APEC Innovations in Entrepreneur Development

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The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation’s Human Resources Development Working Group (HRDWG) and the Capacity Building Network (CBN) convened at conferences and compiled cases studies in the form of brief biographies focused on entrepreneurs in the APEC region.

APEC recognizes that entrepreneurs are important to the market as well as the development of new ideas for products, systems, and means to accomplishing goals. In order to promote entrepreneurial development within APEC regions, these groups have enacted initiatives and case studies to foster an understanding of what attributes entrepreneurs have so as to promote those features.

The CBN has initiated various activities to strengthen entrepreneurs such as

  • Sharing the best and most innovative practices on entrepreneurial development
  • The development of materials to help identify factors of entrepreneurial development
  • The augmentation of training materials for entrepreneurial development

As a result of the various conferences held in 2000, 2001, and 2003, emphasis has been placed on the growth of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as well as the promotion of new innovative techniques. The institutions involved in the conferences created case studies for the exploration of entrepreneur development. They found that regardless of an entrepreneur’s origins, all of the cases demonstrate certain entrepreneurial successes that are applicable and valuable worldwide.

Resources and Case Studies from the 2004 APEC Report on Innovations in Entrepreneur Development

The full report document is available for download at the APEC Publications site.







APEC Cases on Entrepreneurship



Iman Abadi: An Entrepreneur who Went Back to School 

Iman Abadi has established a business manufacturing and selling cable trays, panel boxes, and related products. In managing his company he relies on intuitive reactions but is often challenged by his daughter, who has a management degree. Abadi decides to take a management course himself. The case poses questions regarding family involvement in business.

Martha Tilaar: The Business of Making Women Beautiful

Martha Tilaar's case mixes traditional ways and family values while displaying great entrepreneurial drive. While accompanying her husband to the U.S., she studies at a beauty academy earning a state licence and began selling Avon products door to door. Upon returning to Jakarta, she establishes her own beauty salon chain. She looks within her own country and culture for inspiration rather than to the West, leading to new successes. With her sister and brother and shareholders, she established a substantial business.


Keiko Sugimoto: Healthy Pit

Keiko Sugimoto starts her working career in a department store in Tokyo after training as a dietician. Asked to come up with suggestions to develop the business of the store, she proposes a health center offering advice to customers on their diet and general health. This proves a success and after two years she resigns from the store to set up her own company. She recognizes the emerging demand in Japan for dietary and health related advice as lifestyle and eating habits change.

Hiroshi Kaneda: Yokkaichi Switchgear

Hiroshi Kaneda is a capable engineer with considerable ability in his field of specialization. He develops a unique, sophisticated device, but has difficulty marketing it to break into manufacturers' supply chains in Japan. He ultimately succeeds and pursues international business. He is not an administrator and encounters a number of problems as he develops his business. He employs his brother-in-law and later, a Filipino engineer. The case culminates in a crisis resulting from a clash between these two individuals which Kaneda has to solve.


Spencer Wing: The Accidental Entrepreneur

Spencer Wing starts micro business at a very early age before striking lucky. He 'works crazy hours' in all the agencies he works for and thus 'doubled my experience against those who kept the 9 to 5 rountine'. He makes the most of opportunities that come his way (one is a free ticket to London which he parlays into a six month assignment at a London agency). He has a knack for choosing the right people to work with and the wisdom to proceed slowly and steadily in growing his business. He diversifies by focusing on specific market segments, and then turns his entrerpreneurial energies to other businesses.


Mei Hao: Entrepreneur

Mei Hao starts doing business at a very early age, continuing through school and college. Immediately upon graduation from college, she is invited to become a partner in a small retail garment business. The case records Mei Hao's progress as she learns about the garment business; she is successful in creating unique products which sell well. She next realizes that manufacturing will give her greater flexibility in controlling quality, enable her to achieve savings through cost reductions, and help maintain exclusivity, so she sets up her own manufacturing operation. Moving into the retail markets, she establishes her own brand and finally, sets up a professional consulting group.

