Credited for coining the term "expat-preneur" in 2015, Dr. Yvonne McNulty, senior lecturer at the S R Nathan School of Human Development (NSHD), was one of the judges at this year's The Finder's Expatpreneur Awards. The annual awards honour successful expatriates (expats) business owners in Singapore who help people live well here.Dr. Yvonne McNulty (third from left) at this year's The Finder's Expatpreneur Awards.
We spoke with Dr. McNulty to find out how her role as judge at The Finder's Expatpreneur Awards played a part to help expats live better, and the developments she hoped to see for expats living in Singapore.
1. What criteria do you look out for to award the winner?
First and foremost, there are strict criteria that qualifies a self-employed person as an ‘expat-preneur’ – things like having a business registration with ACRA, taxable income, fully foreign owned business, and so on. Secondly, to win an expat-preneur award, the business then has to demonstrate how it helps both expatriates and citizens to ‘live better’ in Singapore. A third criteria is whether it fills a necessary gap in the market. Here, I am looking for originality.
2. How do you think your role as the judge play a part to make expatriates live better in Singapore?
I like to encourage entrepreneurship among expats in Singapore. I hope that by being a judge I can put a friendly face to the possibility of successful foreign entrepreneurship in Singapore. I certainly use my judge profile whenever I can to reach out to potential contenders for the award, and to let expat businesses know there is a Singapore based avenue to recognise their amazing efforts.
3. Name one interesting expat-preneur you've come across.
So many! This year, my favourite is Ten Feet Tall, owned by Sam and Nicola. These expat mums started a ‘black school shoe’ business to cater to a massive demand in the international school market for finding affordable high quality leather school shoes. These shoes are compulsory at many international schools here. Some businesses charge a pair of shoe for over $200 or more and it has become unaffordable. Thus, these expat mums addressed that gap with a wildly successful business plan.
My other favourite is Tekkie Help, an on-call service to help consumers with a range of tech issues. I just used them to fix the issue I am facing with my Mac product in six hours as opposed to the standard five business days. I am getting them back in next month to help me with Cloud-based organising!
4. What developments do you hope to see for the expats living in Singapore in the years to come?
Singaporeans have a perception that expats are rich and living it large. Fifteen years ago that was certainly true of many foreigners here, but today it is an inaccurate stereotype because the rapid increase of expat localisation has done away with ‘fat packages’ that made a flashy life possible.
About 50% of expats that live in Singapore now live on local terms and conditions, a sizable enough proportion that it necessitates both parents need to work in order to afford the cost of living here. My long term hope is that with time, understanding and more research, I can help to overcome some of the misconceptions about foreign manpower in Singapore, which in turn will ease some of the tension. What I know for sure from my years of research about working internationally, both here and in other countries in the region, is that there is much more that unites families in Singapore – foreign and local – than divides us.