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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 not always successful. His daughter has a management degree and challenges a number of her father's business decisions. Abadi decides to take a management course himself. The case poses interesting questions regarding family involvement in business.

Martha Tilaar: The Business of Making Women Beautiful

Martha Tilaar's case is an interesting mix of traditional ways and family values while displaying great entrepreneurial drive. While accompanying her husband to the U.S., she is not idle in the strange new environment but starts a business and succeeds in earning enough to put it towards her 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. During a visit to Holland to study Western beauty practices, she is encouraged to look 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 which soon diversifies into a manufacturing and a variety of products. Martha's beliefs and principles play an important role in the running of her 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. Her comapny establishes a variety of services to meet various identified needs.

Hiroshi Kaneda: Yokkaichi Switchgear

Hiroshi Kaneda is a capable engineer with considerable ability in his field of specialization. Although her develops a unique technically sophisticated device, the challenge for him in marketing it is to break into manufacturers' supply chains in Japan, and her finally succeeds. He then moves successfully into 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 learns fast in a number of advertising agencies accepting the advice and guidance of a series of mentors. 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 such as Chinese herbal remedies, mangoes and oxygenated water, with great enthusiasm.


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 by a friend to become a partner in a small retail garment business. The case records Mei Hao's progress as she learns all about the garment business on the front line. She recognizes that she cannot compete by offering 'me-too' designs and 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. Later she goes even further by manufacturing textiles. Moving into the retail markets, she establishes her own brand and finally, expanding out of her own accountancy department, 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 soon proves her as a keen eye for business, identifying demand for a particular type of bolt and then manufacturing and selling it. Recognizing his own flair as a salesman, 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 and takes a job selling in that business. His sales skills 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. He finally feels that he has learned enough to set up his own business. There are many obstacles and setbacks but her overcomes them and finally branches out into other businesses. Leo's philosophy and Buddhist beliefs govern the way her manages his business and his staff.


Winson Lan: Entrepreneur

This is an account of Winson Lan's development of a substantial printing business in Singapore. He is a rebellious who, after a number of false starts, finds his niche in the printing business. He is a highly successful salesman, but turns down an offered partnership in the company in which he achieves his success. He instead becomes a partner in a jpint venture but gibe this up after one successful deal, and starts a food stall chain (a popular feature of Singapore dining culture). Again, he is successful but finally succumbs to repeated calls from his former printing clients and after some further dabbling takes the plunge and returns to printing. His marriage to the capable Angeline is a significant step up for him, and she eventually gives up her high-flying job in a multinational to join his company. 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, and could not afford to do so either'. Their refusal to cut corner demonstrates their commitment to absolute quality. 'Cracked products or production defects could be retouched and would not be noticed but Korat Sugsawan never ships such products to customers'.

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 sufferes 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

Tao Miller is an irrepressible entrepreneurial spirit. By the age of 33 he already has 20 years of business experience (despite being in the USA, he mentions that his youth is sometimes a handicap). He establishes many types of business, 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 goes on to use the same name to launch a brand of cosmetics which expands globally and becomes his main business. His success seems tom come from his gift for understanding fashion trends and identifying consumer desires.

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 grat emphasis on constant learning and innovation. The woman in the second part of their case, Maria Chan Plourde, takes a wide variety of jobs in the textile industry in order to learn thoroughly all aspects of the business and achieve her goal in creating her own company. She succeeds in finding a niche in the maternity clothing sector.

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 carer 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. He recognizes the processes which cause most delay and anxiety to shippers and receivers of goods and concentrates his efforts on improving them. He constanly goes beyond the narrow scope of his company's function to offer advice on marketing, currency sensitivities and other issues of which Vietnamese clients still had little experience.

Pham Thi Loan: The Desire of a Famous Vietnamese

Pham this 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 thence 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 determines to develop manufacturing and marketing skills in Viet Nam. She starts a trading business and then movies into manufacturing electrical equipment and transformers despite the counsel of her friends who warn her that it is far too hard for a woman to run a factory. The case describes her success.

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)