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OCBC launches programme for women entrepreneurs to support their growth and business ambitions

OCBC launches programme for women entrepreneurs to support their growth and business ambitions

  • 08 Mar 2024

Designed to empower women entrepreneurs to scale their businesses, the programme encompasses tailored financing solutions, educational workshops and opportunities for networking and mentorship.

Singapore, 8 March 2024 – OCBC today announced that it will launch a new SME programme in Singapore, to be rolled out in April 2024, to support women entrepreneurs in realising their business aspirations. This is the first programme dedicated to women entrepreneurs by a Singapore bank. Currently, a quarter of the OCBC Singapore’s SME customers are owned by female entrepreneurs.

Through the OCBC Women Entrepreneurs Programme, SMEs owned by women entrepreneurs can access financing to accelerate their business plans. In particular, start-ups founded by women can secure financing of up to $100,000 within the first two years of incorporation. The processing fees for such loans will be waived.

The financing will be provided under the OCBC SME Sustainable Finance Framework that has been expanded to include a new category for social loans. This new category is aligned to the Social Loan Principles issued by the Loan Market Association.

The social loans given under the OCBC Women Entrepreneurs Programme are targeted at improving the socioeconomic advancement of women in the economy and the growth and resilience of women-owned businesses.

Educational workshops, and opportunities to network and be mentored by successful like-minded female entrepreneurs will also be availed to them.

Despite the good progress achieved in addressing gender diversity and inclusivity in business and the workplace over the years, many women entrepreneurs continue to face challenges in establishing and growing their businesses. Therefore, creating this comprehensive proposition to support female entrepreneurs in Singapore is important.

Based on OCBC’s data:

  • SMEs founded by women accounted for 23% of newly incorporated businesses in 2018 and grew to 30% in 2023 over the past 5 years. In 2023, women-owned SMEs made up half of the new businesses in Education and Retail, and over a third of new businesses in Healthcare, Business Services and F&B.
  • Women founders are increasing their presence in industries traditionally dominated by men, occupying about a quarter of new businesses in Manufacturing, Resources, Building & Construction and Transport & Logistics in 2023.
  • In general, women-owned SMEs registered slightly lower growth in sales turnover within the first 3 years of operations. However, women-owned businesses which tapped financing to support their growth were able to bridge the gap.

The OCBC Women Entrepreneurs Programme builds on a similar initiative managed by OCBC Indonesia. Since the launch in 2020, OCBC Indonesia has supported about 1,400 women entrepreneurs running micro, small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs) under its Women Warriors Programme with over S$300 million (IDR3.5 trillion) in loans disbursed. MSMEs run by female entrepreneurs constitute about 60% of all MSMEs in Indonesia and play a central role in Indonesia’s economy.

The OCBC Women Entrepreneurs Programme will be launched in Malaysia and Hong Kong at a later stage.

Mr Linus Goh, OCBC Head of Global Commercial Banking, said: “Through the OCBC Women Entrepreneurs Programme, we aim to empower women entrepreneurs to build the right connections and to gain the resources and support needed to grow their companies to their full potential. Even in a developed market like Singapore, where women founders have a track record of building successful businesses and have grown at a faster rate than their male counterparts over the past 5 years, women-owned SMEs account for only about 30% of all businesses here. We are committed to partnering women entrepreneurs to overcome the challenges they encounter so that they can and accelerate the growth and realise their business ambitions.”

Ms Sharon Lim, Chairperson and former CEO of leading global 3D fashion design platform Browzwear, and Ms Didi Gan, founder of med-tech start up N & E Innovations Pte Ltd, are two women entrepreneurs whom OCBC had partnered in their journeys.

Ms Sharon Lim said: “We benefitted from OCBC’s partnership as they journeyed actively with us in our business, genuinely taking an interest in our vision, ideas and business challenges. Their expertise to lay out various options of financing but also outline business considerations we needed to review as we scale at different stages, gave me the assurance that they had our back covered. I have confidence that the OCBC Women Entrepreneurs Programme will support other women-owned businesses to succeed and thrive.”

Founded in 1999 in Singapore, Browzwear helps streamline processes in the fashion industry by creating true-to-life digital samples of apparel designs for fashion brands, utilising advanced 3D visualization. This helps raise productivity, speeds up time-to-market, and improves sustainability. The company now has offices in eight cities globally and serves more than 1,000 fashion and apparel companies worldwide. Its revenue in 2023 was above USD$20 million.

Ms Didi Gan said: “We are grateful for OCBC's pivotal role in our sustainability journey. Securing our first green financing loan from OCBC was a significant milestone for our circular economy startup. I’m confident that with this program, more women founders can gain access to vital financial support and a robust network of mentors and resources, empowering them to overcome challenges. OCBC's program extends beyond financial assistance, serving as a catalyst for female entrepreneurs to thrive in sustainable initiatives. We encourage fellow women founders to explore this impactful program, a true game-changer for their ventures.”

N&E Innovations Pte Ltd is a med-tech company founded in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. It innovated an antimicrobial agent – Vikang99 – derived from cashew and banana food waste that can be applied on different surfaces to destroy bacteria and prevent them from reappearing. The company plans to expand to two other key regions and scale up production to 100 tons per month to meet growing market demands.


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