After six years at Singapore’s leading luxury retailer, Club 21, Tjin Lee struck out on her own to found Mercury, an experimental marketing agency for luxury fashion and lifestyle brands, in 2000. What she found, though, was a culture of cut-throat competition. “Women’s instincts at the time were still to compete instead of lifting each other up,” she says. “There wasn’t yet a culture of sharing.” Lee, never one to see a problem and not strive to solve it, sought throughout her career to prove that “there’s enough space for everyone at the table”.
When Lee gave birth to her son seven years ago, she became aware of how lucky she was as a young mother who was also managing director of her own company. With a team of more than 50 people, she had the luxury of crafting a flexible schedule to suit her needs as a new mother, while many of her friends did not. “I saw how distraught these women were at having to choose,” she says. “And I realised entrepreneurship could be incredibly empowering for women, so that they could prioritise their children without giving up their careers.”
Lee started Creating Responsible, Innovative Businesses (CRIB) a non-profit enterprise that now boasts more than 300 members across the fashion, tech, sustainability, health and wellness sectors who are encouraged to share their database and employ or invest in each other’s businesses. “CRIB was a way to promote a spirit of collaboration and to give women another option,” she says.