By Payal Gwalani
SINGAPORE – Like all Asian parents, Shannon Goh‘s parents also wished she would follow the conventional path – study hard, go to a good school, work for a good company and hopefully, get paid well. However, she was not academically strong and by 16, she knew she would succeed but not by walking the conventional path.
Since she was very young, she was inclined towards entrepreneurship, unaware of all the responsibilities that come along with the role. All she knew was success as an entrepreneur was not dependent on academic calibre or the school one attends. Their success depends on the ability to identify problems and provide solutions to them, which she believed she could do well. On her path to realise her dream of leading multiple business units by the age of 30, she is currently the chief operating officer of e-commerce education firm LeapVista.
During her school time, Goh realised that she was a slow learner and also that she learned best through hands-on application. Soon, after making these discoveries about herself, she took three part-time jobs – working in retail, F&B and telemarketing – while still studying.
She needed the money to invest in alternative forms of education to gain expertise in the areas of leadership, communications and entrepreneurship from experienced mentors. Her hard work paid off. In four years, she was able to save and invest approximately S$25,000 to obtain the knowledge she set out to get.
In the pursuit of her dream, she chose to defer the last year of studies to pursue a full time role in a tech start-up at the age of 19. “During this period, I gained valuable exposure and experience from interacting with senior professionals and industry experts, attending international conventions and business development meetings in countries such as Hong Kong, and the Netherlands,” Goh shares.
After two years, she decided to leave the tech scene to fully devote her time in the education (seminar) sector. Soon after joining the new company, she was promoted to the post of Head of Operations and Sales. At 21, she managed team members who were much older and experienced than her.
It took her some time to gain the trust and respect of her team but her pragmatic decision-making based on facts and data made sure they saw her as the right leader over time. She’s proud to have been able to break down preconceived notions behind one’s ability to perform at their job due to age, lack of experience or gender. In two years that she worked at this company, she was able to scale their revenue from S$1 to $7 million.
Shannon Goh feels that female leaders have long been stigmatised about being emotional and letting their emotions influence business decisions. “I have encountered such situations first-hand within a professional setting, which unfortunately affirms the stigma, and the effect it has on the team dynamics within the company,” she shares.
Witnessing this made her determined to challenge the stereotype through her own actions and conduct. Her previous bosses were a husband and wife team. Through interactions with them, she got a better understanding of the type of leader she would have liked to be when she led her own company.
That’s when she was approached by Steve Tan to spearhead the business operations of LeapVista. Finding their mission and values being in alignment, she came onboard. At the time, she wanted to create a platform that equips aspiring entrepreneurs with world-class quality programs that are based on actionable knowledge – future-proofing people skill sets and businesses – that is not taught on traditional education channels. LeapVista did just that in the e-commerce and digital marketing domain. Since the beginning of their work in 2019, the company has achieved a 4.8 star review on Trustpilot.
Talking about what an e-commerce entrepreneur needs to be successful, Goh says it is similar to starting any form of business. “One must not be overwhelmed by the unknown and fail to act. Learning from their successes and failures will enable you to make better decisions,” she clarifies.
Being adaptable to digital trends will be key as well, as an e-commerce entrepreneur. One has to be disciplined as motivation levels can go low with the challenging nature of running a business, she shares. “Never forget the reason why you started. This will pull you through tough periods when mistakes and obstacles may arise,” she advises. She adds that having a good mentor to provide counsel and guidance can also be helpful.
That’s where LeapVista comes in by focusing on breaking down the complexity of the business to the simplest step-by-step form. This allows aspiring entrepreneurs to apply the knowledge themselves and experience small successes along the way for themselves. The company usually works with entrepreneurs with a proven track record, distilling their lessons and experience into actionable business training that will create long-term success for their students.
The trainers are entrepreneurs themselves who share the resources and systems or checklists that they created with students. “These are the materials crafted around their business experiences and are not accessible on the internet. They will share previous mistakes and failures with our students to help them avoid pitfalls,” informs Goh. This prevents the students from getting discouraged by certain blockers when they venture into it themselves, she adds.
Gender Neutral Industry
Goh feels that the very nature of e-commerce makes it a more gender-neutral industry than most. It allows you to run your online business successfully without the added exposure to your personal life, gender or experience level, she points out. The focus of the business is to find a great product-market fit, create demand, generate supply and build customer loyalty, all tasks that can be achieved by a skilled individual, irrespective of their gender, age, race or nationality.
One thing that LeapVista does on International Women’s Day is organising a challenge for the team to submit stories of women who have inspired them. They also run a promotion on their education offerings on the day to encourage women to take the first step in changing their lives by upgrading their skill sets. All this is done with the aim of encouraging more women to consider taking up a career as an e-commerce enterpreneur.
Being successful in attaining her goals, and having seen several business owners succeed, Goh believes that one should continue to set big goals for themselves and ensure they are taking the necessary steps to fulfill them. “Do not be afraid to fail and learn from your mistakes in order to move forward. In times of success, always remember to stay humble and keep learning. Embrace your failures, learn from them, and celebrate your success,” she advises.
She also believes that one should embrace the process in our journey to success by making good memories and striving to make a positive impact on those around. It helps not to take yourself too seriously all the time as well, she adds.