Grace Sai, 34, CEO and Co-Founder of The Hub Singapore

Creativity drives the future: Just ask Grace Sai, the founder of The Hub, Singapore’s largest co-working community of entrepreneurs, creatives and techies.

“I believe world change comes from groups of passionate enterprises, or people who decide to solve problems through the creative process,” says Grace.

“So, I decided to create a space and community of like-minded people six years ago where we could support and grow enterprises through thought-provoking events, innovation labs, learning spaces, incubation, mentorship and facilitated conversations.”

Members who join Grace’s community not only get access to funding, international networks and community connections but they also get educational support in the form of coding lessons, for example, or advice on how to expand their start-up into a mature venture.

The model has proven successful for The Hub, as they grew from having only 150 members in 2012 to more than 700 today.

Even tech giant Google has sat up and taken notice. “We’ve recently announced a partnership between Google for Entrepreneurs and The Hub Singapore,” she reveals.

“It’s a big deal, because we’re their first partner in Southeast Asia and with their contribution we’ll be able to provide even more financial support to start-up programs in Singapore.”

But the road to success wasn’t always a smooth one for this gutsy entrepreneur.

“At 24, I had a quarter-life crisis when I found myself seeking a unique role in the world. I found that through entrepreneurship, but when I told my dad that I wanted to be a social entrepreneur he said ‘Don’t be crazy, be successful first, then give back’,” she says.

“He didn’t speak to me for six months, but now that my family seen how successful The Hub is, they’re really proud.”

“There’s sexiness around entrepreneurship, even though entrepreneurship is anything but sexy. It is actually really difficult,” confesses Grace, who founded the organisation when she was only 28.

“In a company, there are many layers to share that burden and diffuse that burden. Whereas in the start-up culture it’s all on you.”

Despite this, Grace has worked tirelessly to realise her dream of growing and supporting enterprises that want to make the world a better place.

“Our initial legacy was that of the ‘mother’ of all social enterprises and we did that by encouraging our members to use technology, supporting their endeavours through incubation and mentorship, and helping them to measure their success,” she explains.

“Now, we’re starting to invest in venture capital funds so that anyone with an idea, hobby, or passion can come to us and realise their dream.”

Words to live by: “Surround yourself with the right people, whom you can learn from and be inspired by.”

Next up: “I’m hoping to scale up the enterprise across Southeast Asia. So, the next step would be to figure out how to be more useful, how to be the go-to place for all start-ups and individuals to turn to.”

The Great Women Of Our Time 2017 is proudly presented by Lancôme.