Mothers At Work
At work and at home, mothers are nothing short of amazing. Pamela Seow, Assistant General Manager of Poh Heng Jewellery, and Gin Lee, co-founder of GINLEE Studio, open up about juggling motherhood and their family businesses.
Parenthood is never easy. As is running a business. The journey of running a business as a parent definitely takes a special kind of grit and determination, especially so for mothers who have gone through the experience of pregnancy and childbirth, and all of the physiological and psychological changes it brings. Between caring for kids, fulfilling responsibilities at work and at home, and navigating all of these changes, it’s a wonder how working mothers find time for themselves and their personal interests, especially when work involves family as well.
To round off the month of May in commemoration of Mother’s Day and International Day of the Family, we speak to two mothers working in local family-run businesses located within CapitaLand malls: Gin Lee, co-founder of fashion label GINLEE Studio, and Pamela Seow, Assistant General Manager of Poh Heng Jewellery. There’s a lot that we can find inspiration from, from the way that they’re raising their kids, to how they’re running their businesses.
Gin Lee, Co-Founder of GINLEE Studio
In 2011, Gin and her husband Tamir, started GINLEE Studio with the aim of “making fashion that matters”. As designers from two different disciplines, and with two different backgrounds — Gin’s a Singaporean while Tamir is from Israel — the duo have shuttled between Singapore and Israel, where GINLEE Studio was founded, before settling down in Singapore because of the pandemic in 2020.
1. What inspired you to start GINLEE Studio?
When I moved to Israel to settle down with Tamir, we decided to start the brand together. We’re both designers — I’m a fashion designer and Tamir’s an industrial designer — so we thought it would be a nice way to connect both of our homes and practices.
2. What has it been like working so closely with your husband?
It was definitely difficult in the beginning, but it's gotten better with time as we've learnt to work better as a team. There have been steep learning curves as well as rewarding moments for the both of us, much like the experience of raising our first child, Emma, together.
3. What was the biggest challenge you faced when relocating back to Singapore?
COVID-19 has been the biggest challenge for us to date. Up till 2020, we've always been traveling between Singapore and Israel, so not being able to move around was difficult for us and our business back in Israel.
4. Do you see yourself settling down anywhere else in the world?
We see both Singapore and Israel as home, so we would like to be able to spend time in both countries, as it helps us and our kids remain connected to our roots. But honestly, my dream studio would be one within nature, in a place with a lot of greenery and rolling hills. I haven’t quite decided where this would be though, but definitely in a country that both Tamir and I can relate to.
5. How do you juggle both parenting and managing your own business?
It’s difficult, but Tamir and I made it a point to not hire a helper, so no matter what happens, we always have to be there to pick up the kids and just do our part as parents. This includes chores as well — there’s really no cherry-picking when it comes to juggling both.
We feel like this has kept us grounded and rooted in our family as we don’t have the option of having someone watch over the kids while we work late, so it also helps us maintain a work-life balance in a way.
Plus, it’s easier having a partner in both work and family life, because it’s always the two of us versus our two kids!
6. What is it that keeps you going after so many years of GINLEE Studio?
We are extremely passionate about what we do. We built the brand so that we can do what we love, which is design, and day after day, we wake up to push the boundaries of what we can design.
Striking a balance between making a design that not only looks good, but makes the wearer feel good — this is what keeps us going.
7. What else do you hope to achieve?
Part of our design process includes fabric manipulation, which involves applying various techniques on fabrics. Pleating is one of the techniques that we have explored and stuck with. We design and develop our own pleats that work with the silhouette of our designs, so the whole garment looks seamless in the way that the pleats flow.
In a way, this is where my background in fashion design meets Tamir’s background in industrial design, which we love. We work with hand-moulded pleating techniques, which basically means we first create paper moulds before pressing our fabrics into them.
Currently, in order for the pleating to be permanent, the fabrics used have to be synthetic, but we are working more with recycled fabrics now, and aiming to close the environmental loop in our industry.
GINLEE Studio — Raffles City, 02-35 to 26.
Pamela Seow, Assistant General Manager of Poh Heng Jewellery
Since graduating with a business degree, Pamela Seow has had quite an illustrious career. She started off as a freelance writer, then worked at an international bank before making one final career switch to join her family’s business, Poh Heng Jewellery.
Started by her late grandfather Mr Chng Tok Ngam, Poh Heng Jewellery has since grown to become a beloved local brand with a heritage of more than 70-years.
1. What were some lessons you learned from your work experiences before joining Poh Heng?
I think having worked elsewhere, outside of Poh Heng first, especially in larger companies, taught me the importance of Emotional Quotient (or EQ) that I find important when connecting with colleagues and other stakeholders.
Learning to listen first is another major lesson. Poh Heng had a vastly different organisational structure when I first joined, so being able to observe how things worked here first allowed me to integrate better into the environment.
2. In your 14 years of being in the business, you’ve pushed for change by promoting inclusivity and diversity in campaigns. Were there any points in your journey where you faced resistance when it came to changing with the times?
Definitely. I joined the company when it was on the cusp of change, but there were times when I was frustrated at having to pull back on certain proposals to move the brand forward.
I realised it wasn’t about the proposals being poor, it was about waiting for the opportune moment, and I guess, slowly wearing the resistance down. As the saying goes, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”!
3. When it comes to working with family, how do you deal with disagreements?
Talk it out! Usually, disagreements happen because both parties can’t or don’t want to see the other side’s rationale. I think being open-minded and knowing you want to produce solutions despite differing personalities is important. Also, small wins are still wins!
4. How has becoming a mother shaped the way you work?
Working from home in the last two years meant that I could watch my baby grow up and not miss her important moments. However, it also meant having to learn to work around her schedule instead.
I’m sure most working mums can concur with this! In terms of working styles, it’s really shaped my view on not sweating the small stuff because there are too many things to handle if you do.
5. What’s something that continues to excite you about your job?
Heading to the office and seeing all the bling and new designs come to life—I must have been a magpie in my past life!
6. Jewellery often holds great sentimental value, whether it’s something that’s been passed down through generations, or gifted for a special occasion. What are the pieces in your collection that you hold most dearly?
I incorporated some of the pendants that my mother gave me when I was a child, as well as others which were passed down by my grandmother, into a charm bracelet. I’ve since decided to save it for my two-year-old daughter, who has expressed that it is ‘baby’s bracelet’ since she first saw it.
Another piece would be a trinity black and white diamond ring from Poh Heng that my husband bought for our wedding anniversary in 2020. It’s a unique piece, and has the most unique references to the both of us and our baby as a family unit.
Poh Heng Jewellery — IMM, 01-25; Tampines Mall, 01-03 to 04.
The struggles that both Gin and Pamela face as working parents are definitely relatable, but at the end of the day, it’s about finding small ways to be present as both a parent and a boss.
We hope that this little peek into their lives has inspired you to find new ways to be the best working parent you can be.
You might also like...