Celebrated annually on 19 November, Women’s Entrepreneurship Day is a global movement that honours, celebrates and empowers female entrepreneurs around the world. According to the United Nations Development Programme, women that participate in the labour force often receive less pay and have less access to social safety nets. Women’s Entrepreneurship Day hopes to alleviate this gap by celebrating and supporting women in business worldwide.
To commemorate the day, UCL School of Management will be showcasing the journeys of some of the female UCL alumni that have gone on to dominate the entrepreneurial arena. We recently caught up with Ponk Memoli, founder of HTCH, an architectural design platform.
What is htch and what made you launch the business?
HTCH (”Hatch”) is a multiplayer architectural design platform. I’m a Thai architect and my real passion is designing one-family homes. I trained and worked for 10+ years before moving to the UK in 2014. It’s rewarding work, but there’s so much admin involved in keeping everyone in the loop. Everyone uses different softwares. Files fly back-and-forth. It’s chaos and it takes-up way too much time. Every project was the same, and I’d had enough. So, back in May 2022, I started HTCH. Our mission is to modernise how architects and teams design buildings together. The beta is a collaborative web app, that runs in the browser, and helps remote teams work together.
have you always shown signs of entrepreneurial talent?
I’d say that I’m determined and persistent. As a kid, I was always doing side projects and mini businesses. I didn’t know what “entrepreneurship” was. I just spotted opportunities and decided to do something about them. When I was nine, I started an ironing business when my brother was born. I even made invoices for all the items I ironed. My only customer was my mum, but I always had plenty of pocket money. Around that time, I also told my mum I wanted to be an architect. That set which schools I wanted to go to, and what I needed to study. Architecture taught me how to improve people’s lives. Entrepreneurship came later, when I realised that I could improve people’s lives with tech too.
what was your time like at ucl school of management?
It was eye-opening! I had a fantastic time. I learnt a lot from both the school and my peers. The most valuable skill I picked-up was learning how to tackle a problem. The course gave me real, practical skills - tools to figure out how to approach a challenge. I was learning around like-minded people, and we helped each other progress. As a business founder, I use those skills every day.
what has been your biggest accomplishment as an entrepreneur to date?
It’s difficult to decide! Back in Thailand, I opened a restaurant serving Thai-Italian fusion food. We opened a second restaurant 2 years later; all while I was working as an architect. Back in 2019, I decided to run Southeast-Asia’s first open-house event. It was a showcase of architectural talent in Bangkok. Tickets sold out within hours. 1,500 people turned-up. More recently, we closed our Angel Investment round for HTCH in May 2022. We used the funds to build our beta. Now we’re starting to onboard some of the biggest architects in the UK.
what excites you most about the architectural industry?
It’s the scope and breadth of architecture that hooks me. The “built environment” affects everyone. You travel through it to go to work, to nip to the shops. And it affects you for over 40+ years. I can’t think of any other industry which affects so many people in such a permanent way.
what are the main challenges for female entrepreneurs and what advice would you give to them?
The stats are out there. The challenges for female entrepreneurs are real: glass ceilings and bias all play a part. My advice is not to fear them. Do it anyway. Embrace that it’s going to be tough and make that your strength. You’ll learn how to be resilient and you’ll learn how to bounce back stronger. Make the challenges build your strength.
what advice would you give to your younger self?
Embrace every situation you find yourself in. Pay attention to the details. If you can study what’s happening to you and around you, you can learn from it. So, if you’re curious, take the time to learn. These skills will help you navigate whatever life throws at you in the future.