Gemma Manning is a serial entrepreneur and strategic marketing professional. She has successfully established two businesses with international reach and is expanding across the Asian market.
What’s your story?
I discovered the world of entrepreneurship after an initial stint in corporate marketing where I first started my career. After having my first daughter running my own business seemed an attractive career option. And with securing my first springboard client, I was able to start a strategic marketing consultancy. Over the past 11 years, I have now successfully established two businesses with international reach—Manning & Co, a full-service strategic marketing consultancy (2008), and Gemstar, a market access and growth partner for Australian businesses expanding into South-East Asia (2013) and for companies in the region wanting to enter Australia.
What excites you most about your industry?
I love helping founders and companies meet their full potential. That is why I love the industry I am in. Both M&C and Gemstar helps companies to either kick off their business or grow their brand and often we’re involved in building great brands that have a positive impact in business, and the community. From helping NFPs promote their cause to keep funding for key services such as services for people with disabilities, to bringing awareness to the latest innovations that make a transformational difference such as smart socks for the elderly to prevent falls – it is rewarding to help brands grow, innovative and change the world.
What’s your connection to Asia?
My connection to Asia started as an8-year-old when I first started learning Japanese at primary school in Australia. I had an immediate love for the language and culture and so I went to live there as an 18 year old. After completing a degree in Communications and Japanese, I started my career in corporate marketing with an Asia focus, where speaking Japanese was required. Since launching my first business after my first daughter was born, my career has taken an exciting turn, as I now have two companies with Asia reach.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I live in Singapore having moved here from Sydney two years ago. My businesses service the APAC region and this is why I set up my Asian base here. Singapore is a great entry point for doing business in Asia. English is spoken predominately in business, the regulatory environment is strong, there is good IP protection and Singapore promotes a business-friendly environment. I also love Ho Chi Minh city. I love the city’s vibrancy and buzz. There is a genuine appetite and hunger by the city’s people to make it a hub in Asia and this is already happening.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
To always back yourself, believe in yourself and never give up. As an entrepreneur, this advice has stood me well, especially at times where I have wanted to throw in the towel and give it all up. It can be incredibly trying running your own business – it is not for the fainted hearted and requires unwavering courage, strength and resilience.
Who inspires you?
My mum. She has been a role model during my whole life and in so many ways. She has taught me how to be a wonderful mother as well as how to be a modern woman. I have found it hard at times trying to do it all – raise two daughters single handily, while running two businesses with international reach. The travel, the schedule, the sacrifices – it can be all too much. My mum gives me unconditional support, love and encouragement which is what has helped me get through.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
How important it is to look after your well-being! People often say that you need to look after your health and well-being, especially as a business owner. However as a busy entrepreneur and mother of two, I put everyone else before me – my children, my staff, my clients, the business. Towards the end of last year, I was at burn out mode. So I decided to take some time out and feel all the better for it. This year I plan to book in a number of mini-breaks throughout the year, as well as make more time for yoga, exercise and things that I enjoy that are not business-related! What a revelation!
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would launch a business that didn’t rely on people! I find people the most challenging aspect of running a consultancy business both in terms of clients and talent at times. I am thus really looking forward to building my education and training business, leading with our YoungGems program – a program for Young Entrepreneurs which has already been launched as a Diploma in Singapore with Kaplan as our education partner. We also run it in Australia. Other Asian countries like Malaysia and Vietnam are on our hit list this year.
How do you unwind?
Achieving a work/life balance is incredibly important to me. Zumba, dancing and walking are key to my stress management regime; as are energetic healing, meditation and yoga, which help me feel grounded, at peace and mindful. I also love to get involved in social impact initiatives and this helps me unwind and focus on other things other than my businesses. And I love time with my two daughters. Spending time with them helps me stay grounded, to be present, take my mind off work and switch off. I also like lying by a pool with a cocktail in hand!
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I have so many, but the very beautiful Bawah Island is one of the most beautiful destinations in Asia for pure relaxation. Bawah is located off Indonesia and you can get there by ferry then seaplane. Not only is it stunningly beautiful, it’s beaches are pristine, it is private, peaceful and a place where you can not help but relax and be unplugged from the rest of world – something that I need at least once a year as a busy entrepreneur. A place like Bawah also promotes and inspires creative thinking which I think is essential as an entrepreneur.
Everyone in business should read this book:
Richard Branson’s Losing My Virginity and Finding My Virginity.
Shameless plug for your business:
M&C, is a full-service marketing consultancy with a presence in Australia and Asia. We offer end-toend strategic marketing services from brand strategy, messaging, media, content development, creative and digital marketing – we have it covered! Gemstar is the go-to market access and growth partner for fast growth businesses wanting to expand into ASEAN or Australia. Through our Innovation Centre of Excellence in Singapore, we help businesses assess and understand the ASEAN markets and determine their market readiness as well as their market entry strategies. We do the same for companies wanting to enter Australia. Our education arm, YoungGems, is focused on supporting young entrepreneurs commercialise their ideas and we have just kicked off a partnership with Kaplan Singapore to run a Diploma of Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
How can people connect with you?
Facebook: @GemstarTech @Manningandco @YoungGemsEntrepreneurship
Instagram: gemstar_younggems manningco
This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews
Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.