Jingjin Liu is proof that women regularly wear different hats — and do so with their head held high. She is a serial entrepreneur, mother, petrolhead, and feminist. She speaks Germans better than most Germans, although she comes from China. She helps women gain confidence by taking charge of their sexual wellness.
Liu is the CEO and founder of ZaZaZu, which seeks to empower women with the information and tools for a healthy sexual life. Such platforms are rare in Asia, where female sexuality is still largely shrouded in a veil of mystery. So as you might expect, navigating such a business in this space comes with a set of unique challenges.
“The biggest business hurdle is to legitimately promote sexual wellness on major digital marketing channels and platforms,” Liu shares. She has been rejected by over 30 business partners and had ZaZaZu’s social media accounts shut down more than 10 times. With “perseverance, persistence and purpose,” ZaZaZu now finally holds a legitimate space in mainstream and social media.
“The key is to choose your tribe consciously and ignore the noise, and actively try not to waste time and energy on listening to people who are not your believers,” the founder reflects. Spearheading ZaZaZu has made Liu is a pioneering femtech entrepreneur in Singapore — but you could say that the spark was ignited during her time pursuing an MBA at leading business school INSEAD.
This year, Liu is part of INSEAD’s Limitless 2.0 campaign, which celebrates its outstanding women MBA graduates who push their own limits to emerge as leaders in their respective fields. The INSEAD MBA programme was ranked #1 in the world this year by Financial Times, with a nod to its diversity. Over 350 women join the INSEAD MBA programme each year, forming 35% of its student cohort.
Study International caught up with Jingjin Liu in conjunction with her participation in this campaign. Here’s what she had to share.
You describe yourself as a femtech entrepreneur. When and how did this journey begin for you?
My passion has always been to build a business that helps women to establish intrinsic confidence. In China, where I grew up, sexual education is close to zero. Back in the 90s, there was nowhere to “Google” or to ask sex-related questions. I grew up in deep insecurity about the mystery of sex. I went to Germany when I was 16 and was fortunate to experience how school and society openly approached sex-related topics to young adults. In my twenties, as I gained more security in my sexuality, I gained the confidence to study and work in male-dominated industries.
With the conviction of building a positive-impact business, I moved to Singapore to pursue an EMBA at INSEAD in 2018. After one and a half years, I realised I did not want to build a business providing career advice and meditation workshops for women empowerment, where the market is already saturated. I believe that if women are comfortable with their sexuality, they can build innate confidence, which empowers them to venture out of their comfort zone. This is my motivation behind starting ZaZaZu.
How does ZaZaZu advance your vision for women empowerment?
For me, sexual wellness is as fundamental to our health as physical and mental wellness. It comes from the ability to love yourself, understand the intimate parts of your body and take care of its need. Our sexuality is a living, breathing part of who we are. It shapes our relationships, our self-esteem. It connects our mind and our body.
I believe that if women are comfortable with their sexuality, and build confidence from within, then there is little need to practise power poses in presentation pitches or harness the power of attraction to tell the universe what you want. Sexuality informs identity: when you are secure in your identity, that builds innate confidence, and confidence is what empowers women to ask for a salary raise, stop doubting themselves, pursue a male-dominated career and ultimately go out to change the world.
How do your MBA and global experience support your entrepreneurial endeavours?
I am a firm believer in the power of diversity in all aspects. Although every top 10 business school markets itself differently, the academic curriculum is absolutely comparable. What makes INSEAD stand out is not only the diversity among the students but also in the faculty and the campuses across four continents. Seeing is believing — I have never encountered so many brilliant people at one spot, and learnt such diverse aspects of life, career and perspectives on the world.
I went to INSEAD in 2018 with the clear goal of building a female empowerment business. As I was always talking about my motivations with my peers in my cohort long before I incorporated ZaZaZu, I started to connect with VC and professional angel investors within the INSEAD network. “Make friends before you need them” — these connections helped me to close 11 investors for our pre-seed in less than a month, 10 of them are from the INSEAD network.
What unique lessons did you learn as a woman in automotive marketing, and how do they remain relevant to your career today?
I was the first female marketing director in a multi-billion dollar, male driven, conservative German automotive firm. One of the three most important lessons I learnt working in a male-driven environment are:
- See myself as equals with every man from day one
- Do my job better than any man, better than any woman, simply better than anyone.
- Talk about my success and achievement to decision-makers proudly and clearly, ask for the position I want precisely.
What is your advice for students and graduates who want to embark on a pioneering venture such as yours?
I am an Entrepreneur in Residence at INSEAD as well. One of the most frequently asked questions from both male and female students are “Should I go down the entrepreneurial route with huge uncertainty or go down the safe corporate route?”
My advice is always: don’t do it unless you wholeheartedly believe in it! It will consume you, will eat up your holidays, you don’t have Sundays or weekends any more and you are working against all odds. So it has to be a passion and a calling, but if you do choose to do it, it will be deeply rewarding and it will teach you incredible lessons about what it means to be a human.