Like Hong Kong, Singapore is a major hub for expat workers and the city consequentially finds itself a hub for their accompanying spouses. Often these spouses have left high-powered jobs and rewarding careers themselves to allow their partner to take up a dream post aboard.
The role of the depressingly named “trailing spouse” can be a blessing and a curse. For many, it’s a chance for reinvention: to study, start a family, take up freelance work or volunteer in the region. For others, it’s a catapult into a world of lost identity, homesickness and complete isolation. For a fortunate third group, though, it’s a time to stretch some entrepreneurial wings and take advantage of Singapore’s relatively transparent business laws, steady economy, and high disposable income levels.
Women-led startups are thriving across the world, as the growth of digital technology fuels new business models and flexible work environments. Mothers especially can benefit from being able to reenter the business world on their own terms, outside the box of 9-to-5 corporate life.
Across Asia (and the rest of the world), coworking spaces are booming, as the new work era demands flexible workplaces and fluid community interactions. Singapore hosts workspaces for social entrepreneurs, small business teams, artists, designers, and tech startups. Singapore even has Woolf Works – a coworking space especially for women.
Woolf Works aims to help women put themselves and their businesses first. It’s no secret that women, especially mothers of small children, habitually put themselves and the needs of their business far behind the needs of other family members. Because working from home adds to this conundrum, Woolf Works provides a space where women can focus one hundred percent on their business.
Working from a coworking space allows a real mental switch-off between work and home, resulting in more productive work hours. It also helps against the dreadful isolation and “sameness” of working alone at the kitchen table every day.
Members are a mix of freelance editors and writers, remote corporate workers, and small business owners. A range of women from a diverse set of industries represent many interesting businesses that share the space, including: Woomentum (woomentum.com), a global crowdsourcing platform; Attaby (attaby.com), a fashion design label; and Tekkie Help (www.tekkiehelp.com), a family-run tech-specialists business. We also have a growing group of writers in our midst, both doing journalistic writing and fiction writing. One of our members, Shasta Grant, recently won a US Short Story competition, which was judged by acclaimed author Ann Patchett.
The role of ‘trailing spouse’ can be lonely and unfulfilling. Coworking spaces for women can provide community and support to expatriate women as well as networks and business opportunities.
World’s Most Packed Enterpreneurial Ecosystem? *following sections added by Jumpstart Magazine
Earlier this year, Singapore unveiled JTC LaunchPad@one-north, an expansion to a pre-existing startup facility “Block71” that Economist magazine called “the world’s most tightly packed entrepreneurial ecosystem” in 2014. It houses hundreds of startups, accelerators, and VCs in the biomedical sciences, infocomm, media, electronics and engineering industries. There’s a San Francisco counterpart (Block71 San Francisco) for those startups striving to establish themselves in the US and Singapore tech ecosystems.
- Grabtaxi, mobile taxing booking app. (grabtaxi.com)
- Haven, the marketplace for ocean freight. (haveninc.com)
- Carousell, mobil P2P marketplace in South East Asia. (carousell.co)
- Pie, a free platform for chatting and sending files to coworkers. (pie.co)
- inMobi, mobile ad platform reaching 1 billion unique mobile devices. (inmobi.com)
- Muvee, automatic movie editing software. (muvee.com)
- Redmart, SE Asia’s Customer-Centric Online Grocer. (redmart.com)
A Glance at Singapore’s Innovations
Micro-volunteering for vision impaired: An app crowdsources information for the visually impaired through micro-volunteering and allows anyone, anywhere to connect and help visually handicapped in seconds. (mysmarteye.starhub.com)
Heat Recycling: Students in Singapore invented a “domestic heat recovery system” that cuts utility bills by recycling wasted heat generated by the air-con compressor to heat water for the home.
Brain-Rewiring: Neurostyle is developing a new way to teach the brain to ‘rewire’ itself – through virtual reality games – that can help stroke patients recover the movement in their affected limbs. (neuro-style.com)
Life-Saving Jewelry: This wearable fake calls wearers’ mobile phone and alerting family and friends with GPS location if the wearer finds themself in an uncomfortable situation. (the-guardianangel.com)
Flatbread Maker: World’s first roti-making robot can produce up to 20 rotis (Indian flatbread) in one go, one roti per minute, with options for oil, thickness and roast levels. (rotimatic.com)
Michaela Anchan is passionate about women collaborating and supporting each other and loves helping women prioritize themselves and their dreams. She opened Woolf Works, a coworking space for women, in Singapore in 2014, to provide a ‘Rooms of One’s Own’ for women trying to run a home business or do freelance work from their home office. She thinks home offices are a hotbed of frustration, distractions and loneliness and thinks everyone should try out coworking spaces to truly realize their own potential!