The relationships between mothers and daughters can come with many challenges. But what about when they actually team up to run their own businesses?
This May (and in conjunction with Mother’s Day), the Weekly speaks to five mother-daughter duos who have combined their talents and expertise to pursue their passions and create a thriving business.
After seeing the joy and passion that her mother, Dr. Susan Teng, had for helping people achieve confidence in their looks, Kelly Keak decided to follow in her footsteps by joining the family business, MTM Skincare, now rebranded MTM Labo Singapore.
Dr. Teng first brought the Japanese custom-blended skincare brand to Singapore in 2003, and now, nearly two decades later, it has spawned three posh outlets on our shores. It champions ‘bespoke beauty’, and a belief that one’s skincare regime should be as unique as each individual.
Kelly Keak, who is the managing director of MTM Labo Singapore, clues us in on the relationship she shares with her mum, on getting her parents to trust her with the business and loosen their reins, and why entrepreneurs-to-be should never shy away from asking for help.
Tell us about yourselves and your brand
Kelly Keak (KK): We believe that there’s no one-size-fits-all skincare product. Besides fingerprints, your skin is uniquely yours, too. MTM Labo acknowledges this and understands the importance of tailoring skincare to individual needs.
Through customised skincare management, we examine every nuance of an individual’s skin, and constantly strive to decode the secrets hidden in its subtleties.
Our devoted team of experts in Japan has rigorously studied the optimal means of flattering the qualities exclusive to Asian skins.
MTM is a multi-faceted brand, and our range of products and services spans from personalised skincare products to facial treatments. We aspire to be nothing less than the best skincare brand in Asia with beliefs and vision firmly grounded in our distinctive ‘Custom-blended Skincare’ philosophy.
MTM is more than just a brand— it is a philosophy by which to live. Our belief in and pursuit of beauty in life breathes vitality into the brand.
And for me, I believe that beauty for many women around the world means confidence, empowerment, and freedom to express themselves. And one thing that every woman should make a priority in their life is “self-love”. I hope to empower women of different ages and advocate the importance of aging gracefully.
Why did you decide to work together?
KK: When I was young, I saw the joy in my mum when she makes people confident again. And that sparks me to create joy for people too. I always believed that when women take the time to carry out a little self-care and indulged in a little pampering for their skin will make them feel amazing.
Through self-care, we allow ourselves to feel worthy, to feel loved and cared for. It plays a huge role in our everyday lives, from the decisions we make to our general thoughts and feelings about ourselves, and it is directly connected to our confidence.
Think of a time when you looked your absolute best, and you felt great even without make-up on. Think about how confident you felt then. This is the amazing impact I hope to create for people. And this is why I always enjoy using this platform to help more people, especially women, to gain back their self-confidence from within, which is pretty powerful.
What do you love about working with each other?
KK: One of the things I love most about working with my mum is that I always learn many valuable lessons from her. Through all the training sessions that she’s conducted with us, there’s always a nugget of wisdom. That’s what pushes me to be a better leader and a better person.
I can always see her passion in this business. It strives me to work really hard to continue this beautiful legacy, as it brings me more purpose in doing so. Because this business is not just as simple as providing the best service, but also educating women to love themselves, and most importantly, to help them to build their self-confidence.
And your least favourite part of working together?
KK: In terms of managing the business, my parent are more traditional. There are always pros and cons of managing the business in this traditional way in this new era. They have their own experience in managing this business while I do have my new ideas.
We has some disagreements at first, but after a few conversations with them, I am glad that they were able to accept my way of managing the business.
Has going into business together changed your relationship or perception of each other?
KK: Yes it has. We’ve become closer and more understanding of each other’s situation. When I meet difficulties, she will always guide me along. I also understand that being a leader in the business is not easy as it seems; there are so many little things that we need to oversee.
Have you had disagreements and how do you hash it out?
KK: I started in 2003 and left the company from 2011 till 2014 to get more work experience. I was looking at gaining more knowledge and experience to work under people so I could bring it back to the company one day.
In 2015, I decided to return as my parents were getting old. We always had disagreements in the earlier days of my career as I could not put myself in their shoes to understand how the company should be run.
After working for others, I realised there was a lot I didn’t see or understand previously. I took it for granted because they’re my parents. The difficulty I faced in my journey was building my parents’ trust in letting me run the business independently. I guess my experience working outside of the company helped in bettering myself when I returned.
What have you learnt from your mother through working together?
KK: I’m glad that my mother brought in a Chinese Traditional Cultural Training, DiZiGui five years ago. She’s not only the chairman of this company but also the teacher for this initiative. We take one day each month to learn this in our head office, and also another day to open this training to the public (and it’s totally free).
Our purpose is to deliver the beauty and wisdom of its teachings to as many people as possible, and hope this inspires everyone to strive to be a better person and contribute back to society.
This hasn’t just improved the relationship between me and my family. It has also inspired me to learn more and introduce this initiative to my colleagues in the company.
And I’ve seen a significant change in our working environment. As a leader of the company, I also encourage everyone to spend 10 minutes every morning, to do sharing before work starts. I found that this can calm our hearts and remind us of our purpose.
Your advice for young entrepreneurs starting out in the business
KK: Never be afraid to ask and seek help. Because you will never be good enough in every single different area when you’re embarking on a start-up business.
I was scared to ask or to let people know of my weaknesses in the past. But as I get more mature in my thinking and behaviour, I realise there will always be a solution to your problems.
This article was first published in The Singapore Women's Weekly.