Young Entrepreneurs Leaders & Speaker Series

May – June 2021 | Australia- ASEAN

COVID-19 has caused all kinds of disruptions for young entrepreneurs in Australia and ASEAN. We explore how it has changed what they do, how they’ve adapted during COVID, what the big challenges and opportunities are, and what’s next?

The Young Entrepreneurs & Leaders Speaker Series, supported by the Australian Government and Australia-ASEAN Council, is thrilled to publish this digital report and roundtable recordings from young leaders across ASEAN.

Download the report here.

About the participants

Just under half of the entrepreneurs (6 out of 15) interviewed had started a new business during COVID.

Most had started their business in the last 5 years.

All had some kind of social purpose or drive, with 58% explicitly identifying as social enterprises.

A majority of the entrepreneurs work alone or with one other, however a few participants had teams of staff (5+).

A third (5 out of 15) of entrepreneurs had either started by doing business in Australia, with Australians, or with support of Australian funding.

Philippines : What Next? Australia-ASEAN Entrepreneur Roundtable

17 May 2021

“It’s almost taboo here to talk about money, but it’s also just a tool to be able to afford the life you want to live, give more to your family, your friends, the people you want to impact, more lives. That to me is the core of why I’m doing this.” – Angel Abellana, founder of Phenomenal Filipina

Wilson Limon Jr

Wilson Limon Jr


Bringing our roots and heritage to a societal integration in this modern times through fashion has been NIñOFRANCO’s lifelong vision. We envision of transforming a western-minded Philippines into a culturally-enriched nation that gives livelihood to individuals and communities who safe kept the true art of Philippines.

“We want to empower women by giving them the chance to earn and that’s why we have to keep on innovating”
– Wilson Limon Jr, founder of NIñOFRANCO

Angel Abellana

Angel Abellana

Founder, Phenomenal Filipina

Angel “Ey” Abellana is a Senior Geodetic Engineer, writer, digital marketer, an engineering instructor, and an entrepreneur. She served as the ASEAN Regional Director of ASEAN Abundance Innovation Lab, mentoring and implementing hundreds of campaigns and enterprises with various causes ranging from environmental to civic to business development around ASEAN, USA, Japan and Australia.

She specializes in the startup ideation stage and promoting entrepreneurial mindset as drivers for social change. With no grant fund, a degree in Communications, or networks in the field…Angel started her copywriting and sales business called Phenomenal Filipina in 2019. From a startup with a 200-USD revenue to a 6-figure business, a staff of 5 and a name for herself…Angel managed to grow her remote business even during the pandemic. Her ultimate dream is to provide jobs for Filipinos while continuously adventuring around the world.

Indonesia : What Next? Australia-ASEAN Entrepreneur Roundtable

17 May 2021

“It’s kind of worrying, everything goes online – our parents support us financially but what can we do? My sister said ‘what if we create a business?’…We wanted to have a clothing line since a long time ago… It’s the right time [to start a busienss] because I was going to University in another town, and now I’m at home with my sister.”
– Amanda Vania, co-founder of Andara

“When we were starting in 2018 we were ramping up the tech side of our business… when it was 2019 our revenue was one of the best performing years, 200% month on month…2020 COVID hit so that’s basically turning from 200% month-on-month to 0 in one week. We have to make sure to stay afloat and survive. We started looking at how we can apply the same technology to a different market, a different purpose.”
– Adrian Sugandhi, founder of Sonicboom Indonesia

Amanda Vania and Andrea Vania

Amanda Vania and Andrea Vania

founders of Andara

ANDARA was established in December 2020. The name of this clothing brand, ANDARA , means the light of beauty. We named our business hoping that ANDARA will bring out the shine of women’s beauty by providing comfortable and stylish clothes. We targeted women from 17-25 years old. We connect with our customers online and create a promotional plan that takes advantage of social media to shape the conversation, build loyalty, and attracts new customers or partners.

We always try to make valuable content with high-quality pictures and editorial to give them a good experience and also to add value to our brand. We also observe our customers’ interest through our social media to know what they attract these days so we can easily adapt to the new trend.

Adrian Sugandhi

Adrian Sugandhi

founder, Sonicboom Indonesia

Adrian Sugandhi is an entrepreneur in the tech industry with experience for more than 15 years in the industry across US and Indonesia. Currently, Adrian is the CEO and Co-Founder of Sonicboom Indonesia, a tech startup based in Jakarta, Indonesia, since 2018.

Adrian has also co-founded 2 other tech companies in various industries including sports and software companies that helps companies to digitize their businesses. Adrian previous experience also includes 7 years of experience as Senior Engineer at Broadcom Corporation in the USA and 3 years helping a team of researchers for DARPA Grand Challenge. He also graduated BS & MS in Computer Science and MS in Financial Engineering.

Laos : What Next? Australia-ASEAN Entrepreneur Roundtable

18 May 2021

“I’ve been operating Wine House Laos for one year now, since the first wave of COVID started. Weird timing, but surprisingly a very good timing!

