In our August 2022 issue, we chatted with DR VANESSA VON AUER about her passion for supporting students with learning differences. In our November 2022 issue, the founder and CEO of Integrated International School (IIS) and The Von Auer Psychology Center (VAPC) provides some insights on being a female entrepreneur in Singapore, including tips for other women going into business.
Tell us about your companies.
IIS is a boutique international school that provides a tailored mainstream educational experience to suit students of all learning styles and intelligences, such as students with learning differences.
Prior to IIS, I opened VAPC in 2008 to offer intervention, counselling and diagnostic services through a holistic approach for clients of all ages and walks of life.
What motivated you to be a female entrepreneur in Singapore and start your businesses?
As a clinical psychologist by profession, it was a personal goal to start my own clinic.
While running VAPC, many of my clients were young children who had no suitable schooling options in Singapore. I saw how students who learn differently and/or have special needs were falling through the cracks; there was a significant gap in the local education industry.
This encouraged me to pursue a new personal goal – to provide a safe sanctuary for children with a schooling programme that focused on the holistic needs of students. A pilot programme started in 2009 and it officially became IIS in 2010.
Did you come across challenges that you feel are only faced by any female entrepreneur in Singapore?
When I started the businesses in my early 20s, a lot of naysayers didn’t think that a young female would be able to launch and run both a school and psychology practice successfully without any funding or business experience.
I took in any helpful feedback, ignored the not so helpful and learned from mistakes.
I believed that I could create something unique with wonderful, passionate professionals, and together serve children and their families with purpose. I look forward to many more years of adventures with our students and families.
How did you ensure that you were able to enjoy life too?
I love what I do so it never felt like I was sacrificing my personal life as a female entrepreneur in Singapore, although I had to be picky about events or activities I opted to engage in.
I knew that once I had children myself, I would need to dial back. So, I worked hard in the first five years to get the businesses stable. After becoming a mother, I found a healthy balance by having a “quality over quantity” mindset.
My amazing team at IIS are also strong contributing factors that enable me to balance my passions of kids and IIS.
People assume that if you’re not diving into everything at 100 percent capacity then you aren’t having an impact. It really comes down to being present wherever you are and making each moment count.
Any advice for females who are considering entrepreneurship?
It’s important to work on your mindset and have your goals in sight. Most importantly, chase your passions, not money or status.
Don’t feel like you must know everything right away; embrace this exciting journey of female entrepreneurship and always be open to learning.
Lastly, remember that challenges are an inevitable part of being an entrepreneur. So don’t be discouraged, but rather, see them as learning tools that push you out of your comfort zone.
I also find that having a hobby that you truly enjoy can help your mental health – it forces you to shift your focus to something that’s not work. For me, it’s kickboxing and paint pouring.
Integrated International School is at 41 Sunset Way, #01-01. 6466 4475 | iis.edu.sg
This article first appeared in the November 2022 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase the latest issue or subscribe, so you never miss a copy! Also check out our Living in Singapore section for more articles about life in Singapore, including what you need to set up a business in Singapore.