Leo Ang: Metro Industries: A Business Founded on Fair Play

Leo Ang works from an early age to support his family and develops a keen eye for business, identifying demand for a particular type of bolt and then manufacturing and selling it. He abandons his college education before completing his degree and starts to work full time. His nut and bolt business is a success but he perceptively recognizes a more promising future in the chemicals industry. His sales skills in the chemicals industry enable him to sell a warehouse full of printing ink, a task in which all other salesman had failed, and he performs a number of similar sales feats. Despite obstacles, he sets up his own business and finally branches out into other businesses. Leo's philosophy and Buddhist beliefs govern the way he manages his business and staff.


Winson Lan: Entrepreneur

This is an account of Winson Lan's development of a substantial printing business in Singapore. He is a successful salesman in the printing business, but turns down a partnership in the company in which he achieves his success. He instead becomes a partner in a joint venture but gives this up after one successful deal, and starts a food stall chain. Again, he is successful but he ultimately returns to printing. His activities expand to Japan and into a variety of other enterprises focusing on various software programs related to printing and publishing. Handing over the day to day running of the business to his wife and colleagues in 1997, he sets off around the world 'travelling economy class and staying in inexpensive hotels' in search of new opportunities.


Prasert and Sunan of Korat Sungsawan: Pottery

This case features a couple working together. Sunan is a teacher and Prasert has a dump truck and a few cows. It is hard to make a living and they open a restaurant, but it is not a great success. They then recognize the value of the traditional Dan Kwian pottery of their hometown and succeed in reviving and upgrading the brand and developing an export business based on it. They establish close relationships with their workforce so that 'they do not have to closely supervise them'. Their refusal to cut corners demonstrates their commitment to absolute quality.

Saowaluck Shimada and Thai Tatami: Products

Japan is the key to Saowaluck's business enterprise. She has been to the university in Japan and returns to work in a Japanese company in Thailand which soon fails. However, she marries the Japanese director and together they start a business in Chiang Mai, nothern Thailand, opening the region to Japanese tourists. When the market suffers because of the Gulf war effect of air travel, they develop a business based on growing tatami rushes and intending to export them to Japan for use in tatami mats, but this is not viable. Instead, the successfully develop a range of tatami-based handicrafts using village households as workers.

United States

Tao Miller: Body and Soul

By the age of 33, Tao Miller already has 20 years of business experience. He establishes many types of businesses, but also learns a great deal working in a number of companies as an employee. He trades successfully with Japan, capitalising on a fashion there for used jeans. He then establishes his own retail clothing outlet in Honolulu under the name Body and Soul, and launches a brand of cosmetics which expands globally and becomes his main business.

Barbara A. Hastings and Barbara A. Pleadwell: Hastings & Pleadwell, LLC

Two women, Barbara A. Hastings and Barbara A. Pleadwell, start their own PR and communications business in Hawaii. One is a well-established journalist, the other was a student at Chaminade University and their business partnership develops from that encounter, the older woman intitially acting as a mentor to the younger. They attribute their success to their insistence on high standards, not only in their own company, but in their clients. They place great emphasis on constant learning and innovation.

Maria Chan Plourde: Mommies Only Club, LLC

Maria Chan Plourde is the owner and designer of "Mommies Only Club, LLC"

 Viet Nam

Nguyen Kiem: Anh Cao Co. Ltd.: The Winner in a Race “Against the Clock”

Private business was banned in totality in 1976 in Viet Nam. The environment has therefore been very difficult for entrepreneurs historically, and although it has become progressively easier for individuals to start their own companies since the late 1900s, a number of obstacles remain. The career of Nguyen Kiem of Anh Cao reflects the progress of private enterprise development. His career from 1975 to 1991 was in the state owned freight forwarding company Vietfracht. As the case notes, the state ownership system militated against efficient management and Vietfracht was no exception. The success of his own forwarding company, Anh Cao, founded in 1993, stems from his understanding of the shortcomings of state owned companies. He emphasizes quality of service and the importance of the customer.

Pham Thi Loan: The Desire of a Famous Vietnamese

Pham Loan trains as a teacher but starts her career in a state-owned company. Foreign companies were rapidly moving into Viet Nam at the time, and there was a great demand for English speakers. Loan moved to Hyundai, the Korean chaebol (Korean corporate group) and then to ABB the electrical and industrial group. She was held in high regard and was sent on a number of training programmes overseas. Greatly impressed by what she sees in other countries, she develops manufacturing and marketing skills in Viet Nam. She starts a trading business and then movies into manufacturing electrical equipment and transformers.