Indonesia Expat
Meet the Expats

Meet Grace Clapham

Grace Clapham

Meet Grace Clapham, a woman who is inspiring and advising women entrepreneurs in Indonesia and across the Asia-Pacific.


Grace ClaphamYou were born in Indonesia. Tell us about your childhood.
I was born in Jakarta to an Indonesian-Dutch mother and an Australian father. I lived in Jakarta until I was five and moved to Singapore, staying there till I was 11. Then we moved to Quito, Ecuador, where my sisters and I attended a Spanish-speaking school for a year whilst my father was setting up a school, which was run along Montessori-style lines. Next, we stayed in the Galapagos Islands, living on a boat, before making our way back to Singapore. I finished high school in Australia and then attended Melbourne University. I spent a year working in London and Paris before going back to Australia to finish my degree. In 2009, I moved back to Asia and based myself in and out of Singapore and Jakarta.

What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?
I think it’s in my blood, as my father was a diplomat turned businessman and social entrepreneur, who had been in Indonesia since the early 1960s. Deep down, I always knew I would be an entrepreneur. When I applied for my first job in Australia, I had to fill out a form that asked me where I saw myself in five years, and I answered that I would be either my own CEO or the owner of an NGO. I had always looked up to my father, so I think his personality rubbed off on me.

Your dad was quite famous in Jakarta in his day.
He definitely had his admirers, both women and men! People were always coming to him for advice, insight and know-how of the region and people. Dad was great at connecting people from all backgrounds, and was able to maintain relationships with each and every one of them. There were no socio-cultural boundaries for him and he was able to bridge all divides across his friends and businesses. He was an extremely generous individual who gave so much of his time to others and in helping Indonesians – doing everything from giving sanctuary to people at the time of the 1965 turmoil, to bringing over Australian life-saving instructors, to assisting orphans and helping businesses boom. He was a liaison for many in the not-for-profit sector and also in the diplomatic and business worlds. He was a serious individual yet also had a great sense of humour, which could be embarrassing, especially in front of some of the more powerful individuals, who didn’t always know how to take it!

What are your current projects in Indonesia?
Change ( is a one-month programme in Bali for individuals interested in launching or working on social ventures focused on innovation. Over four weeks, participants will connect and learn skills and insights from peers, industry experts, mentors and inspirational speakers from a range of sectors, and discover how to be at their mental and physical best. Everything you need to help drive a start-up, social, business or creative project. We’re offering an Indonesian scholarship for the programme, and we’re on the lookout for anyone open to joining us to develop their social venture.

Secret {W} Business ( is another venture that I co-founded. It’s a network and community for women entrepreneurs, change-makers and innovators across the Asia-Pacific region. We’re opening a chapter in Jakarta before the year-end. We already have chapters in Bali, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok, while next year we’ll be opening in Korea, Nepal, Manila and Australia. We provide monthly events, workshops and skill-share sessions to help make entrepreneurship and social innovation accessible to all women, whilst enabling collaboration and cultural exchange. We’re eager for any awesome women in Jakarta keen to join us.

I’m looking to do much more in Jakarta, to showcase more of what Indonesia has to offer on a global level, whilst enabling talented women here to build their skills, knowledge and opportunities.

Grace Clapham - The Entrepreneur

What are the challenges facing Indonesian women entrepreneurs?
Accessibility to education, skills and capital. There are very few communities that connect and share on a regular basis and provide a space that is comfortable and empowering. I think the key at the moment is building the entrepreneurial mindset and skills within the country and then accessibility to funds to launch their venture – so access to a wider network for funding, micro-loans, etc.

What makes you tick?
I’m half-Indonesian but feel more Indonesian, as I have a great love for the country and its people. There is a huge gap that needs to be filled in building Indonesia’s awesome talent and then getting it presented locally and internationally. I feel that because of my background, I’m able to bridge the East and West divide through various ventures. I hope my work here helps to empower individuals and communities; it’s all about seeing Indonesia develop.

The Suharto regime encouraged women to be subservient housewives. Was your own mother like that?
Hahaha! I think my mother would have enjoyed being her own boss or having a career. She started out in banking, but she gave all that up for taking care of three daughters. I know she always wanted to go back and work full-time, but I believe my father didn’t think she really needed to, and by the time my sisters and I were all grown up, it was a bit late.

What should women do to unleash their creative potential?
Always be curious and observant, as you never know where inspiration will come from. Take in your surroundings. Look at other sectors than what you’re interested in. Write and make plans. Get motivated by inspirational books and videos, and through conferences such as TED [Technology, Entertainment, Design], and websites such as Brain Pickings.

Don’t just surround yourselves with like-minded individuals. Surround yourself with people who will push your creative boundaries, and those with different backgrounds and perceptions, as they will open you up to other ideas.

Love or loathe Jakarta?
I love Jakarta, the chaos, the culture and the food. I don’t even mind the traffic, as long as I have internet access or something to do. I really enjoy the people and the energy here. Things that may bother others, I see as opportunities to make things better, even in the smallest ways. What I think needs to be done though, is to empower and enable Indonesians further. I guess sometimes the materialistic or consumerism side of things bothers me. People need to learn that life is more than aspiring to have a Gucci handbag.

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