There are a lot of people in this world who would associate the word entrepreneurship with risk and failure, two characteristics that instill fear as soon as you speak them aloud.
But there is another breed of people who follow their passion and overlook obstacles that would stop other people. While other people see problems, these select group of people try to see the opportunities in these problems and discover solutions that improve the quality of life for all.
Here is the list of 30 such remarkable people who had the courage to start their own ventures in the face of remarkable odds. They have worked hard, showed resilience and never compromised on the quality and outcome of their efforts.
Neelofa (Malaysia) – Founder, NH Prima International
Neelofa, a household name in Malaysia, is best known for being a TV personality. In 2014, whilst undergoing a personal transformation, she decided to don a Hijab (a headscarf worn by muslim women). Being a strong fashion aficionado, Neelofa realized that there wasn’t much variety in hijab designs that could resonate with modern, stylish muslim women.
Coming from a business oriented family, Neelofa always had a passion for business, and thus it comes as no surprise that she wanted to fill the gap for the market for modern-day hijab. Neelofa assembled a team of like-minded individuals and decided to successfully launched her start her own label, Naelofar Hijab in 2014, initially selling shawls online and offline. She soon launched two new labels, Naelofar Abaya and Lofalens. One of the reasons for her success is her social media marketing strategy. Neelofa has millions of Instagram fans who played a big role in the expansion of her business. The Naelofar Hijab line now sells in 38 countries through online stores.
Kim Sunghan (South Korea) – Principal Product Owner, Coupang
Kim Sunghan is the Principal Product Owner of Coupang, a prominent name in the list of world’s fastest growing ecommerce companies. Kim Sunghan, along with his co-founders, has helped Coupang become a multi-billion dollar enterprise and aspires to revolutionize the way world does business.
What makes Coupang so successful is the ability to deliver on the promise of same-day shipment. In a country, where an average package takes at least 2 days to arrive on customer’s doorstep, Coupang promises to deliver it within a day at no extra price. To achieve this target, the company has invested millions of dollars in a sophisticated logistics system that includes algorithm controlled warehouses, trucks and thousands of delivery people.
Kanika Tekriwal (India) – Founder, JetSetGo
It takes an extraordinary person to successfully beat cancer and launch a successful organization. Extraordinary, incidentally, might just be the perfect adjective to describe Kanika for she did exactly that!
Undoubtedly, it was her battle with cancer that readied her to take on challenges that popped up when she started her new venture. The abilities to not give up, to stay motivated through it all and to achieve the end goals helped her overcome one hurdle after another to make JetSetGo a multi-million dollar organization.
JetSetGo is regarded as the Uber of Indian skies. It is a plane and helicopter charting operation which has the potential of revitalizing the personal aviation transport industry in India. JetSetGo caters to a wide range of clientele that includes business executives, politicians and tourists. For aircraft owners, It offers management services that take care of in-flight and on-ground services including safety and maintenance.
Quek Siu Rui (Singapore) – Cofounder, Carousell App
Quek Siu Rui is a co-founder of Carousell, a marketplace app that has become extremely popular in Singapore. Quek Siu Rui says that being a millennial he wanted to make a community driven marketplace app for millennials, that would make shopping as easy as browsing on social media.
The startup achieved monumental success and is one of the fastest growing marketplace app in the world, since its launch in 2012. It was rated as the top app in Lifestyle and Shopping Categories in Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Carousell gained popularity because it has remained true to its tagline “Sell in a Snap, Buy with a Chat”. Quek Siu Rui insists that Carousell has reshaped the way people come together to buy and sell products.
Sabin Bhandari & Ashish Acharya (Nepal) – Founders, Threadpaints
Sabin Bhandari and Aashish Acharya found Threadpaints, an online apparel store, in 2012 when they were still in college. Threadpaints sells everything from t-shirts, designed by hip local designers, to watches, perfumes and mugs. It soon became a trendy brand and gained popularity amongst millennials.
Threadpaints is rapidly becoming a popular ecommerce brand in Nepal, a country with still-developing ecommerce industry. The brand has managed to sustain and enhance their success, mainly due to their appealing designs and emphasis on quality over quantity.
Abby Zhang (Hong Kong) – Cofounder, Yeechoo
Abby Zhang, aged 28, describes herself as a fashionista and believes that everyone should have the opportunity to wear designer dresses. She founded Yeechoo in 2013, the inspiration of which came when she found herself clueless standing in front of a closet full of clothes. She realized that women spend a lot of money on designer dresses only to end up wearing the dresses once or twice.
