Angeline Simon Chin’s startup journey began around four years ago when she took a break from the corporate world to spend more time with her daughter, who was having problems in school at that time.
“I went for it. I just wanted to create a space for women to connect with people who want to hire women to do a part-time job or anything. Before WonderWomen, it was called Moms for Projects, but then ladies started messaging us asking whether or not they can join if they’re not yet Moms, so we changed the name to Her Portal,” Chin recalled.
Soon enough, with the entrepreneurship trend on high, Chin found herself in the middle of the community that was youthful. However, she was finding a disconnect between the community and the women-focussed business Chin was pushing with Her Portal.
“It was really new and I was a late bloomer in this industry, so I thought I had to mingle in all of these networking activities, you know? But I was wrong. I wasn’t in my twenties when I started all this,” she shared, “People were like, ‘huh, for women only?’, but I was experimentive, and I’m glad that the effort that I put in to empower women through the portal has started to bear fruit now,” said Chin.
After a while, Her Portal then changed name into WonderWomen Asia, a Social Portal for Women focusing on content, jobs, book reviews to encourage sharing and entrepreneurship.
Founded in 2017, WonderWomen Asia uses, HelloHERA Hub, a co-working space, to create a platform that connects women to opportunities and build a community of women that encourage active sharing, learning and supporting each other’s growths, whether via online and offline channels so women can thrive.
“I realised that women don’t want jobs only, they really want to go out and actually do something. Job sometimes can take a lot of time, and back then there was a sense of rush that women should set foot in entrepreneurship world, so this portal can be a form of support for them,” explained Chin.
Online to offline
After doing WonderWoman for awhile, Chin realised how costly it is to have to scour for a venue and book it for a few hours for events that she regularly hosts through her network.
“I thought why not making one on our own? Because I myself encounter this problem from time to time as I have to host our own women founders get-together once a month. If we have our own place, we can save a lot of money and can facilitate all the events for women we need to otherwise do in a cafe,” said Chin.
Drawing from her personal experience with co-working space, Chin notices that women, in particular Moms, don’t have the convenience of privacy for important things like breast feeding.
“I’ve watched women have to go out to the car park or to the toilet to express breastmilk. A mass co-working space just doesn’t have such facilities for women,” said Chin.
Another concern is that women just can’t help but worry about their children’s safety.
“With the increasing news about child abuse these days, nothing gives mothers a peace of mind by having their children just within steps from where they work. Right now, we definitely don’t mind moms bringing their children over [when they] work, as we eventually want to have a bigger space to have a playroom to let kids play and watch movies while moms are working,” Chin added.
HelloHERA Hub describes itself as a quaint no frill open concept working space. HelloHERA Hub promotes cohesiveness by working within an open concept environment that can fit up to 30 coworkers/visitors at one time.
“Our aspiration is to encourage women to come out, explore their potentials to be independent and subsequently be sustainable in their earnings so they can take care of themselves and their family,” said Chin.
Although it is a hub catered primarily for Women, it is inclusive of both men and non-binary individuals that come to work or for a meeting.
She also noted how events hosted by mass co-working spaces are often aimed at men. “You know, women like to join activities such as DIY, personal branding seminars, or even makeover classes, which often are considered feminine but actually are empowering when done right. HelloHERA wants to host these events for women,” Chin continued.
HelloHERA is a natural progression from WonderWomen’s online platform to offline hub for the previously mentioned reasons.
Charging per usage
Another thing that can set apart a co-working space is the membership option. HelloHERA chose to not have any form of membership at all and instead charge the customers by what they use in the space.
“If you come to mass co-working spaces in Malaysia, it mostly charges monthly packages or annual packages for something that you won’t regularly use anyway. The reality is when you come to a co-working space you would most likely be there for an hour or so, then move on to other places for the next meeting. So why pay a full price for it?” Chin argued.
As Chin has been working in different co-working spaces before, she found that on average, people would only be there for three hours top and don’t use all the amenities. “Why would you pay for MYR600 (US$147) worth of monthly contract for place hopping?” she further emphasised.
In HelloHERA, the coworkers will be charged by what they use during the time they spend in the place. The coworkers can either choose to be charged on a per hour basis or deduct from a MYR100 (US$24.6) prepaid account to be deducted hourly (MYR0.15 or US$0.037 flat after three hours at the hub for the whole day).
“This way, there’ll be no obligation and no money losses. We just gonna deduct from what the coworkers use,” said Chin.
For their weekly and biweekly option, coworkers are charged MYR28 (US$6.88) and MYR26 (US$6.39) respectively with one hour complimentary use of the space. For monthly option, coworkers are charged MYR20 (US$4.92) per day with free two hours use of the space.
“The more time you spend here, the cheaper it gets,” said Chin.
For Moms, HelloHERA charges MYR20 (US$4.92) children rate for a whole day limited only to children age 5 and above. The Moms will have to book in advance to bring their children over as it has limited to three children per day due to limited space.
On top of that, HelloHERA completely removes the membership approach. “Whenever someone comes, we’ll just have them fill up a form to get their email address and to know their interests to include them in our list and loop them for future activities. We’re doing this to add value, because membership should not just be about charging people, but more importantly to bring value to the members.
Proof of concept
Currently, HelloHERA is located in Kuala Lumpur (KL Sentral area), QSentral, which is situated just beside St Regis Kuala Lumpur.
“We just launched on 3 January 2019. We’re the first women-focussed co-workers’ space and we’re the first to implement pay per use and prepaid concept so I do feel all eyes are on us,” she told e27.
Much like what the hub is focussing on, bootstrapping is a big part of the company and it is why they champion women to do with the pay per use, no binding contract option. “We understand how important it is to bootstrap while one is starting out and be in control of expenses,” Chin concluded.
On the possibility of opening another hub in cities like Penang and East Malaysia area, Chin said: “We will in the future, but definitely not now. We need to prove this to be working first in Kuala Lumpur and show that this women-focussed thing is not just a trend,” she added.
For now, the hub aspires to bring in more players/investors to work together to set up similar concept in few more places where they could have an in-house playroom for Moms to park their children while they work.
“I put myself like an astronaut, take one single step. Somebody has to start this, to drive this or otherwise women won’t be empowered. Nothing’s wrong with working from home, but going out to a co-working space like this can help women to focus and meet other women whom they can collaborate with,” said Chin.
Images Courtesy of HelloHERA