Gosford Leather: SME Excellence Business Award & Aspiring Woman Entrepreneur Award 2022/2023

This is the journey of Ms Connie Go, an ex-cabin crew turned to Director of Gosford Leather– a company that manufactures OEM-style, leathertrimmed interiors and patented technology designed to enhance comfort and safety for the next generation of automobiles. The story of how she left her job of 16 years with Singapore Airlines to join her siblings in the automotive industry is a rather heartfelt one. Despite the rough patches, it’s aspiring to see the women of today leading by example and going against all odds to stand their ground. The company, established by Ms Go’s late brother in 2001, didn’t always see a smooth journey. Ms Go along with her youngest brother joined her late brother in this business; making it a family business. Although she was always handling the sales side of things, four years ago, Ms Go joined the company full time, after her late brother passed on, to oversee more than just the sales aspect of the business. After a long time of travelling up and down to Australia (where the majority of their overseas business stem from), New Zealand, and Europe, Ms Go took a hands-on approach and spent two years in the factory to learn and understand the technical part of the business.

Ms Go shared that their main factory (built from the ground up) is in Johor, they have a smaller plant in PJ, Kuala Lumpur, and an installation centre in Singapore. Gosford Leather specialises in manufacturing and installing car seats as well as their latest addition, interior seat upholstery. The company also have a total of 400 (and growing) staff under their belt, however, are still in need of more staff to assist with production work. Ms Go manages the Singapore side of things as well as the company’s foreign customers while her youngest brother handles the Malaysian side of things. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the company has adopted many ways to improve communication, she shared that business still goes on and while manufacturing is a robust business, the manpower shortage and increase in material price has proven to be a huge challenge for the company. Ms Go also shared that their head office is in the heart of Malaysia, KL, and how her youngest brother spends half his time on the road travelling to the various factories. Adding on that the new OEM plant manufacturing in car seats has started operations as of last year and are working closely with Kia’s assembly plant in Kedah by providing them with seats; proving that Gosford Leather is levelling up by being more than just a leather manufacturer.

Unlike various automotive companies in Singapore, Gosford Leather stands out by being the only one in Singapore that specialises in customisable leather seats via a system called ‘digitised sewing’. Although they still have more room for growth, they have received a good response with the new product. As with every product, consumers need time to understand what it is before purchasing it. Additionally, Ms Go shared that the service is aimed at everyone, not just those who own premium branded vehicles. The idea of the product is to give your car a more unique and personal touch.

Gosford Leather, an OEM supplier, also has a wide range of big players working with them in Malaysia, namely, Proton, Mazda, and Kia. Ms Go added that their new factory in Penang is focussed on manufacturing car seats. Whereas in Singapore, their 11-man team only focuses on doing seat replacements.

But what started it all? “My late brother studied Finance and Marketing in Australia but when he got back to Malaysia, it was during the financial crisis some time in the late 90s and it was difficult for a fresh grad to get a job. However, he was recruited by Panasonic and attached to a new division only available in the region. From there, he learnt the basics of a manufacturing plant and oversaw the whole process from the ground up, and the rest, as they say, is history. As Panasonic is a Japanese company, my late brother also brought over the Japanese culture to Gosford Leather, and till today, we still follow a Japanese way of doing things,” shared Ms Go. She added that her siblings and she are very close, and her youngest brother and she have taken on her late brother’s role.

As a woman in a very masculine industry, there’s bound to be an abundance of obstacles, and it wasn’t any different for Ms Go. She mentioned that the most common issue she faced was people doubting her ability, let alone having the proper understanding of the industry. Resilient as she is, she overcame all odds and proved the naysayers wrong with her impeccable knowledge of the industry and her trade. Despite the vast difference between her previous job and current job, discrimination remains the same, and it’s up to the individual to be willing to get their hands dirty, especially in this industry.

Given how fast things are moving in the digital world, Ms Go explained, thanks to the Government’s encouragement, she ventured into Social Media Marketing and have expanded to B2B on top of their current B2C services. She’s also learnt to be meticulous in expenditure while stating that all staff goes for ample skill training to
upgrade themselves. She understands that the uncertainty of tumultuous times has taken a toll on many and makes it a point to communicate with her staff often and understand what they are going through as well. As a leader, Ms Go isn’t the type to leave anyone behind and pays huge importance to treating everyone in the company as a big family.

To carry on her late brother’s legacy, Gosford Leather contributes to orphanages in Malaysia as well as sources high-quality products. The reason behind exclusively sourcing out high quality products is to lessen occupational hazards and ensure there isn’t any kind of harmful substances emitted into the air. Ms Go explained that a car is as good as someone’s second home, given the time most spend in it, hence, all their products come without Volatile Organic Compounds(VOC). She emphasised that since her late brother passed on due to cancer, she’s been diligently sourcing out for clean products (without additional substances) to ensure consumers get quality products that aren’t harmful to their health.

Ms Go also shared that her journey within the company was an arduous one however, she’s proud to be where she’s at today. While continuously looking forward to a bright future, she advises all ladies, working or otherwise, to stand firm to their decision and not feel guilty about choosing a path. She also added to be great at what(ever) you decide to do and understand that the path of entrepreneurship is no easy feat, especially as a woman; considering the cumbersome journey of constantly having to prove herself in a male-dominated industry. Learning, listening, and constantly improving, are the three things an entrepreneur should be focused on.

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