Timothy Yee has several enterprises. He is a F&B and hospitality consultant and he has his own interior design agency.
What’s your story?
During my childhood years I always loved to draw and I have always wanted to do something creative. I used to see my dad produce beautiful manual drawings as a draughtsman which sparked my interest in architecture. I would take my pencil and pen and draw on the piles of recycled papers next to him as he worked late nights to meet deadlines. It was only natural for me to pick architecture and design as a chosen field. There are so many ideas that I would love to create and work on.
After spending a few years honing my skills and craft with different reputable firms, working on residential, commercial and aged care living projects, I decided to fulfill my university dream of starting my own design studio. Along the challenging journey of establishing a young design studio in Melbourne I managed to co-found Seoul Soul, a small and quaint Korean restaurant in Richmond and Northcote as well as Breakfast Thieves, a popular local breakfast joint in Fitzroy. This opened up the door of opportunity for me to venture into interior design and grew our services as a F&B and hospitality consultant. From a one man practice in 2011 we are currently a team of 20 people including architects and interior designers for our Melbourne studio.
What excites you most about your industry?
To be given the opportunity to realise our client’s vision into built reality, is always exciting for me!
Be it a new building or a new restaurant concept we are always striving to do it better. Being located in Melbourne, the works created by our peers are amazing and we want to be the best at our craft. The design scene in Melbourne is very active and this keeps us on our toes.
What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Malaysia. While pursuing my architectural degree I also worked on projects with a local firm to gain practical experience and an understanding of the local market. We are setting up an office in Malaysia to expand our presence and we are currently looking into collaborating with a local Malaysian manufacturer to create furniture pieces for our clients’ projects.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I would say it has to be Malaysia as my network is based there. Because of our experience and skills, we are finding that local developers or investors wanting to expand their presence or experience in Melbourne will look to us, to provide them with advice prior to starting on a development project in Australia. We have also worked with clients from China, Singapore and Indonesia and have started expanding our presence in Sydney and Perth.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
What won’t kill you will make you stronger and if you don’t succeed first, keep trying! I’ve learned that if you put your heart and mind to it, with determination, patience and passion, the end result is always rewarding. Also important is to remain humble and honest and our clients always end up as friends in the process.
Who inspires you?
My mum has been a great inspiration to me. There was a time during my year as an architectural student I almost gave up as it was so challenging and exhausting. She however, encouraged me not to give up and don’t be too focused on achieving good grades but to enjoy the journey and process by simply giving my best. Needless to say I went on to achieve a position on the Dean’s list at Melbourne University for my final year studies. I owe my determination and success to her to this day.
My ex tutors and boss Mr. Arnold Lim, Mr. Azroei Ahmad and Mr. Paolo Tombesi. Without their guidance and insights I would not have the courage and determination to take on the challenging role of delicately balancing architecture as a design and business model in Australia. You can still achieve great results if you do your best for your clients and sincerely look after their needs.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
To ensure a project is delivered successfully you need to align yourself with a good team and most importantly a skilled and honest builder. Working with different builders on a variety of projects on different scales has allowed us to constantly hone our design skills to ensure we can deliver a beautiful outcome with modest budgets from the clients. You’ll be amazed how skilled and creative the local tradesman can be if you work closely with them to come out with great solutions for the client’s projects!
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I don’t think I would do things any differently as every step and decision made from my journey has been integral to where I am today. Perhaps the only regret I have was not spending enough time to invest and work on my personal projects and ideas. However better late than never!
How do you unwind?
I love to travel and explore different places to broaden my mind and experience. For any other usual days that would be trying new food at new establishments with friends as Melbourne always has something new to offer. Other times if possible that would be reading the news or catching a movie. Taking brief short breaks from work allows me to look at the project again with a fresh approach and new perspective to ensure we can deliver good results for our clients.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
That would be Japan. Every visit is always an exploration process for me. The architecture, the food, the people and the culture are fascinating!
Everyone in business should read this book:
I’m actually quite a visual person. However if given the time I would try and read books. The last book I read was Hannibal and Me by Andreas Kluth. I find Hannibal quite fascinating and his greatest successes and failures somehow, can be applied to what I am trying to achieve with my life.
Shameless plug for your business:
Ta square is a full service architectural, interior and project management studio based in Melbourne, Australia. We are able to assist our clients to source for development sites and ensure their vision and aspiration is achieved through collaboration with relevant parties and consultants to achieve a successful outcome. We are pragmatic and we focus on delivering real projects for our clients by balancing the needs of creating an outstanding product without sacrificing the bottom line results. No project is too small or too big for us as we enjoy collaborating with talented individuals to deliver bespoke design solutions for our clients.
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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