WOMEN’S FORUM SPECIAL REPORTS
"Women in the Economy: Looking for New Business Models"
Meet with Doris Leung, an amazing social entrepreneur profile from the Cartier Women's Initiative Awards
Joining forces with the Women’s Forum, INSEAD and McKinsey & Company, Cartier created in 2006 the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards, an annual international business plan competition to accompany and guide initiatives by women entrepreneurs. Each year, six Laureates are awarded in six regional categories: Latin America, North America, Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East & North Africa and Asia-Pacific.
Finalist 2013 for Asia-Pacific, HONG-KONG
Doris Leung was working as a broadcast journalist in her native Hong Kong when her mother, suffering from brain cancer, began to experience mobility problems. By mid-2007, Doris’ mother was wheelchair bound. ‘As the main caregiver, I experienced the frustration of trying to take her wheelchair to frequent doctor visits.’ When she could not drive her mother, the only option was a taxi, but while some wheelchair-accessible cabs did exist, many were illegally operated without insurance.
Doris talked to a group of friends working with Social Ventures Hong Kong, an organisation that invests in social enterprise. ‘They told me they were looking at improving transportation for wheelchair users and I offered to do the research.’ Before Doris knew it, she was leaving her job and setting up Diamond Cab. With funds from Social Ventures – where Doris is now an executive director – and investment of her own, Doris imported five Welcab taxi vans from Japan.
Diamond Cab has just celebrated their 5th anniversary last month and are going to expand to 7 cabs next year with new impact investment and also scaled up Diamond Leisure project to offer free barrier-free activities to elders. It's called Diamond Leisure 2.0, with the support of their Strategic Partner and Sponsor: Lee Hysan Foundation. They received new funding to drive the elders out every week to enjoy fun like going to Karaoke party, trying the Observation Wheel, etc. Doris intends to help her mother – and all the city’s wheelchair users – to enjoy a bit more freedom themselves.
Interview with Doris
Women's Forum: From the beginning of your work experience, have you noticed a change of the global economy?
Doris Leung: "Starting from working for the idea of Diamond Cab project in 2007, I found the social venture concept is really attractive, in one way, it empowers the charity or socially driven work to be much more effective and efficient, in another way, it changes the tradition business world with only goal of profit maximization. Social Venture/ Venture Philanthropy/ Impact Investment is really changing the world in the perspective of Value to Life and also our Economy, both locally and globally."
WF: Why do you work in the social business?
DL: "My immediate reason was to take good care of my mum who suffered from disabilities due to brain cancer since 2007. I wanted to make the gift of barrier-free taxi happen before she passed away, fulfilling her with brilliant life, also supporting the other wheelchair-bound persons with similar unfortunate experience. But I named it "Diamond Cab", with business attraction to Hong Kong, reminding the disabled persons and care-givers to cherish the value of life like Diamond, also reminding the business sector, any business can have social value to make our place better to live. Social Business is very sexy to change the traditional and stubborn concepts of inferiority for disabilities and profit maximization for making business. I like the disruptive construction and systemic change. Seeing the success of Diamond Cab, this year we have a taxi competitor who will change over 100 taxis in Hong Kong be wheelchair accessible!"
WF: Do you think social economy might be an opportunity for women entrepreneurs?
DL: "Yes, definitely, women are more sensitive on human relationship which actually the social part of our world. Social Economy puts human needs in priority, not the money returns so opens up abundant opportunities to women who want to change the world with better human relationship."
WF: Could you tell us an anecdote about you as a business woman working in the social economy?
DL: "I have organized "Our Favorite Passengers Awards" last year in which our drivers, office staff and call center staff in front-line nominated their favorite passengers in terms of politeness, punctuality and cooperative attitude with the team. Then our Board of Directors selected the best three to present awards. Our Favorite Passengers successfully set the standard of good clients to Diamond Cab, so that when we deal with the irresponsible and not favorite passengers, we can be much easier to persuade them to change their bad behaviors like unreasonable cancellations, not paying the cancellation fees, etc. One day, I managed the case. One passenger insisted it's our call center's problems, not her faults due to the cancellation charge. However, I got evidence that it's actually her chaos screwing up the bookings. After discussion over the phone, I put the examples of Our Favorite Passengers who can work well with our team, then this passenger said, "Ok, I admitted that it's my fault, I am willing to change my practice of booking..." I was so grateful to see the powerful impact of my creative idea of awarding the favorite passengers, really good to manage the challenging customer relationships in our daily business!"
Interview with Doris Leung in Hong-Kong, in 2014 for the "She's a Leader Project"
About Women's Forum and Cartier Women's Initiative Awards
This year, for the 9th edition of the initiative, a great amount of applications were received: over 1700 from more than 100 countries. These figures demonstrate the growing worldwide character of the Cartier Women's Initiative Awards. It also shows the increasing number of women who are starting their own business in different countries.
Throughout the years, the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards has evolved with socio-economic trends. In 2011, a sixth regional category for Middle East and North Africa was created to respond to the growing number of women entrepreneurs in this region. Since its inception, the initiative has supported over 140 promising female business-owners and recognized 51 Laureate coming from a wide range of sectors, from fashion to health and environmental projects, from travel services to management and advisory services, from the food industry to the financial industry. All of the projects supported have in common a strong social impact on the society or the environment. Recently there has been a growing number of applications for green businesses which reflects the global market trend.
The Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards, an international business plan competition created in 2006 by Cartier, the Women's Forum, McKinsey & Company and INSEAD business school, supports and encourages projects by women entrepreneurs.
The Rising Talents initiative aims to distinguish highly talented young women under the age of 40 who are on their way to becoming influential figures in our economies and societies. This initiative is a commitment to promote women leaders and bring the vision of rising generations to the Women’s Forum.