She, along with her partner Shan, visualized a “constantly changing, boundless wardrobe” which allows women to enjoy short term ownership of designer dresses at a fraction of retail price. Today, Yeechoo is basically a popular online designer dress rental service with more than 30,000 subscribers.
Yeechoo offers an impressive portfolio of designer labels including Victoria Beckham, Badgley Mischka and Oscar de la Renta. The lineup also include accessories and styling tips that complement the overall look. Abby has plans for expanding her business in China, Macau and Southeast Asia.
Yusuko Saito & Masaru Ishizaki (Thailand) – Cofounders, Empag
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Empag Pte Ltd. is a Thailand based startup started by two, 29 years old Japanese millennials. Empag is well known for delivering fresh fruits and produce to households directly from the farmers. The founders now have plans to diversify their business by introducing cutting edge farming technology.
They have clearly identified the gap that exists between the farmers and the consumers of fruit and vegetables. Saito and Ishizaki feels that going to the market for buying produce is an outdated phenomena. With the help of technology, fresh fruits and produce can be easily available on the consumers’ doorstep.
Rachel Lim (Singapore) – Cofounder & CEO, Love, Bonito
Love, Bonito started off as just a passionate hobby in 2006, when Rachel was 19 years old. Rachel, along with her friends, started a blogshop about fashion on LiveJournal where they wrote on fashion and sold clothing articles. Since it was the first blogshop in Singapore, it became a great hit, and within three years, the market grew to 50,000 customers.
Rachel, along with her cofounders, took this as a sign to upscale their blogshop and that was when Love, Bonito was born. Rachel Lim wanted Love, Bonito to be a giant online retailer with creative in-house designs. She took the role of creative, design and marketing head and got to work. After a few years and a lot of hard work, Love, Bonito managed to generate a great social media presence which is an important aspect in increasing the revenue of her brand by 25% every year since its launch.
Holly Cardew (Australia) – Founder & CEO, Pixc
Holly Cardew is no stranger to startups and entrepreneurship, having been brought up in the land of startups itself, the Silicon Valley. It was in San Francisco where she started and evolved her own startup, Pixc. Before launching Pixc, Holly used to help ecommerce sites better sell their goods to people. While working there she realized that the biggest problem retailers encounter is product images. She realized that this problem was not limited to just regional sellers; rather it is a global phenomenon.
In 2014, Holly launched Pixc, and soon found her website flooded with customers who submitted thousands of pictures for treatment. People submitted basic product photos to Pixc, where a team of graphic designers transformed those images into glamorous store content, fit for the world’s best online retail spaces.
Pixc allows retailers to afford high quality imagery so that they stand out from their competitors, resulting in better sales at online stores.
Geetansh Bamania (India) – Founder, Rentomojo
Rentomojo is an online rental service that provides for your furnishing needs. It is targeted towards people who think that investing in furniture is a bad business idea. Geetansh Bamania thinks that there are many people in India who consider renting furniture a hassle and would pay for furniture rental gladly.
At 29 years of age, Geetansh Bamania could be considered as one of the pioneers of online furniture renting service. He has opened an entirely new category of service that many can build upon now.
Koh Martinez (Philippines) – CEO, LoudBasstard
Koh Martinez, 27 year old anthropology degree holder, can be best described as a nature lover and music enthusiast. His aim as the CEO of LoudBasstard is to spread happiness and promote the traditional Philippine culture, which is why he chose to begin selling Bamboo amplifiers as they are symbolic to the Philippine culture.
He has been successful in creating a niche market for his product. Currently LoudBasstard claims a revenue of more than $20,000 and is looking to expand into the USA, having established a customer base in Japan.
Waqas Ali (Pakistan) – Cofounder, Markhor
Waqas Ali, 29 year old co-founder of Markhor, believes that an amazing product is the result of passion and dedication of the artisans. He was not happy when he realized that the labor behind many handcrafted products don’t get the recognition or financial remuneration that they deserve.
He took it upon himself to change this unfortunate fact. He dropped out of college and decided to create Markhor, a luxury men’s shoe brand that promotes Pakistan’s famous shoe craftsmanship. The brand cuts out the middleman, and help the craftsmen make profit.
Due to his passion and undying hard work, Waqas has managed to make Markhor the first Pakistani startup to be accepted into and backed by a Y – Combinator in San Francisco.
