Archive for the ‘Featured Members’ Category

Crowdfunding to create crowd wisdom

“I keep having this recurring thought: what if people came together to form a type of crowd wisdom?” ~Hong Sin Kwek

Crowd Wisdom? Yes, the terminology is as new to me as it is to you. But after asking Hong Sin to elaborate, I understand Crowd Wisdom to be a type of ‘power in numbers’ philosophy where ideas, industries and production are democratised to a point where they are driven directly by the general public. What does that mean exactly? It’s an approach where everything is crowd sourced: Skills. Funding. Property. Ideas. The Entire Economy.

Imagine that. Imagine a world where everything is created by mass collaboration and mass interest; where money and ideas only follow the flow of pledged collective demand. Wouldn’t that save a dang lot of time, effort, and perhaps the misuse of funds!

Pioneering this ideology is Hong Sin Kwek, a former cyber security business developer turned managing director of her start up Phoenixict; a company which focuses on developing the new found “crowd economy.”

Crowdfunding Asia

“I’m serious. I’m dead serious about this business”

The match is an unlikely one. Hong Sin “chanced upon” crowdfunding after being rejected by venture capitalists while starting her business.

“When I heard about crowdfunding I thought it was too good to be true. They told me I could pitch my idea to the public on a crowdfunding platform or event, and if people liked the idea, they’d contribute to it.”

To find out just how deep the crowdfunding scene really goes, Hong Sin travelled to San Diego, Silicon Valley, Las Vegas and met the biggest influencers in crowdfunding, noting the impact it had on the regional economy and startups across the United States.

“I was so amazed by the progress and achievement made in the U.S. But in Asia there are only pockets of platform providers. People aren’t really crowdfunding, whereas in the U.S. it’s really taken off. I went to the U.S to get money, but I left wanting to drive Asia crowdfunding, and to launch the Crowdfunding Asia summit.”

Crowdfunding Asia, August 2014

Crowdfunding Asia, August 2014

Crowdfunding is an accessible and low-risk approach to fundraising; it simultaneously gets you directly in front of your target audience (if used with savvy, on the right platform) while testing the market viability of your idea. If people like your idea they’ll fund it directly. If not, well, that’s feedback, isn’t it?

Recovering from a tough divorce, Hong Sin’s business is a type of ‘starting all over again” venture, but this time perhaps with bigger vision and more gumption. The mother of two will run the first ever Crowdfunding Asia summit as she turns 50 this August. She’s all in with her start up, deciding to “do something for myself for once.”

The summit will bring in international speakers and cover the latest and most relevant topics within the crowd economy.


Crowdfunding Asia Summit

Crowdfunding Asia Summit

Driving Hong Sin’s vision is the intention is to help people and the crowd economy to reach new heights – empowering people to reach their dreams through a new support system. Simply, she see’s crowd wisdom as a means to serve the community and grow the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

“It’s challenging, very tough; but I’m going for it because I believe in it. When I started in cyber security people laughed at me, but today it’s a must. I believe crowdfunding will be that way – especially industries turning to scarcity, like water and other critical industries.”

Hong Sin believes there are misconceptions about the relevance of crowdfunding to everyday businesses – but there’s more to it than meets the eye, she says. Part of her mission is to build awareness and to develop a holistic approach the future crowd economy and information landscape – an infrastructure she calls Crowd Wisdom.

So there you have it. Crowd Wisdom. You heard it here first. To learn more and support the vision, attend the Crowdfunding Asia summit.

To join the community and meet other awesome members like Hong Sin, attend our next event.






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Dr. Robyn’s Brain Games

Ever thought about how your brain affects the way you connect and communicate with people?

At today’s Startup Conversations event we played a game to shed a little insight. (Imagine, women in startup all congregated for a dose of daily learning only to end up playing games! What can we say, we like to have fun while we work!)

