Women entrepreneurs in Singapore: Elaine Kim, founder of co-working space Trehaus and CRIB Society
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Power With A Purpose: Elaine Kim

Elaine Kim finds purpose not only in giving back, but levelling the entrepreneurial playing field for women in Singapore
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Elaine Kim is the kind of woman women admire. When the stylish mother of three young boys – Luke, Kyan and Nate – isn’t making her rounds at HCA Hospice Care where she works as a palliative care doctor, she has her hands full with Crib, a non-profit social enterprise which she co-founded with her good friends Tjin Lee, Marilyn Lum and Mei Chee back in 2014. How does she manage? “I think it’s understanding that there are seasons in life. There are some seasons where I focus on one thing more than the other,” says Kim. “Knowing your priorities and being very conscious of allocating time to what really matters help as well.”

Kim is also the kind of woman women need. “Both my parents are very concerned about giving back and they’ve always instilled in us the mindset of putting others before ourselves,” recalls the serial entrepreneur, who is also the partner of designer bridal boutique Trinity Gallery in Singapore and Hong Kong (Elie Saab, Monique Lhuillier and Oscar de la Renta are some of the labels it carries), and the Creative Director at boutique event planning output Milk & Honey. “Growing up, I try to think about how I can be a blessing to other people and make an impact on society.”

Taking the first step towards entrepreneurship is not easy, especially for women, Kim points out. “Confidence is a big issue and I think that while there are successful female entrepreneurs, not many talk about their triumphs because culturally we were taught not to.” 

This is where Crib’s founders, whose goals are to empower women to own their ambitions, do their magic. “We give those entrepreneurs a voice,” says Kim, whose impressive list of guest speakers at the recent Crib Summit included Banyan Tree’s Co-founder Claire Chiang, Singapore Culture Community and Youth Minister Grace Fu and President of the United Nation’s World Women's Health and Development Forum Princess Nisreen El-Hashemite. “Confidence also comes from building skills, which is why we had more than 20 workshops over the two-day symposium.”

“Confidence is a big issue and I think not many successful female entrepreneurs talk about their triumphs because culturally we were taught not to.”

Entrepreneurial empowerment aside, Kim explains that two other very important pillars of Crib are its philanthropic arm aptly known as Crib Gives Back, and the Crib Ball gala dinner, which is an annual gathering of like-minded individuals to celebrate strong women and their inspiring stories. This year’s edition, which happens on 3 May, will benefit EmancipAction, a US and India-based charity that aims to put a stop to child sex trafficking. “We spoke to many charities before making a decision,” she recalls. “I learnt from EmancipAction’s founder that 80% of women who are rescued from trafficking end up being re-trafficked. That, to me, is a really shocking statistic.”

This year’s Silk Road-themed Crib Ball entitled The Empress’s Journey, Kim says, will be a no-holds-barred affair (think lots of exotic gowns and made-up royal personas from Persia, China and the Mediterranean). “Except the fire. Shangri-La will not let us have a flamethrower in their ballroom!” she says, laughing. “We want everybody to have a magical night and, more importantly, we hope to raise as much awareness and money as we possibly can for Crib Gives Back and EmancipAction.

This article first appeared in the April 2017 issue of L'Officiel Singapore (available on newsstands and Magzter).

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