanaporn (Orn) Euawanthanakhun, founder of April’s Bakery; and Ms. Shannon Kalaynamitr, co-founder of Moxy – shared their views and personal experiences.

Willingness and ability to share experience and knowledge, personal connection, and being where you would like to see yourself in the future were mentioned as the key criteria to consider in choosing a good mentor. K. Shannon talked about her two mentors – among them Skin Inc.’s founder Sabrina Tan and how as a mentee it’s essential that you do your homework, prepare the top 3-4 questions you would like to discuss with your mentor to make the best use of their limited time.

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But not everyone has had someone that played the role of mentor, or at least not in a formal way. Often it’s been ad hoc advice from an entrepreneur friend or for those lucky enough to come from a business background, a family member. Both Zae Lumthong and Nathanaporn Euawathanakhun mentioned their mothers, themselves business owners, as their main mentors and source of inspiration.

Business networks and communities are a vital source of valuable connections as well as encouragement and support. While there are several entrepreneur groups, women’s professional networks and clubs in Bangkok, speakers felt that currently there is no forum specifically dedicated to women entrepreneurs that want to discuss concrete business issues and challenges. But regardless of any business network, personal drive, sheer determination and perseverance remain more important and essential ingredients

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for any successful entrepreneur, according to the speakers. “If you need external motivation, you shouldn’t be an entrepreneur. When you wake up in the morning as an entrepreneur, there isn’t someone standing in your kitchen ready to give you that day’s tasks,” said K. Zae quoting Robert Kiyosaki. Similarly, K. Orn shared her experience of persevering with her business even when most of her friends, including seasoned entrepreneurs, told her she should give up because it was taking too long to break even. “Don’t quit, keep doing it if that’s what you love.”

It’s crucial to know what makes your product different from the others. And you need to know your strengths and weaknesses, to be clear about what you can bring to the table and what you need to work on or look for in your team members. “Since I was a kid, my dad has made me take the Myers-Brigg personality test,’’ said K. Shannon.

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After the panel with speakers, those among the audience that wished to discuss the topic further joined group mentoring sessions, each led by one of the three speakers. Group mentoring is going to be a regular feature of the Women in Business events and is meant to
allow a more in depth interaction with speakers and other established female entrepreneurs in a relaxed setting. By having small groups of 8-10 people interacting with a mentor at the same time, we want to leverage more effectively each mentor’s time as well as promote peer mentoring where group members also learn from each other and not only from mentors.

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Photos provided by HDL Photography.

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