I’m right now in the midst of recording Season 4 which starts in March and I am excited for this season as I am speaking to a multitude of Asian women in business with unusual businesses.
I record episodes in advance before I start publishing them weekly each Friday once the season officially opens. Much of the work is in the back-end – from talking to potential guests to pinning down a recording time and date. One method to save time is to batch my recordings – this means I try to record at least 2 to 3 episodes in a weekend. This helps me get into the “weekend” podcast work mode (on other days, I am busy with our clients’ work and I am heavily involved in strategy and planning).
But before my new season opens, you may have missed some truly great episodes and I want to highlight some of the older episodes and introduce you to the Asian women entrepreneurs that I’ve interviewed since 2020.
Here are some of my thoughts and the backstories for Episodes 1 to 7 from Season 1.
Episode 1: Me, Country: Malaysia, Business: Web & Marketing Communications
Ever wondered how I got into podcasting? This is the first episode and introduction of how it all happened in Oahu, Hawaii with a bunch of Asia-Pacific women who encouraged me to get going. It’s a short one, about 9 minutes long but the preparatory work that went into this first episode was nerve-wracking. I kept recording and re-recording as I wanted it to be perfect. But the moral is: there is no such thing as the perfect episode. You just have to release the episode when you need to. Perfectionism is a procrastination ploy. Enough said.
Key learning: Just launch the damn thing. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
Episode 2: Maresa Ng, Country: Malaysia, Business: Business coaching
The first person I pitched to get on my podcast was my long-time friend, Maresa Ng of The Spark Group Asia based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She is a business coach and speaker and I knew she’d be game to be interviewed. After all, she loved helping entrepreneurs succeed and in this episode, she talked about her early days as a coach and why she made that transition from banker to coach and the mistakes she made in her early days in business.
Key learning: Ask and people will happily be part of your project/show/podcast.
Episode 3: Norhani Pacasum, Country: The Philippines, Business: Fashion Retail & Manufacturing
For this one, I wanted to get out of Malaysia and asked my Filipina friend, Norhani Pacasum of Ziya Inc., a fashion retailer and brand to be on my show. I met Norhani during the 2019 leadership programme in Hawaii and she knew about my podcast project. We recorded this during the early days of the pandemic and you can hear the fear and anxiety in her voice. She had to close some outlets in the malls but her team kept her going – they even slept in the office! Once they realized the pandemic wasn’t going to end so soon, they began designing work-at-home loungewear (a fantastic, quick pivot) and focused on selling online. They also started to use their production machinery to sew PPE for the medical frontliners which was such a noble effort while waiting out the storm. I believe Norhani and her team came out stronger in these two years.
Key learning: Fear doesn’t need to stop us in our tracks. Action removes fear. Do something, anything to keep the momentum high and in that process, you discover something new.
Episode 4: Anushia Kandasamy, Country: Malaysia, Business: Consulting
My original podcast plan was all about featuring Malaysian women entrepreneurs until my peers in Hawaii (and my programme coordinator, Liz Dorn) said it should be a broader focus and that’s how I cover Asia from end to end. Still, for this episode, I spoke to another Malaysian friend, Anushia Kandasamy of Samanea Asia Consulting, because she had an interesting story of how she gave up her well-paid McKinsey consultant job to become her own boss. She loved her McKinsey days, tough as they were with plenty of long hours, but she also wanted to follow her heart and “change the world” (her words, not mine).
Key learning: The next big thing could be outside of your comfort zone. Step out and take a chance.
Episode 5: Zhafira Loebis, Country: Indonesia, Business: Baby Equipment Rental
The beauty of being in an international leadership programme is that I was automatically in a network of women. This was how I met Indonesian entrepreneur, Zhafira Loebis of Babyloania and I met her in Hawaii. She was an alum of the same programme and was invited back in 2019 to share how her baby equipment rental business had grown as a result of participating in the Changing Faces programme (very smart of the organisers, I must say). We had some time off together – we did go to a Waikiki mall for a meal as a group and I liked her enough to ask if she could be part of my podcast. Since we were “ohana” (Hawaiian for family), she said yes. And she shared a multitude of strategies she used to grow her business. Zhafira is one smart lawyer turned entrepreneur and during the pandemic, she used her business as a platform to help medical frontliners as well. Her business also spun off two other businesses. Yet her heart is firmly centred on the family and this principle of hers has helped her make the decisions she makes, including the hours she works in her business!
Key learning: Have your heart and principles in the right place and do it for the right reasons. Success will follow.
Episode 6: Nina Othman, Country; Malaysia, Business: Financial literacy
I was introduced to Malaysian social enterprise founder, Nina Othman of Grow The Goose, through Anushia. Outspoken and optimistic, Nina is based in Sabah, Malaysia with her family. She had started a financial workshop business for children thanks to her sons wanting to buy rollerblades! Her financial literacy business is conducted in partnership with corporate sponsors. In Sabah, Nina took her business knowledge to help Sabahan farmers to market their agricultural products such as cocoa. Even her 11-year-old son took it upon himself to start a cocoa snacks business (I did a live stream with the boy because I was completely fascinated). Nina wants to build an ecosystem of social enterprises. I loved how Nina was open about her past failures before she finally realized what she was meant to do – create a business that impacted others while giving to the community.
Key learning: Start a business because you want to help and offer solutions with your own twist. Find the right partners to get going.
Episode 7: Marlienna Suwito, Country: Indonesia, Business: Birds’ nest products
This interview was with an Indonesian entrepreneur whose business was in selling birds’ nest products. Marlienna Suwito of Heavenly Nest, Indonesia was my friend’s niece. Marlienna had applied for the Changing Faces programme in 2020 but unfortunately, the programme couldn’t be conducted in person. When she was accepted for the programme, my friend excitedly updated me and that was how I knew I had to interview Marlienna. She has her own birds’ nest farm in Kalimantan with a team that processes the birds’ nest before the raw nests are exported to China and Singapore. Her business also processes the nests and turns them into beverages and skincare. Her dream is to create a business that helps her help the orphanages that she supports.
Key learning: Never stop at one product. Keep innovating with the raw materials that you have. Tie your business to a bigger mission.
Up next: Backstory and recap for Ep. 8 to 14 from Season 1.
What’s your favourite episode from Season 1?