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Speech by Ms Indranee Rajah, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, Second Minister for Finance and National Development, at the Online Graduation Ceremony of the 2020 Singapore's Edition of the Women Entrepreneurs Development Program on 18 August 2020

18 Aug 2020

1 Let me start by thanking all of you for having me for this event. It's very kind of you to invite me. It's just great that we're able to do this, despite COVID-19, and to overcome the obstacles through technology to connect. 

2 I wish to begin by congratulating all 22 of the women entrepreneurs for successfully completing the 2020 Singapore’s Edition of the Women Entrepreneurs Development Program. I was just looking at the names of your companies, and I thought those were great. It just shows such a creative spirit. For example: The Lavender Spaceship Project. The idea of a lavender spaceship is awesome! Happy Mondays, that's again very telling. Rebel and Soul. EatRoamLive. There's a whole set of a creative spark that runs through all of you. 

3 This is the second run of the event, but it's the first time that the event was conducted fully online because of the COVID-19 measures. Over the past three months, you went through many hours of online training, across 13 sessions, and that was to equip you with a wide breadth of business development topics that included business operations, company branding, sales, HR, and more. And after all that, today, we're celebrating your graduation from the programme. 

4 I just want to encourage you to learn continuously, to lead change, and to lift up others in your entrepreneurship journey. The three Ls, if you like. 

5 First, learning continuously. We're now eight months into COVID-19. And I'm sure that you will all agree that the pandemic has severely impacted our economy, and our way of life. In February, the organisers had wanted to cancel the program, but they persisted. And they transformed the face-to-face sessions into a virtual programme, leveraging teleconferencing and e-learning. Who would have known? If you'd asked us the same time last year whether we will be doing something like this and that half of our engagements will be conducted on Zoom, I think the first response would have been, “What's Zoom?”. But now, everybody knows and that’s something that all of us are doing. Your trainers tweaked the sessions to suit the format, and at the same time, did not compromise the effectiveness. 

6 At the same time, COVID-19 hasn't stopped you from learning and building capabilities for your businesses. You persisted by adapting to the situation. You stayed the course, despite the challenging circumstances, and gave your best to complete the programme. So, well done, ladies!

7 Looking ahead, we don't know when the COVID-19 situation will fully ease. But what I can say is that businesses will constantly need to adapt and adjust their business models to thrive in this new normal. And we're going to have to uphold the spirit of continuous lifelong learning, to evolve with the environment, pick up new ideas on how we can value-add to customers, clients, and develop skill sets to strengthen businesses. So that's the first value - learning continuously.

8 The second - leading change. Now, all of you have interesting and diverse businesses in different industries. Some are in retail, others in food and beverage, others in healthcare and beauty, others in education and media. One thing that's common across all your industries, is that we're all affected by technological change - e-payments, social media marketing, and automation. 

9 To grow businesses in the digital economy, we need to understand how these changes are affecting our industries, and how to leverage the technologies, in order to innovate. As business owners and leaders of your teams, you need to set the direction of your business and bring your team along. And as we all know, this is not an easy task, especially if your business is small, or if your team has members who are less digitally savvy. 

10 In Singapore, the Government recognises these challenges. And that's why we put in place the SME Go Digital programme to help SMEs to make the most of digital technologies, to improve operations, and generate new revenue. And we also have a suite of SkillsFuture programmes to help employees to learn new skills and stay relevant. I want to encourage you to find out more about the SkillsFuture programmes and the other government assistance programmes, and do tap on them to grow and transform your businesses.

11 Third, lifting others up. As women entrepreneurs, you have to juggle many commitments. At the family front, we are all daughters. Some are mothers, some are wives. At the work front, you are the go-to person for your business, and you have to make yourself available to your teams and your customers. And it's because of this that I'm sure you can empathise with other women who are going through similar situations, and who have to juggle so many things as well. 

12 Therefore, do look out for opportunities to lift others up, whether it be in the form of facilitating flexi-work arrangements for your employees who have family responsibilities, or contributing to causes in the community where your businesses operate. It could be sharing your know-how and experiences with other business owners who are struggling. Pay it forward, because someone has supported and invested in you to help you succeed. 

13 At this juncture, I want to acknowledge P&G and WeConnect International’s commitment to support women entrepreneurs and make the WEDP possible. Your support and effort enable women entrepreneurs to build capabilities and strengthen the business ecosystem in Singapore. So, thank you for lifting others up. 

14 In conclusion, let me summarise - learn continuously, so that we can adapt; lead change to grow our businesses; and lift up others to pay it forward. 

15 I want to wish all the graduates all the best in your entrepreneurship journey. I'm sure that you will do wonderfully well. Thank you very much.