Sasha Tan (Singapore) – CEO, Favful
Sasha Tan, a 26 year old CEO of Favful, can be best described as a serial entrepreneur. Before Favful, she started her own dessert shop by the name of Stoone. With Favful, Tan has achieved success as the brand is now present in three countries, and covers more than 40,000 products to date.
With Favful, Sasha Tan aims to provide a stress-free solution to women who want to buy beauty products. When she was young, Sasha realized that buying beauty products can be a cumbersome process as there are myriad of options available, but not nearly enough guidance about the benefits and application of the products. As a result, many women end up buying products that are not suitable for them. Favful offers price comparisons as well as ratings for beauty products based on skin type, to make the overall process of choosing beauty products less overwhelming.
Thessy Kouzoukas and Yiota Kouzoukas (Australia) – Cofounders, Sabo Skirt
Sabo Skirts is the prime example of how passion and keen entrepreneurial mindset can create a brand with millions of social media followers. Thessy & Yiota are fashion bloggers turned global ecommerce owners. It all started when their fashion blog started hitting a 150,000 monthly views.
Up till 2014, these talented ladies were students, with Sabo Skirts being a mere side business. They used to store their stocks in unused bathroom and study. Slowly, their business took off, and they signed a deal with the retail giant David Jones, and soon hit the 1-million followers mark on Instagram.
Today celebrities like Gigi Hadid have been spotted wearing their pieces. They have launched a sister label by the name of Sabo Luxe and their Instagram followers stand at an astounding 1.6 millions.
Jane Lu (Australia) – Founder, Showpo
Jane Lu started Showpo in 2010 from her parent’s garage. Having worked in Accounting and Corporate Finance, Jane quickly realized that the cubicle life wasn’t for her, and hence chose the entrepreneurial path.
Full of energy and undeterred by the failure of her first startup, she set up the online fashion brand, Showpo. Her entrepreneurial prowess can be measured by the fact that she started with a laptop and a few shelves of clothing, and built a global empire that ships to 80 countries.
Due to her adorable personality, Jane has managed to amass a following of 2.8 million on social media. Her entrepreneurial genius won her the Cosmopolitan Entrepreneur of the year award in 2015.
Tushar Ahluwala & Shikha Ahluwala (India) – Cofounders, StalkBuyLove
StalkBuyLove is a trendy womenswear ecommerce website that is trying to redefine the way fashion labels operate in India. It was founded by the brother-sister duo of Tushar and Shikha in 2012, and has since attained a growth rate of about 20%.
In April 2017, the online startup managed to raise $1 million in Venture Debt from Trifecta Capital, that was used to strengthen the supply chain and the workforce. The unique thing about StalkBuyLove is their Just-In-time philosophy. Since they control every aspect of apparel manufacturing, from buying the fabric to designing and stitching it, they do not manufacture the apparel till the order is placed.
Wen Chenghui (China) – Founder, Li Wushuo
23 year old Wen Chenghui is fondly regarded as young Jack Ma of China mainly because of his business acumen. In 2013, Wen dropped out of college to focus his energies to his gift recommendation app, Li Wushuo.
Dropping out of college turned out to be a smart move as Wen soon managed to turn his app into a roaring success. It has more than 10 million users and churns around more than 50 million yuan per monthly sales. In 2015, Wen Chenghui managed to raise $30 million in its series B round at a valuation of $200 million.
Sylvia Yin (Malaysia) – Cofounder & COO, Shoppr
Sylvia Yin is yet another example of how your academic degree does not necessarily have to define your life. Yin completed her degree in Economics and had no experience or training in both fashion design and mobile app development. Fashion was her passion and the path towards mobile app development was the result of her curiosity.
One day, Sylvia saw a pair of good looking jeans on Instagram, and despite her best efforts she wasn’t able to locate that jeans anywhere else on internet. She wasted hours and yet she couldn’t find a comparable pair. That was when she decided to create an app that could help prevent others from suffering the same frustration.
In September 2014, along with her co-founders Kendrick and Nikolai, Sylvia created Shoppr. As an app, Shoppr lets women find outfits and access sales updates from 1000 of international and local fashion brands.
Ferry Unardi (Indonesia) – Cofounder & CEO, Traveloka
If you are living in Indonesia, chances are that you might well be aware of the website known as Traveloka. This website is one of the most well-known startups in Indonesia, and has slowly but surely become the go-to website for online flight and hotel bookings.