It turns out our “thinking preferences” affect the way we view the world, relate to people and even run our businesses. To illustrate the point, Dr Robyn Wilson (Athena board advisor and executive coach) took us through an activity to makes us aware of our thinking preferences (or maybe even thinking biases?)

startup conversations 20 June 14 (3)

Through the exercise we were able to understand ourselves more – and perhaps more importantly, others more. Becoming more aware of our thinking preferences allows us to see how we can better relate to others as well as accommodate our own thinking style to provide a more holistic approach to our businesses (and lives!)

The activity, based on the HBDI model, identifies four different modes of thinking:

1)       Analytical thinking: logical, factual, critical, technical and quantitative.
Preferred activities : collecting data, analysis, understanding how things work, judging ideas based on facts, criteria and logical reasoning.

2)       Sequential thinking: safekeeping, structured, organized, complexity or detailed, planned.
Preferred activities : following directions, detail oriented work, step-by-step problem solving, organization and implementation.
startu conversations 20 June 14 (4)
3)       Interpersonal thinking: Kinesthetic, emotional, spiritual, sensory, feeling.
Preferred activities : listening to and expressing ideas, looking for personal meaning, sensory input, and group interaction.

4)       Imaginative thinking: Visual, holistic, intuitive, innovative, and conceptual.
Preferred activities : Looking at the big picture, taking initiative, challenging assumptions, visuals, metaphoric thinking, creative problem solving, long term thinking.

The theory is based on the brain’s cerebral cortex and limbic systems and the research into left-right brain laterilization (that’s a great word isn’t it? Lat-er-il-zation).

Apparently we each have a mode of thinking that dictates how we digest information and breakdown problems. Which on do you think you are?

You’d need the official test to be sure, but once equipped with the knowledge, you can be more clear on your strengths and dare say shortcomings – as well as who you need to collaborate to have the most complete approach to starting and sustaining a business.

What to learn more? We have so many of these great learning and networking sessions. Attend our next event and subscribe to our newsletter! We’re a welcoming bunch, passionate about our businesses and serious about providing the development and support needed to grow them.

Hope to meet you soon!


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Best practices for staying in touch

Athena Executive Club chair-lady Vicki Lew shares some of her networking savvy – and as a member who has tripled her business since joining Athena, we think she’s more than qualified for the job…



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How does a multi-linguist and former diplomat-in-training become a humanist, raw food educator? A past-life experience, of course!

Are you a believer? It doesn’t matter, this raw-food educator’s grounded and humourist approach can charm anyone.

Pauliina Salmenhaara somehow makes raw food look cool. Maybe it’s how she doesn’t take herself or raw food seriously. She’s just one wholesome and refreshing lady – like a glass of coconut water on a summer’s day!

Sometimes there’s a much bigger story behind what we might expect. I mean, really, would you think foreign ministry when you think of a raw-food spiritualist who found her purpose through a past life regression?

Amongst a tall rack of herbs and spices that spans the length of the kitchen, Pauliina recounted her story over the sound of the power blender.

pauliina and blender

“My dream is to open a wellbeing centre and resort that focuses on alternative therapies and raw food”

Growing up in Finland, Belgium and Sweden, Pauliina was groomed to be a diplomat. She grasped seven languages and was training in the ministry under the human rights department. Feeling it was devoid of authenticity and the humanitarian aspect, she joined an NGO, later beginning volunteer work in China, active in orphanage and fundraising for children beneath the poverty level.

However, when Pauliina hit her 30s she had what she called a “30s crisis”, questioning the purpose of life. She began meditating in a pursuit to discover her passion and went for Reiki sessions, a type of therapeutic energy work. One day during a session of Reiki she said she had a past life regression. Pauliina speaks openly about it even though people may not understand. She says philosophically, how will I know who is open to it if I don’t talk about it?

“I had a vision I was a nurse in war time in Finland. There were wounded soldiers all around me. I remember panicking, not feeling qualified to help, and then I realised I can help people through gentle, loving touch and found the purpose of my life. I remember it clearly. I was running in the field and was shot – I remember looking at all bleakness, saying I don’t want to die, but then I was lifted from my body and I knew it wasn’t the end. I was looking down at myself, and was reborn into this life. My purpose in life is to help people heal through gentle loving touch, facilitating people’s healing.”

