Katherine Choo, Founder, Baum Project PTE LTD
“Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.” This quote by Jack Welch subtly sums up what it takes to be a successful leader. To truly excel and be a great leader, one must have oodles of perseverance, a willingness to take risks, a great deal of diligence, and a passionate commitment to the vision. It takes a certain level of gusto to push through adversity, relentlessly pursue a vision, and finally pioneer it into success. Avidly exhibiting such traits, one such exemplary women leader who is setting an instance of dedicated leadership in the architecture and design industry is Katherine Choo, the Founder of Baum Project and Kanerien, a 5-year-old architectural and interior design company specializing in Korean-inspired interior design based in Singapore that has projects locally and regionally – Korea, Hong Kong, Malaysia.
After completing her Masters in Architecture in Korea, Katherine worked at an architecture firm for 5 years. In 2006, she moved to Singapore along with her husband for his work and started working at a French interior company. But while working there, her heart always longed and aspired to create her own designs. She started missing the adrenaline rush and the contentment she feels whenever she looks at or designs an architectural project. This is when she made up her mind to take the leap of faith and launch her own architecture and interior design firm so she could not only design buildings but also enhance their interiors.
Injecting a New Sense of Style and Designs into Spaces
Armed with a repertoire of experience, Katherine founded Baum Project in 2010 and made it her mission to constantly create a unique and personalized experience in both residential and commercial spaces for her clients. “I had faith in my ability to succeed due to my experience in the field and the many ideas I had which I jotted down in my notebook. With that one notebook, I looked for clients and that was how Baum Project started,” shares Katherine.
Standing tall as the only Korean interior design firm in Singapore, Baum Project offers a unique take on space planning and designs. Specializing in the latest interior and architectural design trends from Korea, it brings tasteful Korean design ideals into Singapore, tailored to suit the needs and interests of anyone interested in Korean-inspired interior design and home decoration products. It comprises a team of designers and architect consultants from Korea and Singapore, bringing together a sphere of creativity, expertise, and experiences to provide complete solutions to architecture and interior design in Asia.
Conquering Challenges along the Way
While starting a business is quite challenging on its own, Katherine had to navigate many other stumbling blocks to lead Baum Project toward the path to success. Initially, there were countless challenges including language barriers and lacking friends and connections as a foreigner. Besides this, another major challenge was to adjust to the difference in working practices. She had to learn and understand the regulations that interior designers in Singapore must follow, which were different from those in Korea. There were also cultural hurdles, such as differences in how things were done. But as she gained more practice and experience with time, she was able to overcome all the hurdles along the way. Speaking of the industry-based challenge, she asserts, “One difficulty everyone in our field faces, in my opinion as an architect and interior designer, is consistently coming up with new concepts. It can be difficult and exhausting to always come up with fresh ideas because there are times when I am unable to do so.”
Values That influence Katherine’s Success
For the avid leader, visions, passion, and patience are of paramount importance. “I place great importance on having a vision as I am a dreamer and a planner. I always envision how I would like my company to grow and having a clear vision is essential for me to keep my engine going. Passion and patience are also of utmost importance to me as staying true to these 2 values has brought me thus far,” opines Katherine.
She believes that true entrepreneurship is having the ability to not just lead people but to bless those people through leadership. With her impeccable leadership, she aspires to serve as an inspiration for all other Korean women to not be afraid to fulfill their dreams and start what they wish to do in a foreign country.
Fostering a Fast-Paced Culture
While Baum Project is enriched with a lot of Korean cultures, Katherine describes it in one word as fast-paced—just like the way Koreans like to say ‘pali pali’ which means quickly. The work environment at Baum Project is so fast-paced, challenging, and exciting that sometimes even its interns get surprised at the speed the firm works at. Recalling one such incident, Katherine affirms, “Once I received a memorable farewell letter from one of my interns who thanked me for exemplifying what enthusiasm and drive are. I think what motivates me and my employee to come to work every day is the desire to create spaces that bring joy to people.”
An Inspiration to All Who Aspire to Achieve their Dreams
For Katherine, there were always new hurdles to overcome every day as an entrepreneur. But learning from these experiences, she navigated every obstacle along her way to reach where she is today. Drawing key lessons from her entrepreneurial expedition, she elucidates, “Starting and growing your own company is something that requires great patience, and the wait can be long but I would like to emphasize that it is worth the journey and the wait because it will bring you to greater places and you will be shocked at how much you have grown as a person. I feel like entrepreneurship is a beautiful process because, at the end of it all, you will have a rich story to share with others just like how I am sharing mine now.” We are certain that Katherine’s fascinating journey and creative insights will be an inspiration to all aspiring business leaders especially the woman entrepreneurs who need the motivation to get started.