Marleen Somohardjo—How the Furnace of a Financial Crisis Formed My Entrepreneurial Optimism


Constantly curious about entrepreneurship, Marleen started her journey in entrepreneurialism in 2008. This was, as you may recall, amidst the financial crisis that the sector experienced. The freedom of having her own choices was second to none and allowed her to continue her path to success as an innovator.

She left KPMG and decided to build her own enterprise called M2 Advisory. The immediate problem solved was the financial gains and results that companies were targeting and not meeting. M2 Advisory pivoted through its own crucible in 2014. They say necessity gives birth to change, or invention, and Marleen embraced this need for change towards the corporate ways of working within her own company. M2 Advisory now oversees the innovative solutions every business need to up its performance. Marleen’s M2 Advisory operates on a B2B market level, and their successful strategy keeps them competitive through meeting several avenues of service. Marleen has a philosophy of resilience and resourcefulness makes up the crux and importance of her philosophy. Her determined enthusiasm, attributable to a spirit of the successful entrepreneur, keeps her on top of the game and modernises her skillset. Self-education, self-compassion, and self-reliance have propelled Marleen’s M2 Advisory as she leads a terrific company through waters of uncertainty to untold treasures. Her ethic comes from her experience and expertise: if you can survive the financial crisis, you can survive anything.
The entrepreneurial spirit comes from optimism. Approaching everything from multiple angles to innovate, improve or respond adequately to customer’s issues cannot be overstated. —Marleen Somohardjo


What has influenced you most to bring you to your entrepreneurial journey?

Entrepreneurship always intrigued me. Even when I embarked on my entrepreneurial journey in 2008, during the financial crisis within the financial sector. The liberated feeling of having my own choices in partnership with clients in my client base empowered me to continue the sometimes-challenging periods life holds. The impact on my personal life is significant, however both the freedom and sense of building on my legacy influence my choices all the more. They still do.

When did you decide you were an entrepreneur and what inspired you to found your own company, M2 Advisory?

After I left my corporate career as an advisor with KPMG, I decided to build on a more end-to-end innovation, advising and bringing more in-depth value to my customers. I didn’t immediately consider myself an entrepreneur. My mission is optimising businesses with their financial results. This was not the direct result I had with my clients that I worked with, large corporate banks and insurers. I pivoted the business when I encountered difficult times in 2014. From that point I started to apply the “corporate” ways of working in process and risk management within my own company. This way of working propelled the business and from here on I realized that I was more of an entrepreneur, serving both ends of the spectrum, focusing on clients’ solutions, and focusing on partnerships to expand. Over the years this developed into a way of working with partners and introducing new methods for working within the consultancy service. We further crafted and worked on product development, market analysis, elevating customer experience and have continued serving the market with my signature approach. The result is a platform to elevate business performance while assessing your critical risks. The product delivers automation to master your finance, increase profitability, and in addition it provides confidence towards business results. This is considered as the foundation for inspiration and building on the company M2 Advisory and M2 Advisory International. M2 Advisory delivers innovative solutions that bring financial and risk management within the value chain for our corporate clients, entrepreneurs, and business owners to another level.

In marketing, what is the most successful strategy for grabbing attention and how can owners of other companies apply this strategy?

M2 Advisory serves the B2B market, the decision-making process pertains to multiple layers regarding governance, departments, budgets, and approvals. Are you looking for a successful strategy for the B2B market?
    1. Build strong networks
    1. Organise events
    1. Create informational, educational content & target a niche audience

What do you think makes a successful businesswoman?

I think that a strong character, opportunistic creativity, and the ability to approach people’s challenges or issues with a solution-focused mindset are qualities of successful businesswomen. In terms of characteristics, personally, my success, my level of resilience, my empathy for my failures and my clear vision of what I want in my life define my success. The level of professionalism I have operated on in my career also attests to my character. I strongly feel that to execute a sound plan in business, you need to be very clear what your vision and mission are first. To stay on top of the game, keep in mind resilience and resourcefulness to support you in times of hardship and adversity. Empathy for my failures creates room to approach things from another perspective and from this compassionate angle, l better understand my customers’ needs. I create an equilibrium to deliver excellent services.

In what ways have your degree, experienced background in business & entrepreneurial spirit helped you run a business?

Running a business is a combination of strategy and execution. I hold a master’s in Business-Economics and therefore apply the fundamentals in finance, and metrics to manage the company finance, projections and usage of business data. The goal fixates on making improvements to our product and service more apparent. The entrepreneurial spirit comes from optimism. Approaching everything from multiple angles to innovate, improve or respond adequately to customer’s issues cannot be overstated. I love the pace of entrepreneurship, seizing momentum, and should I see an opportunity, I create the mental roadmap and strategy to build a network. I then execute. Entrepreneurship reflects your ability to connect with others. It delivers your vision to the world.

What is the best piece of advice you have received? Would you apply it differently today?

The best advice I received early in life taught me to focus on self-education. This idea drives you to create a level of independence in life. I would not apply it differently as I believe that a level of education remains necessary to build confidence. I extend this advice nowadays with the quote, “Do the best you can until you know better, then when you know better do better.” —Maya Angelou Why, I have found there should always be room to allow growth and change in life.

How do you believe attitudes and opportunities are changing for female entrepreneurs in the coming years?

I see and meet incredibly powerful women owning their position within the entrepreneurial environment and I love this development. I feel humbled and honoured that due to women fighting for their rights, equalities, and fair legislations it is more common that we see and point out female entrepreneurs as role models. That is a good movement, because as women we sacrifice more than men if we decide to become entrepreneurs. It requires a more organized, regulated, and safer environment. The discussions around these topics change, perhaps not rapidly enough, however I also understand that this takes time. Meanwhile we ought to continue expressing our vision about entrepreneurship and needs in life to pursue our dreams and pave the way for other generations.

What is your favourite author’s best book?

One of my favourite authors is Deepak Chopra. His best book to empower your entrepreneurial skills is: The Soul of Leadership. I consider this book a guide. It navigates you through your inner world and allows you to express yourself within the outer world.

How does your story empower women around the globe and what is your best advice for someone starting as a female entrepreneur in 2023?

To start as a female entrepreneur, you should believe in yourself, your strengths, and your passion. The confidence and the passion that you exude with your emotional intelligence already offers you that head start in your journey. I started my business during the financial crisis and convinced myself that if I could survive this crisis, I’d survive anything. I did. For others, I encourage you: follow your passion and do your best. Look within because you know what drives you; you know where to find the compass to your destiny.


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