Unardi, 23 at the time, dropped out of Harvard in 2012 after the first semester to get back to Indonesia and found Traveloka. Initially, Traveloka was just a flight search and aggregating platform. It evolved through various iteration to become the most popular platform in Indonesia.
Soon after founding Traveloka, Unardi realized that the main issue that consumers face wasn’t about searching for flights. Customers were not happy with the whole process of using different services to book a flight and finalize a transaction. Unardi saw this pain point and took it upon himself to rectify the issue. Currently, Traveloka has more than a 1000 employees, and is taking the full advantage of the fast growing Indonesian market.
Raghav Verma (India) – Cofounder, Chaayos
Those of you who are even slightly aware of India, know that Indians love tea, even more so than the British. For majority of Indians, the day is incomplete, if they haven’t drunk at least 1-2 cups of tea. With so much love for tea, it was inevitable that a startup selling tea would achieve huge success.
Chaayos, a tea cafe originating from Delhi, slowly became a must visit place for all the tea lovers in the city. With growing popularity, Chaayos was able to open 23 branches in different metropolitan cities of India and has managed to transform into a Rs. 1 Billion business.
Kayla Itsines (Australia) – Cofounder, The Bikini Body
Kayla Itsines, a personal trainer, was always extremely fond of working out, staying healthy and feeling good. She always knew that there are many women who would like to follow her footsteps, however, they did not have the required guidance.
Kayla wanted to contribute to improving the lives of all these women, and she knew that there is no better way to do that than helping improve the health and fitness of the women. She worked hard on growing a community, and soon she was helping over 10 million women in achieving fitness. Kayla and most of her followers used to share before and after pictures of their after completing Kayla’s regime.
In 2016, Kayla was deemed one of the ‘30 Most Influential people on Internet.’ Kayla’s example clearly teaches us that if you have skills that can help improve the lives of other people, success would just follow.
Uppma Vardi (Australia) – Founder, Chai Walli
Uppma Vardi is another Indian on this list whose success is driven by the passion of tea. Vardi, 27, does not have any formal education in business. In fact, she is a very capable lawyer who just one day decided to give the idea of her ‘tea-stall’ a shot, and the rest is history.
Vardi’s love for tea can well be regarded as genetic. It was her grandfather who taught her the art of making Ayurvedic tea, a skill she feels proud to possess. In 2016, she was nominated for the Businesswoman of the Year Award.
Nikolas Travis (Singapore) – Founder, Allies of Skin
Nikolas Travis, founder of Allies of Skin, is perhaps the biggest advocate of good skin. An advocacy that might have been triggered by teenage struggle with acne. Travis points out that there is a correlation between confidence and good skin, and if he can help people become more confident and sure of themselves via his products, then his hard work is worth it.
Nikolas Travis, a former employee at Ogilvy & Mather, realized that he was more drawn to his own startup plan. He left his job and launched his brand with just one product. The product turned out to be a huge success, propelling the Allies of Skin to superstardom.
The success and popularity of Allies of Skin can be measured by the fact that it is now being sold by major e-tailers like Net-A-Porter, Barneys and Mr. Porter. The reason for all the positive word of mouth, Travis believes, is the effectiveness of his product.
Jess Hatzis (Australia) – Cofounder, Frank Body
Frank Body is a beauty brand co founded by 2 Australian friends. It makes beauty products, but the catch is that each and everyone of their product has coffee in it, and is non-toxic. It won’t be wrong to say that Frank Body is the pioneer of the whole coffee scrub movement and their success kickstarted the niche of ‘coffee scrubs’.
When Frank Body was launched, the world was coming to terms with the immense potential of social media. The co founders of Frank Body, however, were quick to realize the role of social media in creating brand awareness. They started a savvy social media campaign that built the brand’s reputation.
The strategy worked well for them and people started adoring the brand, making Frank Body one of the earliest brands that utilized social media to create a space and following for themselves. In no time the brand managed to become one of the fastest growing startups of Australia, managing to notch up a profit of $20 million in 1.5 years.
Ian Chua (Malaysia) – Cofounder & CEO, Hermo
Launched in 2012, Hermo is currently one of the top online beauty sites in Malaysia. Chua brainstormed the idea of Hermo while attending his university. Soon after graduation, Chua founded Hermo with no prior experience.
Ian Chua admits that when Hermo started, they did not have any relationship with suppliers. He just used to buy beauty products from different retail shops and sell it on his website with zero profit. It took Hermo 9 months to bring up their first business partner. The growth was slow, but it was the determination and grit of the cofounders that helped them move forward.
