Grace Wang, CEO of prominent Taipei lifestyle brand VVG

Grace Wang, CEO of lifestyle brand VVG

The number of female entrepreneurs is on the rise worldwide, and Taiwan is no exception. New technologies and platforms are making it easier than ever for ambitious young women to kick-start their own businesses. But, for those considering taking the plunge, there are important lessons to learn and pitfalls to avoid.

Those challenges were explored in a lively discussion between three prominent women at Rakuten Future Forum Taiwan 2016. Drawing on extensive experience in the business and political spheres, the panelists provided invaluable insights into how female entrepreneurs can not only launch new businesses but also ensure their sustainability by leveraging new technologies and consumer trends.

Former Democratic Progressive Party spokeswomen, Chia-Ching Hsu

Chia-Ching Hsu, former spokesperson for the Democratic Progressive Party

While each speaker explained her entrepreneurial journey and the pivotal lessons she gained along the way, there was one overarching theme: empowerment. Grace Wang, who founded and built up the VVG brand to encompass a network of restaurants and homewares shops in Taipei, emphasized the importance of knowledge and experience in achieving entrepreneurial success. “Learn something first while you are at your current job. Give yourself the time you need to become proficient at it and then look to build your own business,” she said.

Wang’s encouragement of young female entrepreneurs to “hustle” couldn’t have come at a better time, according to former Democratic Progressive Party spokeswoman Chia-Ching Hsu, who spoke about the massive change in both consumer mindset and female socioeconomic status. “During the last 20 years, Taiwanese women have become more independent, more educated and, most importantly, they now have more disposable income than ever before,” she explained.

Momi Su, operator of a popular store on Taiwan Rakuten Ichiba

Momi Su, leading merchant on Taiwan Rakuten Ichiba

According to both Wang and Hsu, this increase in disposable income is the starting point for the small-business journey. Combined with favorable market conditions, Taiwanese women now have more opportunities than ever. Yet, despite these positive changes, public and venture capital funding for female entrepreneurs is still lacking. Hsu is confident that as traditional mindsets recede, more financiers will be prepared to back female entrepreneurs.

Momi Su, who turned her passion for making cakes into a thriving online business on Taiwan Rakuten Ichiba, discussed her own experiences and her perspective on the advantages of staying small. There is a value in creating smaller, family-oriented businesses that avoid giving consumers a “commercial feeling,” she said. Su also emphasized that Taiwanese female entrepreneurs should strive to create unique customer experiences, stressing that it is not only a product, but “a lifestyle” that people buy.

Grace Lo, General Manager of Taiwan Rakuten Ichiba

Grace Lo, COO of Taiwan Rakuten Ichiba

Taiwan Rakuten Ichiba COO Grace Lo, who moderated the session, suggested that having the capacity for empathy, warmth, persistence and courage can also help female entrepreneurs keep focused not only on delivering high quality consumer experiences but also on effectively managing the social communities that will form around their businesses.

Even while Confucian traditions may still define gender roles in the home and outside it, there are signs of exciting change in the Taiwanese business scene. Women such as Grace Wang, Chia-Ching Hsu and Momi Su represent a new generation of female entrepreneur. Not only are they ready to take their own businesses to the next level, but they are also keen to empower future generations to do the same.