Coming back and being an entrepreneur has been very challenging, handling different tasks and chores has been quite challenging but at the same time is instant skill building so it’s been great.”
– Anna Vivavong, CEO and Founder, Wine Haus Laos

Toomkham Phoungmachan

Toomkham Phoungmachan

Business Development Consultant

More than 10 years in banking and finance and 5 years as an entrepreneur, former CEO and founder of iCare Benefits Laos involving more than 245 Orgs with 45,000 employees joining the program, currently working with rural agricultural entrepreneurs in Laos.

“There is no data centre of what grows well in Laos, this information is missing. During the COVID time I saw people start sharing, posting, selling and online marketing, about how to plant different plants here, like lemons from Australia. The language of being a real entrepreneur is not here yet. There’s a sort of training we need to input.”
– Toomkham Phoungmachan, Business Development Consultant

Visouda (Anna) Viravong

Visouda (Anna) Viravong

CEO and Founder, Wine Haus Laos

I was born and raised here in Laos and graduated high school from Vientiane International School. After my higher education studies in Melbourne, Australia; I have worked and owned several other businesses of my own in Melbourne before moving back to Vientiane two years ago. My long-standing passion and love for natural and organic wines has currently led me to becoming the CEO and founder of my own boutique wine store Wine Haus Laos.

Starting Wine Haus Laos, has sparked the passion that has been buried deep inside of me for a while until recently when I decided to launch a consultancy company A&G Consultancy Firm – that helps people to build and develop businesses/brands that are memorable, profitable and inspiring.

Thailand : What Next? Australia-ASEAN Entrepreneur Roundtable

20 May 2021

“We want to sell our hand made products as Fair Trade, but when the economy collapsed [through COVID-19], no one has the money to spend on something not meaningful, so then it is hard to sell our products at a fair price. But on the other hand we started to learn how to sell the products online.”
– Matcha Phorn-In, Executive Director and Founder, Sangsan Anakot Yaowachon

“I dream to see the fairer power distribution, power in decision making and in life, at the national level and in the world distribution. I want to see people producing the technology or internet for fairer real distribution [of power], and I dream to see the people can access the global economy without a middleman. It is important for people no matter where they live, what language they speak, to connect and trust each other and can support each other or exchange resources.”

– Wipaphan Nana Wongsawang, Founder, Thaiconsent and Coconut Empire

Matcha Phorn-In

Matcha Phorn-In

Executive Director and Founder, Sangsan Anakot Yaowachon

Matcha is a lesbian Feminist Human Rights Defender, committed with a strong passion to build peoples’ movements to advance human rights, Gender and SOGIESC justice. She has over 15 years of experience working to empower young people and those from the most marginalised communities, including LGBTIQ, indigenous people, ethnic minorities, young women and girsl, stateless, undocumented refugees, sex workers, disability and migrant workers.

Matcha has been recognised by the United Nations and is the Executive Director of Sangsan Anakot Yaowachon, a civil society organization working with young people from marginalized communities, many of whom are indigenous, in disaster-prone Thai villages at the border with Myanmar.

Wipaphan Nana Wongsawang

Wipaphan Nana Wongsawang

Thaiconsent and Coconut Empire

Wipaphan Nana Wongsawang launched Thaiconsent since 2015, in order to make awareness of gender-bases violence and consensual sex through art and creative community, The primary mission of Thaiconsent is to promote the concept of ‘consensual sex’ and awareness to Thai society. In addition, Thaiconsent is tasked by various education institutions and NGOs to provide leadership in education and mentorship programs to tackle gender injustice and discrimination.

From 2020-2021, we have collaborated with over 30 volunteers in various 5-6 months programs to design education tools and tech-based platforms to provide support on areas, such as healthy relationship, safe sex, positive sex, sexual harassment, and intimate partner violence.

In 2021-2022, we would like to expand Thaiconsent group goal to include demographics from the tech and law industries to find a solution on ‘how technologies can help achieve better results in tackling gender justice and domestic violence’.

Our long-term mission is to create a skillful network of various professionals who care about gender justice and empower them to make appropriate changes that will have sustainable impact in our society. Currently, Thaiconsent is registered as a company limited with over 51,000 followers on Facebook.

Cambodia : What Next? Australia-ASEAN Entrepreneur Roundtable

24 May 2021

“Everyone was able to adapt really well, and that’s one of the strengths of being a business. But it can be really difficult when you’re trying to keep something going and the environment you’re working in is not really set up for people to manage, it’s not as simple as close the office and work from home. For a lot of businesses in Cambodia it’s just not possible to do that.”

– Celia Boyd, Co-Founder, SHE Investments

“We not only teach skills and training, we teach the local kids to be honest and polite. They come from the poor background but they probably growing up to be different people. Everything we do we try to get them involved… We’re hoping to be the biggest arts centre in South East Asia so that people can visit us and join in. To bring in artists to share with the young Cambodians.”

– Kek Soon, Founder, Fish Island Community Arts Centre

Celia Boyd

Celia Boyd

Co-Founder, SHE Investments

Celia is a co-founder of SHE Investments, Cambodia’s first business incubator and accelerator that applies a gender and cultural lens. Since launching SHE almost 7 years ago, the social enterprise has grown from 3 co-founders to a team of over 35 across 5 provinces, and become a leading organisation supporting women entrepreneurs to scale and create economic, social and environmental impact for communities.