Growth, traffic and revenues started improving day by day and ever since 2014, Hermo has turned into a profitable venture which currently enjoys more than 150,000 monthly users on their website with a revenue in excess of RM 15 million.
Anjana Reddy (India) – Founder, Universal Sportsbiz
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Anjana Reddy is the founder of Indian fashion company called Universal Sportsbiz Pvt Ltd which holds and operates celebrity-commerce portals, Collectibillia, Wrogn and Imara. Collectibillia sells celebrity fashion accessories, Wrogn manufactures fashion apparel and Imara manufactures ethnic wear for women.
After getting a postgraduate degree in accounting and finance from the University of Illinois in the US, Anjana returned to India with the aim of creating a brand in merchandising by leveraging celebrities. She knew that sports, particularly cricket, had a huge following in India and she can leverage that passion to create her brand. Her vision was spot on, and soon her brands had a huge following. Currently Anjana’s brands sell in more than 70 stores as well as ecommerce stores like Myntra.
Merrie Elizabeth (Indonesia) – CEO & Creative Director, BloBar Salon
On an evening in 2014, while pursuing her MBA, Merrie was pondering her life choices. She was unhappy and demoralized. All she wanted to do was turn her life around. That was the moment she decided to start her own venture.
BloBar started small. Merrie was very clear in her vision. In her early days, she focused her energy on providing qualitative service that would ensure that the consumer is satisfied.
Even though at first BloBar aimed to go slow, that didn’t prevent it from breaking even within the first 9 months of its inception. The reason why it clicked with its target audience is because Blobar isn’t just a salon. It is a place where women come, socialize and have a great time. When it is time for them to leave, BloBar ensures that they are feeling fabulous because of their new hairstyle.
In a way, BloBar achieved success because it sells more than a quality haircut. It takes care of the experience, self esteem and confidence of their consumers.
Natasia Guo (China) – Cofounder & Chief Creative Officer, Yetang
Yetang is a cool and hip Chinese fashion ecommerce website that sells fashion and lifestyle products designed by relatively lesser known designers. The word Yetang translates into ‘wild candy’ and as you can deduce from the name, it is aimed towards the younger, hip generation of China.
In China, the younger generation is completely in sync with global trends. In fact, Chinese people have many ways to buy global products. It is the Indie designer products that the Chinese population finds hard to buy. When Guo returned to China from USA, she wanted to change this. She wanted the indie designer products to be as readily available as mainstream products.
That is when she had the idea of selling trendy and affordable designs created by indie designers in China. Natasia knows that designer partners makes a very important part of her business ecology. She has gone on record to claim Yetang to be an enterprise that helps young designers succeed. Yetang is partners with more than 2,500 designers, and that network is expanding rapidly. In its first full year in the industry, Yetang managed to sold 110,000 products from 800 designers. Currently Yetang enjoys more than a million monthly views. She believes that Yetang can nurture the market to make an even favourable environment for trendy ecommerce websites and that is where her sole focus remains.
Thet Mon Aye & Zarni Nway Oo (Myanmar) – Cofounders, Star Ticket
Star Ticket is the brainchild of the brother-sister duo of Thet Mon Aye & Zarni Nway Oo.
In Myanmar, bus travel is the most common form of transport that people choose to take. People consider it to be more convenient and efficient than train travel even for longer cross country travel. However, booking tickets for these bus rides can be troublesome. Myanmar was still stuck in the analog era of ticket booking and this young sibling duo decided to change that for the betterment of the people and their country.
Slowly and gradually, the co-founders worked hard for creating awareness to this seemingly new system and their hard work has started to pay off. Currently Star Ticket links more than 20% of Myanmar’s bus operators to places where passengers may pick up their tickets. That is a big achievement considering that they had no access to Venture Capitalists and had to bootstrap their company.
Luong Duy Hoai (Vietnam) – Founder & CEO, Giao Hang Nhanh
Vietnam, like Myanmar and other developing countries, is notorious to be a little behind in terms of technology. Luong Duy Hoai was well aware of this fact. He also knew how internet and technology can create convenience as well as jobs for his people.
Realizing the potential of the Vietnam’s market provided and the reduced competition in ecommerce sector, he started his own ecommerce company by the name of Giao Hang Nhanh, which loosely translates to ‘Fast Delivery’.
The company slowly but surely captured a substantial portion of market and as a result expanded exponentially. Currently, the company employs more than 1000 people and averages more than 10,000 order per day.