Four years ago, Annie Chia’s flower shop, which was passed down to her by her parents, was destroyed in a fire. She was distraught about the loss of her store but was determined not to give up and continued running her business from a rented space before eventually bringing her bouquets online to Lazada Malaysia. With no previous eCommerce experience, the 44-year-old entrepreneur had to learn everything from scratch, from taking and uploading photos to ways to boost traffic to her online store, NLWK Florist.
“We should have the courage to try,” Chia said. “If you don’t try, you’ll never know how it will turn out.” Chia’s courage and determination paid off. Her store currently holds a 98% positive seller rating, and she was even able to operate and earn an income during the country’s pandemic lockdown period.
Inspiring stories like Chia’s are plentiful among Lazada’s vast community of female entrepreneurs across Southeast Asia, which is why the platform decided this year to launch its inaugural Lazada Forward Women Awards (LFWA) to celebrate the resilience and achievements of these local businesswomen.
The event, which was livestreamed on International Women’s Day on March 8, honoured Chia with the LFWA Inspiring Seller award and also recognised five other women from the region who’ve used technology and digital tools to make a difference for their businesses, families and communities.
WATCH: Highlights from the Lazada Forward Women Awards
“At Lazada, we have long recognised the importance of embracing diversity and empowering women in our ecosystem,” said Sophie Xue, Lazada Group’s chief people officer. “We hope the launch of these awards will inspire hope and encourage more women to use digital technology and commerce to showcase their talents and forge new paths for themselves.”
Also among the women celebrated at the event was Hanna Suhardi, who was named an LFWA Inspiring Seller alongside Chia. The 29-year-old entrepreneur is the owner of Shopping Shoes, an online store on Lazada Indonesia that works with several villages in West and Central Java to bring artisanal footwear and bags to consumers. Aside from reviving interest in the villages’ traditional tailoring, the store also provides income to more than 100 residents from those communities.
For many Lazada merchants, success means not only performing well financially but also running a business that has a positive impact on consumers and communities. This is especially true for Georgianna Carlos from the Philippines, who was presented with the LFWA Enterprising Seller award. Carlos started her business, Fetch, after she realised that one of her family’s rescue puppies had extremely sensitive, allergy-prone skin. To address this problem, she started researching and developing an all-natural shampoo that would be safe for pets, humans and also the environment. Her range of pet-care products, chews and treats are certified by the Food and Drug Administration. To make sure she can do as much good as possible, the young entrepreneur, who was featured in Forbes Asia’s “30 Under 30” last year, also uses the success of her business to support a local animal shelter.
Meanwhile, Lalilla Thamnita, another Enterprising Seller, has been using her agricultural supplies store, AggieHome, on Lazada Thailand to address the needs of local rural communities. After learning that some of the villages she serves has no electricity, she added solar panels and equipment to her store’s offerings so that consumers can have access to cost-efficient and environmentally sustainable sources of power. The care she has for her customers is also reflected in the way she runs her business: to ensure shoppers are able to achieve farming success, the 39-year-old seller provides detailed descriptions and instructional videos for her products and also offers 24-hour customer service.
A recipient of the third category award was Anne Ong, 56, who was named a Creative Seller. The former architect turned her love for cooking into a new career path when she came up with the idea of sharing baking premixes of her favourite recipes with the parents at her son’s school so that they, too, could make delicious treats with their children. She eventually founded Anne’s Secret Recipe and has been selling premixes for goodies such as her chewy chocolate chip cookies and Nonya-inspired pandan coconut cupcakes on Lazada Singapore’s RedMart Specialty Stores platform, garnering a loyal fan base of consumers not only from all over Asia but even from the Maldives.
The Creative Seller award was also presented to Pham Thi Xuan Hong, 34, a Lazada Vietnam seller who has been using eCommerce as a way to express her individuality. Aside from sourcing for trendy items for her shoe store, PinkShopGiayDep, the once camera-shy Hong has found great success with her fun and informative LazLive broadcasts that cover a wide range of topics, such as the type of shoes to wear on a first date. On top of her regular livestreams, Hong also creates other content, such as her own gameshow with voucher giveaways, to keep shoppers engaged.
With their different backgrounds and experiences, the six award winners exemplify the strength and diverse talents of women across Southeast Asia. “These women demonstrated resilience and innovation as online business owners, and it is truly inspiring to hear their stories of personal and professional success,” Xue said. “As we continue our commitment to diversity and gender equity, we look forward to celebrating the achievements of even more outstanding women in the future.”
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