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Woman at the top
by Reico Wong

Female entrepreneurs in Singapore are increasing in number these days, and are progressively becoming a real force in their respective industries.

However, climbing to the top is certainly not a cakewalk and requires extreme courage and tenacity. Ask Ms Tan Yang Po, 49, the managing director of Azea Property Investment.

From a humble background, the youngest in a family of six children worked her way up from being a marketing executive to transacting and dealing with some $250 million worth of property to date.

Her company, which conducts property-investment seminars and pools individuals together to invest in various developments around the world, has achieved about 300 per cent sales turnover annually since it was established in 2009.

Azea Property Investment Club today has more than 2,000 members, mainly from the South-east Asian region. It also branched out into Europe at the start of this year.

"I've never let my gender affect me or thought of it as a factor in my success, although many people have told me that my achievements are more admirable because I'm a woman," said Ms Tan.

She noted that there are few Singapore women in property development, which is an area she has led Azea to venture into recently.

One of her latest projects is a 700-unit premium waterfront development called Azea Residences located in Danga Bay, Johor Baru.

About 56 units were booked and sold in the first two hours of the development plans being announced, even though there was no concrete floor plan yet then, according to Azea.

When asked about why there are few Singapore women in property development, she said with a laugh: "It's probably because property development involves a lot of money, and women in general are afraid to handle huge amounts of money. Most of us are also not good at making decisions decisively."

In these aspects, she confessed she is not a "typical" woman - although she likes being taken care of by her husband at home and often cooks for him.

Women should not feel inferior to men in the corporate world or be completely reliant on their husbands, she said.

"I believe that women have a slight edge over men when it comes to business, as we have a more human-orientated nature compared to men's highly task-orientated one," she said.

"Given that Singapore is a globalised society, women should make the best of the opportunities available. Don't have the mindset that you're not good enough...even if you're married, it's good to be self-sufficient."

Asked to share her recipe for success, Ms Tan pointed out that "entrepreneurship is not something taught, but caught".

It is about having a continual hunger to learn - coupled with a drive to seek out knowledge - from some of the very best people who have become successful, she explained.

She cited her own example of making the most of learning opportunities with local entrepreneur Richard Tan of Success Resources.

Success Resources is one of the largest seminar organisers in the world today, and it has brought in big names like former Britain prime minister Tony Blair and American investor and self-help author Robert Kiyosaki.

Ms Tan ran Success Resources - which was known as SkyQuestCom before it became a listed company - with Mr Tan from 2000 to 2008.

"I've always believed that the best way to learn about starting a business is to work alongside those who have been there and done it successfully," she said.

"You need to see how they work and then model yourself after them."

Ms Tan added that to succeed, one needs to be passionate about his or her business and dream big.

She daringly ventured into unchartered waters, such as the Indian market, when she was the director of Yves Saint Laurent Beaute for the Asia-Pacific in 1996, and also to markets like China, Hong Kong and Japan when she worked with SkyQuestCom.

"I love a good challenge. It gives me a tremendous sense of satisfaction to create something from scratch and turn it into something sizeable, or noticeable," she said.

"I also hate to let the people around me down, so that gives me even more motivation to succeed."

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