WOMEN who are also small entrepreneurs in Malaysia have a champion in Angie S. Chin. She has made it her mission to empower women with knowledge and provide them with access to a platform to raise funds in their journey into the business world.
About seven years ago, Chin organised coffee meet-ups and sharing sessions for women who were just starting a business, to help them address their self-doubts, to network, and learn business tips.
“There were tears when the sharing got personal and deeper, as being a new entrepreneur can be lonely,” said Chin, who quit the corporate world after a career spanning 25 years.
“Eventually, I pursued entrepreneurship when I realised that I wanted to be a change agent and make a difference,” added Chin, who co-founded and launched HanaFundMe on the first day of the movement control order (MCO). She holds the title of Chief Engagement Officer for the platform.
The name Hanafundme was inspired by the former deputy minister of Women, Family and Community Development Hannah Yeoh, who visited the women hub, set up by Chin at KL Sentral in 2019.
“Our team suggested combining the word Fund and Me to ‘Hana’ to reflect the platform’s purpose of raising funds for business, projects or causes.
“Hana brings upon positive meanings in various languages too, including ‘grace’ (in Hebrew), ‘number one’ (Korean), ‘crafts’ (Hawaiian), and even ‘happiness’ (Arabic).”
Why did you choose to set up a crowdfunding platform, specifically for women?
“It’s a highly competitive market to crowdfund a project. Major crowdfunding platforms are overcrowded with many projects, drowning smaller projects, which became ‘invisible’.
“Narrowing to serve niche targets increased the chance of smaller projects getting discovered. What makes it more interesting is more aspiring women came out of their comfort zones to kick start ventures.
“In my years of experience, I find that whenever men and women put forward a business idea, most men just needed to demonstrate how their ideas work, while women needed to justify why their ideas would work.
“Even if these men’s ideas might be a flop, they can always get back up and try again – often with less judgment, while [with] women, not only would they get harsh feedback, they would also be judged as weak and less focused.
“Women-owned businesses hardly get the attention they deserve because they are perceived as emotional beings and less resilient.
“It was this inconsistent imbalance of opportunities that I have experienced and witnessed that drove me to do something about it. In most of the conversations I had with women, many of these aspiring womenpreneurs were struggling to kickstart their ideas or businesses due to limited access to funds.
“Some of these women were not seeking a large amount, and had no access to angel investors. However, most registered investors (even angel investors) in the country prefer to seed fund small businesses that are already off the ground.
“In some instances, if the women approach investors for funding, they would usually need to give up certain equities while some [who have] explored partnerships with investors, eventually got tangled in bad and ugly deals due to inexperience in negotiating partnership expectations.
“If they go to banks for loans, they may need to put up collateral while some others don’t qualify for personal loans because of financial commitments. Some were not in favour of peer-to-peer lending too, due to the interest payment, on top of the monthly repayment.
“Inspired by Kickstarter’s story, and driven by the success of several similar women platforms in the US, I felt that it was time to start one for Women in Malaysia and founded HanaFundMe.”
What are the successful campaigns on your platform?
“We launched on March 18. Honestly, we have no idea if the platform will survive, eventually.
“We encouraged the first few brave women, who got onboard prior to the MCO, to promote their campaigns amidst the challenges. Some managed to raise some funds, and some barely [made it], due to the pandemic.
“It was truly bad timing to launch the platform, but [we refused to give up] and decided to pivot a little and focus on causes.
“On our platform, Carmen Yeo raised the most funds to kickstart her venture to create Qi Mobile – a one-stop site to educate about Traditional Chinese Medicines (TCM) and connect the public to certified TCM nearby.
“Apart from that, [we helped] female students, who needed funds to support their studies.”
What are your goals in the future?
“I look forward to seeing more women in Malaysia come out from their comfort zones and explore their potential. If I may advise those who want to kickstart their projects or mission, please don’t just wait for grants, and certainly don’t be shy to put forward your ideas or mission out there to validate them.
“Fundraising is a process, and you should not be fearful of getting rejected.”