Baum Project: Aspiring Woman Entrepreneurs Award 2020/2021
Managing Director of Baum Project, Katherine Choo
Korean-born Singapore Entrepreneur
Singapore is said to be an interior design gold mine with approximately more than 5 million inhabitants. The sovereign city-state in Southeast Asia has a lot to offer in the field, but a fickle industry that is denoted by fast-changing lifestyle trends and ever-evolving customers’ tastes and preferences.
Like many other things, the field of interior designing which was earlier restricted to a few self-professed experts, has now become more sophisticated. Interior designing nowadays has reached a pinnacle, backed by talents with education accolades and profound experience who deal in this field. Katherine Choo, Managing Director of a local boutique interior design firm, Baum Project, shares about her career and entrepreneurship journey towards building a portfolio for herself.
Katherine is born in South Korea and is a Master Degree graduate for Architecture. She began her career in her home country as an Architect for five years and later moved to Singapore with her husband in year 2006, where she was an instrumental employee of a resort development project interior company in Singapore for close to four years.
Armed with a repertoire of experience, Katherine set up Baum Project in 2010 and has made it her mission to constantly create a unique and personalised experience in both residential and commercial spaces for her clients. The company has laboured to deliver many awe-inspiring spaces and is striving to reach new heights in the interior designing field. Her inspiring transformative journey has won her the Singapore Prestige Brand Award and the Aspiring Woman Entrepreneurs Award 2020/2021.
Singapore has become one of the leading global hotspots for entrepreneurial innovation. It should thus be of little surprise that budding entrepreneurs from around the world are flocking here to benefit from the economic climate. Despite the fact that Singapore has generated a staggering degree of startup success, being a foreign entrepreneur presents a set of challenges from having the need to re-establish network, navigating unfamiliar territory to finding solace in solitude.
Katherine moved to Singapore with her husband as he was posted here for work. As a longtime Singapore resident born in Korea, she recounted her initial challenges when she first started Baum Project in Singapore.
“It was a very steep learning curve and I had to start my business from scratch as I lacked the connections. Being a foreigner, there were many ambiguities and I faced many unexpected hiccups along the way. I had
to tread carefully and persevere on what I have envisioned to achieve. There is no other formula. God has given me the best gifts, which are patience and persistence. I believe these values have made me overcome the myriad of challenges.” Katherine reflected.
“When I look back and see how far I’ve come, not just in business but as a person, I realised how much I’ve grown and I’m still learning. Everything that happened and people I met built me into the person I am today. I am truly grateful” Katherine shared.’
The People Business
Being in the interior design field, not only does one need to have the creativity, skills and knowledge to design a beautiful and functional space, but also the capacity to manage people effectively. It is no secret that business success today revolves largely around people, not just capital!
“Just me alone is not enough to make the business grow. I am always blessed with the right people for each season. It is indeed a collective effort of both our staff and contractors that help create an unparalleled synergy that brings us to greater heights.” Katherine said.
Baum Project was born out of a vision to inject a new sense of style and designs into any spaces. With the aim to actualise designs beyond just the concept on paper, Katherine shared how she tailors designs that reflect individualism in residential, office and commercial spaces.
“Since the very first day when Baum Project started, my goal is to create an all-encompassing work place environment that makes happy employees. With happy employees, the positive energy can then be passed on to everyone who work with us – our clients, suppliers and contractors.
Employees are at the core of the business. Having a workplace that foster an environment of communication, openness, respect and trust can then catalyst business growth and cultivate good talents.” Katherine said.
“The office is like a second home to my staff. Our staff can take time off or overseas leave to give them a sense of liberty larger than life. In fact, one of our company’s vantage points is that we are a melting pot with employees of various ethnicities, which offers heterogeneity of ideas and creative designs.” she added.
Paying It Forward
The idea of paying something forward is to pass on the blessings we have received to someone else, inspiring them to then pass on their blessings to yet another person, creating an endless chain of kindness and goodness. Katherine is a devoted Christian, which fosters her an attitude of empathy and the passion of giving and sharing to people in need at a very young age. Beyond profit, she has a bigger goal of instilling a philanthropic workplace culture within the company.
Having taken the entrepreneurial plunge, Katherine feels strongly that everyone, regardless of race, language and religion, deserves a level playing field towards success. For many years, in the name of her company, she has donated to a church situated in the rural part of Bangladesh on a monthly basis and will visit the church at least once a year to do volunteer work.
Besides the monthly donation and volunteering work, she has also made significant donation to Bangladeshi children from lower income families, providing them monetary support, books and educational materials. As the years passed, Baum Project even went the extra mile to build a school to provide a conducive space for learning.
“The only way to break away from poverty is education. The school has inadequate facilities with children having to sit on the ground to study. Now, they have study desks and a comfortable enclosed classrooms for conducive learning. To me, this is a blessing for Baum Project to grow up with these children.” Katherine quipped.
Now, Katherine is hoping to ramp up her initiatives to contribute to the development of the community, involving her staff team to be part of this philanthropic journey.
“I feel that Baum Project should contribute back to the development of the community where we operate. The spirit of giving should be part of our company’s culture. Starting next year, we will look out for non-profit charity organizations for us to get our charitable groundwork started.” Katherine added.
Paving For The Future
For over 10 years in operation, Baum Project has grown in leaps and bounds to become a leading boutique interior design firm in Singapore, specializing in contemporary office design and build. Currently, the interior design firm takes up two units for office work space, tuck away in a cul-de-sac on Tanglin Road, where it was once a British military outpost, marked as a heritage site by the National Heritage Board.
In three years’ time, Katherine hopes to expand the business and take up two more units to support the growing staff strength. They are concentrating their efforts and resources to make Baum Project a preferred interior design firm for office interior design works, targeting at foreign companies setting up their offices here in Singapore and other countries.
With a wealth of experience in Architecture and design, Katherine aims to diversify her business into home interior design. “Now that Baum Project focusses more on office and workplace design, I want to design and build homes someday as I have the passion in architecture design. Our role is to instill meaning and functionality in a given space, being an architect myself, I am able to create new works on blank slate. We are now establishing our work plan to achieve that.” Katherine said.
Katherine also offered up some words of advice for budding entrepreneurs. She recommends entrepreneurs to look at all lengths and make sound consideration for every decision-making process. Entrepreneurship is a journey that demands a lot of planning and patience and being a new entrant to Singapore market presents a new level of uncertainty and ambiguity. If one is not familiar, be consistently sincere and seek guidance from the experts in the particular field.
Reminiscing the time when she first arrived in Singapore and started the interior design business, Katherine is thankful for all the trials and tribulations. “I can count on my family and staff to always stand by me when I am feeling depressed and tired. They have never failed to offer their assistance and words of encouragement to keep me going. It is also by God’s grace that He has always answered my prayers, offering me immense strength and courage to overcome adversities.” Katherine said with gratitude.