Voyage from Korea… to Indonesia

Born and raised in South Korea, she was first tutored by her parents to always strive to give her best in everything she does. And many years since this invaluable lesson, Mee Kim is now successfully leading her instant-office business to be the best in Asia.

But her business has not always been as big and great from the start. Mee Kim started off with providing “ready to use” offices, first in Jakarta, but her business has now extended to over 4 other locations in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai and Beijing. She may not be the owner of the buildings, but Mee Kim makes good business out of office space leasing in prestigious landmarks in the hearts of Jakarta, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Shanghai. From an entire floor plate, she then divides the space into “ready to use” small offices.

CEO SUITE provides instant office at Jakarta Stock Exchange Building and Wisma GKBI. There are 2 main components in the business, one, the business of instant office – “if you are willing to spend 20% more, we will handle everything,” Kim promotes, the other being a virtual office where CEO SUITE provides business addresses with dedicated phone numbers for clients.

With US$1.5 to US$2 million in initial investment, Mee Kim opened her first center on the 17th floor of the Jakarta Stock Exchange Building. Converting them into small offices between 20 sq meters to 70 sq meters, the offices were simply, but tastefully furnished. “No one else was doing what we started to do then,” she recalls her experiences with nostalgia. It all began from a journey of sound education – a bachelor degree in Social Science at Yonsei University, Seoul, and Masters in Marketing at the University of New South Wales, Sydney.

Her earlier days …

Mee Kim started out her Masters in New York, but after the first year, she packed to move on to Sydney. It was a decision that she never regretted. In the U.S., she was on full board with native Koreans, and it was not a place she could practice her English-speaking skills. While she was being subsidized by her parents in the U.S., Mee Kim had to pay everything out of her own pocket in Australia. For survival, she had no choice but to work part-time to finance the rental of her own apartment, and to clean, cook and pay all bills on her own. “This is when it all started,” explained Mee Kim. But because she had to interact with Australians on a daily basis, her English showed tremendous improvement. And at the same time as she was pursuing her degree, her free time had to be occupied with other freelance jobs such as translation / interpretation work at the Australian Immigration, administration work at Samsung Electronics, and also as a junior merchandiser at one of the biggest retailer in Australia, Big W. It was only upon her graduation that she engaged a full time job as a Manager at Servcorp, Australia.

Journey through work and business ….

As the manager at ServCorp, Mee Kim played a regional role in the opening of new centers in Bangkok, Japan and Jakarta. And it was in Jakarta that she met the man that she is now married to. Armed with his support, and her work experience, she took a bold decision to start a similar business under the brand name CEO SUITE after seven years with Servcorp.

It was in the first few months of the launch and operations of her own business that Indonesia was hit by the monetary crisis in 1997. “That was one of the most devastating experiences,” she recalls. The low occupancy in her center did not even cover the day-to-day operational costs! It was also sad to see investors turning their investments away from Indonesia to countries like Singapore. For a year, there is nothing much that she can do as her business, affected by the economy, literally stopped. “But I learn strength, positive thinking and resilience! This is an achievement in itself, “she said sharing her success story.

Mee Kim subsequently changed her strategy to stay in business. She found ways to reduce her operational costs and channeled her targets to local businesses which were looking to relocate or change their business scales to keep their expenditure low. “On an aggressive basis, we reduced our rates (making do with lower margins) to gain volume and momentum in business.”

After the 1999 election, Mee Kim slowly fixed up her finances as she wanted to stay in business. And with increased market and consumer confidence, she opened her second center at Wisma GKBI, Jakarta. “Onlookers say I am crazy,” she commented with smiles on her face, “as they perceived the market conditions then as still unhealthy and unstable.” But despite their doubts, she pushed her business forth with the opening of a third center at Menara Maxis in Kuala Lumpur City Center, Malaysia in 2001. The following year in 2002 saw the opening of CEO SUITE’s fourth center in Singapore at the prestigious Raffles Building, and Shanghai opened in 2004 with capital investments of US$2 million.

Mee Kim is approached by many because the rates that she offers are reasonable. If you just need an address at CEO SUITE, Mee Kim starts her rate from US$50. If you want a dedicated phone number or an assistant, the rates are between US$60 to US$200 per month. For physical office space the rates are between US$550 to US$4,000 depending on the size of the office and services required. “My belief is, irregardless of the market and economic situations, as long we believe in our products and are prepared for our targets, we will get there,” she claims.

Good-bye … music & golf

With work and her son occupying much of her time, Mee Kim has little choice but to sacrifice some of her hobbies, her favourite being playing golf! And with limited cultural activities in Jakarta, indulging in other of her hobbies such as going to concerts and musical operas can prove to be challenging!

But it just would not be Mee Kim if she cannot smile just because of simple sacrifices she has to make for her family and her career. Ingeniously, she substitutes her cravings for the art scene with collections of paintings and sculptures!

When asked about the inconveniences she has to endure in a country not her native land, Mee Kim lightheartedly confesses, that she will not leave Indonesia. “It is nice in Korea, but I feel home in Jakarta.” And amidst the warm tropical weather, and its people, home is truly where her heart is.

Apr 26, 2013

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