Influenced by the ‘elder’ women in his life and in the Singaporean spirit of ‘getting things done’, Darren Lee has two businesses to keep him busy.
What’s your story?
I took marketing in university, while I was doing that I found myself working on the fashion section of a magazine in Melbourne. After I graduated, I landed a job as a stylist and writer, then joined a branding and video production startup – the experience there convinced me to start UNIFORM.
What excites you most about your industry?
It’s progressively changing. What used to be specific fields or services in content, marketing and communications are now melding together. The lines between traditional and digital forms are now merging. As a business, this gives us the opportunity to continually navigate new landscapes, appreciating what we can adopt, all the while trying to do what we love.
What’s your connection to Asia?
Born and raised in Singapore. Perfect Singlish-speaker.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore, because the physical landscape mirrors the business landscape – it’s continually changing. While all this is going on, there’s a comforting familiarity and, almost everyone, embraces the spirit of getting things done. There’s also a really strong collaborative spirit amongst young businesses.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Go back to school” – I’m not an academic but if I didn’t heed that piece of advice, I would have probably ended up on the wrong side of the law, and there’s just so much to learn.
Who inspires you?
My grandmother who’s 96 and the epitome of dedication and graft. At her age she still insists on tending to household chores, shopping at the markets, cooking the tastiest and sometimes the most elaborate meals, ensuring everything and everyone in the house is sorted. Then there’s my grand-aunt who takes immense pride in her loyalty to that one company in Shenton Way she slaved away for on her typewriter for 43 years. The work was banal, tedious and monotonous, but it was her job and that was what she committed to. These grand dames and their mantras greatly influence the way I am.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
That baby carrots never existed – they’re cut from bigger carrots.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would do most of it the same way but I wish I brought my business partner, Shu, on board much earlier.
How do you unwind?
At home watching a good movie with the dog, Sophie by my side or with a book while gazing at Dara, my new pet Arowana swimming in the aquarium.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Kyoto – it’s got the perfect blend of cultural depth, interesting architecture, history, true blue artisans, great food and hospitable people.
Everyone in business should read this book:
Creative Confidence by David M. Kelley and Tom Kelley. It’s critical for businesses and teams to understand that everyone has the ability to be creative in their space and scope.
Shameless plug for your business:
People who want to tell good stories should come to us, and we’ll slog it out for you. Kidding. UNIFORM is a content and communications agency and we’re at the service of people who want to tell good stories.
Our other project, Shentonista sets out to debunk the idea that Singaporeans can’t dress. It is a streetstyle website that chronicles people, faces and style around and about Shenton Way, and other business districts in Singapore.
This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:
Callum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries. He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence. A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.
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