Some of Hong Kong’s most exciting and ground-breaking start-ups are run by female entrepreneurs. We break into their busy day, asking for advice that will inspire you to make it on your own. Today, we speak to Christine Yu, founder of Sophia.
Young entrepreneurs are on the rise as the new generation looks for more career fulfilment and seeks to make an impact on society – on their own terms. It’s an opportunity to carve out your own niche, and while there’ll always be a level of risk you’ll need to shoulder on your own, nothing beats the joy of finding start-up success and doing something you love.
But what does it mean to be a successful entrepreneur? We ask the city’s strongest Female businesswomen about their scalable start-ups and social enterprises.
Christine Yu, Founde of Sophia
After a career on the trading floor in a male-dominated environment, investor, venture builder and start-up advisor Christine Yu co-founded Sophia with the goal of getting an increasing number of women in Asia in control of their personal finances and ready to invest. By offering digital courses and accessible resources, the financial-education platform ultimately aims to drive more money into women-led business across the region.
Tell us about your business. What do you do?
I’m the Co-Founder of Sophia- an exciting financial education platform for women in Asia and beyond.
Tell us about your best and worst day at work.
As an entrepreneur, you sometimes experience both in the same day. My best day: when parts of our vision of creating an inclusive education platform for women comes alive. Or when a woman says to me “This is amazing. Why hasn’t Sophia existed for women before? I love what you’re doing and this resonates with me.” My worst day: when a million roadblocks present themselves (at the same time) and I’ve got to think quickly about creative solutions. The reality is that resolving challenges is part and parcel of an entrepreneur’s life – it’s about having a healthy, solution-oriented approach to making lemonade from lemons.
What is a normal workday like?
My days are anything but ‘normal’! That’s what I love about being an entrepreneur. Each day is a new challenge, a new experience. There are days where I’m knee-deep in strategic discussions with my other two Co-Founders, Nicole Denholder and Tanya Rolfe. Other days I’m working with video editors on the production side of our courses. There are some days also where I’m working with our Sophia team on curriculum and testing our content.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start up?
Know yourself. Self-awareness is an immensely underrated skill. Are you going to have the resolve to build something from the ground up? Are you ready to commit to some very hard days? Can you withstand the financial uncertainty that being a founder can often entail? Finally, keep your north star close. Fighting for women, their economic empowerment and for an inclusive and diverse investment ecosystem is what gets me through the tough days.
What would you be doing if you weren’t doing what you do now?
I can’t imagine anything else I would be doing if I’m being honest! If I had to reflect – it would still have to involve creating impact, sustainable finance, empowering women, innovation and scaling positive impact in the world, as well as making all these things profitable – because (as I always say) if your company or venture dies, your mission dies along with it.
As a child, what did you aspire to be?
Too many things. Ambition wasn’t something I lacked as a child and I credit my parents for cultivating my intense drive to do something impactful and help others along the way. My list included: the first female President of the Philippines, first female UN Secretary General, a human rights lawyer, a writer, an actress and possibly also a professional tennis player.
What has been your biggest hurdle? How did you overcome it?
I can think of two – being a woman in finance, and public speaking. I started my career on a trading floor and if you can imagine, it’s not the most female-friendly environment. With public speaking: I’ve never been 100% comfortable in public speaking scenarios. The solution I had to both challenges is the same – remembering my value as an individual, the unique skill sets I bring to the table, and remembering that my contributions, my words, my ethos have power. It’s a good reminder to myself each day- to keep doing what I’m doing, be guided by my north star and have the confidence in my decisions and my own path.
Why is Hong Kong an important market for you?
Hong Kong is an Asian financial hub and a huge market for women who need to develop their money and invest in literacy. There’s a gender wealth and investing gap everywhere in the world, including Hong Kong, despite what you might think. We’re inspired to be driving change here that’s beyond what women think and talk about – as well as invest – with their money.
If you were to invest in another start-up/ field, which would it be?
I’m an impact investor- investing in mission-driven and for-profit companies creating positive impact in the world is first and foremost. I already invest in education, gender lens, urban renewal and sustainable fashion sectors. If I had to sharpen my focus further, I want to invest more deeply in innovative financial inclusion startups in Southeast Asia as well as explore the VR/AR space as it relates to use cases in education and sustainable fashion. In sustainable fashion, I’m also more interested in the upstream space- in AgTech, innovative materials and sustainable packaging solutions.
How hands-on are you?
I’m an extremely hands-on investor! I will only invest in a company if there’s an opportunity for me to be very involved- whether it’s in an advisory capacity or being a mentor for my investee founders.
How do you define success? Do you consider yourself to be successful?
Success means so many different things to each and everyone of us. For me, it’s simple: if I have inspired you to do something amazing with your life, if I have empowered you as a woman to pursue wealth creation, if I have created positive change in the world through my contributions- that’s what success means to me.
What’s next for your company?
Big things! We at Sophia have a bold vision. We want to be the go-to platform for money and investing education for women in Asia. We’re building out our digital courses and growing into more markets across Asia and beyond.