Girls flocked to watch some of the most successful CEOs dish out their success stories, as they took center stage in the Bumble Bizz Summit.
Girl bosses make the first move
Kara Ortiga (The Philippine Star) - November 2, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA,Philippines — On a late Thursday afternoon, the Carriageworks contemporary center in Sydney, Australia was filled with women in blazers and pantsuits. Champagne flowed and women chatted with each other excitedly. Girls flocked to watch some of the most successful CEOs in the Asia-Pacific region dish out their success stories, as they took center stage in the Bumble Bizz Summit.

Yardbird founder Lindsay Jang, digital influencer Malini Agarwal, and Martine Ho of Sunnies Studios were among the panelists representing women from Asia-Pacific.

The dating app Bumble is notorious for challenging gender norms, allowing women to make the first move. Its founder Whitney Wolfe Herd broke off from the original dating app Tinder, which she also co-founded, to launch this one in 2014. She says, “For all the advances women have been making in workplaces and corridors of power, the gender dynamics of dating and romance still seem so outdated. I thought, ‘What if women made the first move and sent the first message?’”

Giving women the upper hand in the warzone that is dating had proven to be a noticeable gap in the market. Bumble now has over a billion first moves made by its users, and has expanded to include Bumble BFF (where you can find friends) and Bumble Bizz (where you can network with other professionals in your area).

The Bumble Bizz Summit celebrated exactly that: the success stories of real women who worked their way up in this digital age. The panel included some of the most influential women of today, like Jen Atkin, a celebrity hairstylist who rose to fame for coiffing the manes of the Kardashian sisters. Jen also launched her haircare line OUAI and website ManeAddicts.com. Also present was yoga instructor and entrepreneur Liv Lo Golding, whose husband is the swoony actor who plays the leading man in the Crazy Rich Asians movie. Lindsay Jang, founder of Hong Kong’s infamous Yardbird restaurant and website MISSBISH was present as well. And representing the Philippines was Martine Ho, whose Sunnies Studios brand has gained traction internationally with the launch of her makeup line, Sunnies Face.

Bumble also celebrated the work of up-and-coming businesswomen. Danielle Tan from the Philippines was granted a US$5,000 prize by Bumble to help with her business Amami.Ph, a social entrepreneur program that empowers the livelihood of local jewelers. Amami’s jewelry pays homage to our local heritage designs found in literature.

Bumble Bizz functions pretty much like the dating app: you swipe left and right to reject or accept various profiles, the idea here being that professionals in the area can connect. It has opened up a new space for allowing people to meet and do business, changing how we network and highlighting the affordance of mobility of today’s digital technology.

“Hairstylist to the Kardashians” Jen Atkins talks about working her way up to become one of the most influential hairstylists in the world.

The main event of the night was Jen Atkin, whose own haircare line, OUAI, was formed because she knew that there was no product like it on the market. Having previously worked in a salon for many years, she says, “I knew all of the competitors’ products like the back of my hand.”

But before doing hair for the likes of Jessica Alba, Sofia Vergara and Katy Perry; before she was calling the It girls by their first names —“Khloe,” “Kendall,” “Kim” — and before she had “Kris” on speed dial, Jen worked as a receptionist at a prestigious salon for two years, and lived mainly on ramen noodles. She observed that other hairstylists at that time had a lifestyle where they “had a lot of clothes in the closet, but no money in the bank.” She worked hard enough, and networked hard enough, to eventually work her way up, including assisting hair for Madonna’s tour and styling John Galliano. The New York Times posits that she is “the most influential hairstylist in the world.” Her secret? A never-ending hustle, networking, and to always “be nice. The people you see on the way up are the people you see on the way down. Check your ego at the door. No one wants to work with a diva.” She also adds that “networking now is so much easier. You have your tools: your phone, and your computer.”

Some of the other women in the room dished out their secrets to success as well. Martine Ho quit her dream job at American Apparel to go to the Philippines and start the Sunnies brand. She says she began Sunnies because there was a need in the market for “affordable cool things” and that much of their success is because they listened to their audience. “When people were popping out the lenses of our Sunnies sunglasses to put in prescription ones, that’s when we made Sunnies Specs. And when people kept taking photos of our products in cute coffee shops, then we made Sunnies Café.” She stresses that, sometimes, collaborating with your market is key to your next business move.

The radiant Liv Lo Golding is a yoga teacher who founded Fitsphere, an online workout studio that merges yoga with high-intensity interval training, simply because it was something she needed but couldn’t find in the market. 

Which is a point that Malini Agarwal agrees with, as this gap is something she noticed when she started her website, MissMalini. MissMalini is now one of the most influential media sites in India, reaching over 40 million people a month. Of her success, she says, “You have to find a gap in the market.” For Malini, this meant focusing her coverage on positive journalism. “I will only write what I can say to your face,” she says.

From Hong Kong, Lindsay Jang of Yardbird and MISSBISH, couldn’t help but recognize the power of strong female energy. Sitting among all the other businesswomen that day, Lindsay couldn’t help but chime in, “It’s interesting to be among people who know what their calling was, and what they were conditioned to do before they even knew it.”

What the women of the Bumble Bizz Summit proved is that nothing happens unless you’re willing to get your hands dirty and do all the work, and many of them either had businesses online, or used the digital space to help propel their work forward. In this day and age, it’s easy when the tools are available; it’s just the chutzpah that needs to be channeled. Key tip to their audience: Don’t be afraid to make the first move.

JEN ATKIN
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