CEO SUITE’s President Mee Kim may seem like a Korean porcelain doll in a power suit, but she is anything but.
“The company I used to work for was actually quite sexist. I used to say to my colleagues that when we finally open our own business, we should only hire women,” Mee Kim admits laughingly.
She eventually did open her own business, and pledged to empower fellow-women. Today, all her managers and staff at CEO SUITE are female.
The South Korean native left for New York to complete her psychology degree after obtaining a bachelor’s in sociology. She later moved to Sydney to pursue a master degree in commerce before she joined the workforce in an Australian-based serviced office company.
Upon meeting her husband-to-be in Jakarta, she settled down and decided to pursue a new path, “I thought it was time to start my own business. In the past seven years with the Australian company, there was only so much that I could do. I needed more room to work on my business skills. And I wanted more opportunities to explore!” she said.
Much as Mee Kim would have preferred to go home to start anew, she however anticipated a dead-end in that path. “One of the reasons that prompted me to leave Korea was because women didn’t have many career opportunities – only secretarial positions were open to women,” Mee Kim explains.
Dealing with landlords and government officials who are usually men could thus be a real challenge, but that did not deter Kim either. “Sometimes it can be intimidating, but I always try to look on the positive side. I attract more attention and people remember me because I am the only woman. I must admit that setting up appointments with high-ranking officials and winning customers over has proven to be an easier task for a woman!” discloses Mee Kim with a smile.
Kim’s first business venture in Jakarta nearly came to an end during the Asian financial crisis. “That was a challenging year. All the money I had invested in US dollars depreciated almost five times. It was a pretty dramatic experience,” she laments. However, within another year-and a-half, Kim managed to overcome the setbacks and revived her business once again. For survival, she adopted creative cost-effective measures.
Today, CEO SUITE has business centers in Singapore, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai and Beijing, as well as affiliated centers in major cities like New York, Sydney and Seoul. Major corporations like Dell, Exxon Mobil, ANZ, BMC Software, KPMG, and Ritz-Carlton adorn their impressive clients list.
The company provides its clients with fully-furnished offices equipped with state-of-the-art telecommunications and IT facilities, complete with trimmings such as unified messaging systems, broadband internet access, 24-hour CCTV surveillance and video-conferencing facilities. The one-stop provider also offers a wide range of services including company establishment, tax consultation, accounting, travel arrangements, recruitment, interior design, project management, relocation, graphic design and printing services.
Having gone through difficult times and having overcome various obstacles, Kim is now on top of her game. She believes that optimism and maximizing their strengths will take women up to the next level. “It has always been comfortable for men, so, why should they change? It’s up to us to convince them to reduce the existing gender gap,” she encourages with confidence.
Writer: Shanti Ganesan