Celia’s background is in international development, having worked with projects across gender, health, microfinance, disaster recovery and economic development with communities in Cambodia, Kenya, Australia and Papua New Guinea. She has been based in Cambodia for the past 6.5 years, focusing on building SHE Investments and specialising in women’s economic empowerment through entrepreneurship.

Celia has a Masters degree in Community and International Development, and in 2017 was selected as an Australian-ASEAN Emerging Leader by the Australian Prime Minister’s Cabinet. In 2019, SHE Investments was selected as one of 18 top emerging Incubators across 18 countries in SE Asia by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) program, Frontier Incubators. In 2021, Celia is stepping back as Managing Director of SHE in Cambodia, handing over leadership to an amazing Khmer women who will continue to lead the team forwards in Cambodia, whilst Celia will focus on SHE’s vision of supporting women-led MSMEs to scale across the region.

Kek Soon aka Gechsoun Khun

Kek Soon aka Gechsoun Khun

founder of Fish Island Community Arts Centre

Khun Gechsoun is founder of the Fish Island Community Arts Centre where she has opened her own hospitality school and offers free trainging in cuisine, tourism, arts & crafts, and English language classes to youth from surrouned fishing and farming villages on Trey Koh.

Soon was born and raised in Kampot and grew in a poor family whom she supported by cleaning fishing boats and selling cakes door to door. As a teenager she was sent to board in Phnom Penh then Malaysia where she worked as a maid while also learning 4 languages and gaining certificates in baking. Upon returning to Cambodia she opened her own restaurant and in 2014 launched KAMA a popular cafe and arts venue in Kampot. Soon was quickly recognised for her entrepreneuring ventures including her Kek Soon Cuisine & Culture tours and her work as Cambodian producer of the Kampot Readers & Writers Festival.

In 2017 she was talent spotted by Canadian chef Christopher Mark of Black Sheep Restaurants and soon travelled to Hong Kong to work with this highly successful restaurant group. The same year Soon was awarded a World Tourism Star award and travelled to Lucerne, Switzerland to accept her award and speak at World Tourism Forum. Soon stayed on in Switzerland and brought together supporters for her new venture, the launch of FICAC, through her own cooking demonstrations.

Since 2018, Soon has managed her own cooking school and has continued to build FICAC with plans set to launch a Media Arts school in 2022. She is a also a mother and practising artist with several exhibition of her unique wood block prints and paintings to her credit. Soon continues to work with a passion to share her skills and knowledge and inspire young Cambodians, especially girls and women, to strive and acheive their dreams in life.

Brunei : What Next? Australia-ASEAN Entrepreneur Roundtable

15 June 2021

“I’m going to keep creating and I’m going to keep having discussions about the [LGBT] community, and hopefully in 20 or 30 years, there won’t be any internal fear anymore around this conversation we’ll be having. That will be the dream, basically. Hopefully we’ll also be able to have a solid platform that caters to the LGBT people as well.” 

– Nazurah Usop, Artist, doodlesandcolors

“Up until recently, Australia was seen as a bit of a foreign land. I think we’re seeing that change more as events like these are happening or more people are coming over… Those cultural exchanges really give people the opportunity to connect with each other and see how yeah, we’re the same, but we’re different, and I think there’s a lot of opportunity for us to go both ways whether in creative industries or different industries here.”

– Shinny Chia, Co-founder, The Collective Art Events



Co-founder, The Collective Art Events

I am an entrepreneur and the co-founder of The Collective Art Events, one of Brunei’s pioneering forces in the Creative Industries, as well as The Wildflower Cafe and The Makerspace, Brunei’s first public creative workspace. I am also one of the founding partners of Community for Brunei, a BIBD CSR platform aimed at uniting and democratising NGO’s and charitable causes/ activities across the nation.

I am very passionate about community building, and creativity as a force for change. My areas of interest for community work are primarily surrounding gender equality, animal rights, freedom of expression, and environmentalism.

In 2017 I was nominated by the United States Embassy to represent Brunei for the International Visitors Leadership Program where myself and other young leaders formed a 23 country wide Global Alliance dedicated to creating positive social change in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.

I have been nominated twice, and won in 2018 Founder of The Year for the ARBS Awards and The Collective has been nominated as Best Life Helper and Startup Of The Year at the ARBS awards in previous years.

The Collective has worked on numerous events that aim to showcase arts and social causes in Brunei over the last 5 years.

Nazurah Usop

Nazurah Usop

Artist, doodlesandcolors

Nazurah Usop who goes by the pseudonym ‘doodlesandcolors’, is a visual artist and activist who explores expressions through shapes and colourful interpretations. She is also best described as an experimental, processed based abstract artist and enjoys adding a unique perspective to her work in hopes of making each piece memorable. Not only is she passionate in the arts, she also has high interests with human rights issues, specifically on the issues of the LGBT community

With thanks to our incredible speakers and event partners

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