Credit: Eton House

Education is the single most important leveller in society. EtonHouse Community Fund aims to reduce the education gap between different segments of society by providing academic opportunities to those from lower-income households. To achieve its ambitions, the fund recently hosted a gala dinner on International Women’s Day to fundraise monies for its different programmes and initiatives. It far surpassed its goals and raised over a $1 million that day.

Established by Ng Gim Choo, founder of EtonHouse and Her World Woman of the Year 2022, the IPC-registered charity has so far helped 16,000 children gain access to academic, physical and emotional to “achieve their full potential”. Ng elaborates, “Without resources, facilities and a warm and nurturing environment at home, they are likely to face failures and disappointments. If we can support children and youth during these vulnerable years with the right encouragement and resources, we can help them to break this cycle of failure so that they can succeed in life.”

The incredible women featured in Lifting Half the Sky, the book by EtonHouse Community Fund

On International Women’s Day 2023, EtonHouse Community Fund celebrated women of all stripes at a gala dinner at Orchard Hotel, and launched a coffee table called Lifting Half the Sky. The book celebrates the achievements of 10 female entrepreneurs who’ve made an impact in Singapore and beyond.

The gala dinner, which saw about 700 people in attendance, was a celebration of the achievements of women – and their support system.

The women featured in the book were also given a platform to share more about their journeys, and the many challenges they’ve had to overcome. Here, we highlight some of the most inspiring stories:

Moderator Fang Eu Lin, Connie Wu, Ng Gim Choo, Koh Soo Boon, Susan Chong and Roshni Mahtani Cheung

Koh Soo Boon, Founding Managing Partner, iGlobe Partners

“It was in the 1980s. I was with DBS, and my husband was asked to go to the US. Like the good Asian wife, I decided to follow him, and go from high pay to no pay. I was very fortunate – I took a one-year no pay leave from DBS, and insisted I only wanted to go to Silicon Valley. 

Once I got there, I realised there were so many things I needed to learn. In 1988 I started corporate venture capital firm Vertex because I was intrigued by the Silicon Valley venture capital [industry] under Singapore Technologies. In fact, to think about it, I didn’t have any experience at all and I told Singapore Technologies I wanted to set up a Singapore technology firm to invest in semi conductors. I think I am very crazy, and they are even more crazy to give me the [opportunity] with no experience. 

I had two mentors who helped me in pointing me to the direction of the right people and the entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. The rest is history. 

I ran the operation in Silicon Valley for nine years, and then spent three years in Europe to invest in US and European companies. 

I have been lucky as a dealmaker partnering with technology companies and the track record has been good for Singapore technology. 

You can imagine that at that time, I was in Silicon Valley but my board of directors were all in Singapore, so there was a lot of trust placed on me. In 1999, I went back to Silicon Valley and started my own venture capital firm. I managed to survive and started iGlobe. I survived the tech bubble burst, September 11, and at that time Singapore had about 12 to 15 startup funds – not many of them have survived. iGlobe has been around for 23 years. We have gone through multiple business cycles of boom and bust but the journey has been rewarding.”

Susan Chong, Founder and CEO, GreenPac

“I was actually helping my husband in his family’s packaging business. I found that packaging generates a lot of waste and that sustainability is important for the future, With his blessing I started Greenpac, as I wanted to do something different and I wanted to do it green.

When we first started 20 years ago, and told everyone that we needed to be green and sustainable, they would look at us and say, ‘what?”. They associated green with more costly. 

Slowly, when we got into the business, we [realised that having an] idea is not good enough because ultimately, we’re talking about business. 

So what I have really been focused on is why people want to buy from me, and how can I create the value and make the money work for my customer. 

The women features in the ECF book, Lifting Half the Sky

As I continued to understand that I needed to look into how I bring the value, I looked at how to help them do cost savings and achieve green at the same time. You really have to deliver what you commit. It’s not about lip service, it’s not about going around and telling people go green. Every solution that we give our clients, we tell them that ‘this is how much you have saved the world, and this is how much you have saved money’. It’s never easy.

Twenty years ago, I thought I was very ahead, very advanced. I didn’t know that 20 years later, we will still be talking about [sustainability]. I think that moving forward it’s going to be a different world.”

Nurul Jihadah Hussain and Foo Siew Jiuan

Nurul Jihadah Hussain, Founder, The Codette Project 

“When we started out, the main purpose of what we wanted to do was to make sure that all women – underrepresented women in particular – had more access and opportunities in technology. At that time, we thought that [the key] was coding, and we wanted to make that less terrifying. 

Unlike everyone else [on this panel], The Codette Project is fundamentally loss-making. And the reason for that is that we know that all communities are fundamentally equal in terms of intelligence, determination and drive. But we also know that there are fundamental differences in terms of resources, opportunity and access. So that gap requires us to feedback resources into communities that have faced withdrawal or lack of access to resources. We are not there yet – and that is a very painful realisation even now as we are celebrating International Women’s Day to know that not all women are equal.”