Pauliina began to study alternative therapies –  holistic massage, tuning forks, essential oils, Guasha, etc. – and integrated raw food after a chance encounter with a holistic nutritionist, learning to resolve her history of health problems (digestive problems, asthma, upper respiratory infections, depression) through nutrition and detox.  She cut out (quite extremely, she confesses) fried food, dairy, sugar, gluten and alcohol until her body regained balance.

She then took a course under Elaina Love of pure joy academy, certifying as a raw food educator and chef and learning how to guide cleanses. Whilst doing sleeping meditation during a green juice cleanse, she had another flash of inspiration and saw the beauty in combining alternative therapies and raw food for wellbeing inside and out. The flash of insight was to call herself a “Therachef”, a self-coined term.


Pauliina believes that being present for people is healing. It can be exhausting as much as a source of pleasure. But at the end of it all, she finds total reward in seeing the happiness and relaxation it brings and the joy of people experiencing healthy food and feeling the good its doing for them.

“Seeing change, facilitating change, that’s what I do. I’m proud of what I do.”

Pauliina’s life tip: Have a green juice a day!

Pauliina on being an Athena member: “Athena is my way to recharge. There is so much love, sense of community, light-heartedness – it boosts my energy level as well as my networking and business needs. I also enjoy the strong personality of the Athena team; especially Gina – she’s highly entertaining and has great tips and now you!”

Oh shucks! We love you too, Pauliina!


Check out her super cool vid  by the filmmakers at Lovorth, fellow Athena Executive Members! You can book on to one of Pauliina’s upcoming raw food workshops on her website

Meet Pauliina and other fab Athena ladies at our next networking event!


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The language of admiration – how an English consultant’s love for language led to starting a business


Daisy Teh set up her business to make her parents proud. Now, as a successful post-graduate and English language coach, her parents must be beaming.

Her business Margaret Stanley Language Consultancy is a tribute to her parents Margaret Gan and Stanley Tan. It’s a business born out of a sense of pride, sensitivity, deliberation and keen awareness around words, enunciation and the rhythm of language.

Speaking with controlled pace, vulnerability, power postures and a low, commanding voice, Daisy is the Zen master of presenters. Her speech comes easy; her philosophy is once you know the strategy and the rules of the English language, it’s simple to apply – and her passion is to help others achieve just that.

After a long history teaching communication and the English language, Daisy decided to set up her own business under the influence and support of fellow Athena member Elyse Anne Lim.

“I’m a master of it; why not make my expertise into a business? It’s okay being a salaried worker, but I’m definitely more than that. I strongly believe I’m really good at it. My dream is to be the most sought after non-native English language coach.”

Daisy on chair closeup

Her passion for the English language started in childhood, “I remember entering a spelling contest in school and coming first runner up with no preparation. I had a natural talent for it and found it simple to understand the flow of composition. My father had a great command of the English language which he relayed to my sister and me.”

Daisy’s father left a lasting impression on her, and her tribute to him is accentuated by his premature death. Daisy shared he was murdered when she was fifteen. She recalls the day vividly and the hardship her mother went through to support her and her sister thereafter. Her mother worked three jobs, making ends meet with just a primary education. To support her way through university Daisy pursued sponsored programs and took up teaching to fund her studies. She loved it and managed to achieve what she wanted whilst getting funding for higher education.

Both Daisy and her sister are master degree holders and this stands as a loving testament to their parents.

“My mother didn’t borrow, beg or steal to get by; she sacrificed her life for her family and my dad gave so much to us before he died.”

Her dad, she said with huge admiration, was a good man with good character. He spoke with a confidence and clarity that she wanted to mimic. To Daisy, there is something so special about having finesse and ease with communicating. So special that she committed to mastering it and teaching it to others.

For a window into Daisy’s teachings check out her Athena guest blog post on “10 ways to create an authoritative presence”. You can meet Daisy and other great Athena members at our next Athena event!

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