[Feature Image: My brother Yi An (left) and I]
By Phua Yi Jian, Undergraduate, SMU School of Accountancy
During the Covid-19 lockdown period in Singapore, I spent some time wandering the empty malls during my weekly grocery runs. Everything had gone online – lessons, shopping and project meetings. Looking into these stores, I could not help but wonder: what was next for them?
This eventually led to the birth of Kin Design – an idea conceived by my brother, a civil engineer, and me. Our aim is to help retailers bring consumers back into their physical stores by refreshing and revitalising their shopping experiences through engaging interior fittings and the subtle incorporation of omnichannel experiences.
More importantly, Kin Design appeals to sustainability-conscious consumers by providing ample recycling and upcycling opportunities through our designs, as well as complementing our team of partnered designers to elevate and improve the quality of life in spaces today.
Current buzzword – sustainability – and what it means to me
Gridded ceiling mimicking natural sunlight, mirrors, and sofa in the shape of golf-courses, hole-in-one sofa, and artificial trees to create a shopping environment inspired by nature (designed by SuperSkinny, Aparo Golf)
Growing up, my family and I spent a lot of time with nature at beaches and nature reserves. Sustainability and recycling hit home (excuse the pun) when the forest opposite our house was cleared for development. We had grown up with the small thicket – exploring it, and finding never-before-seen insects – and it held a special place in our hearts. Our first thought then was – where were all these trees that have been standing for decades, if not centuries, going to go? Could they be utilised?
But deforestation is necessary for development in land-scarce Singapore. As we became increasingly involved in our family business in the construction and real estate industry, we started wondering if the trash pile produced at our work sites could eventually become valuable. These recyclable concrete, wood and steel – everything can be refurbished into something with a story to tell.
We are keen to bring these stories to retail stores at an affordable cost, to break the stereotype that sustainability has to be expensive, and that everyone can do their part for sustainability. By marrying our interests in sustainable solutions and interior fittings, we produced our first piece of furniture by tapping into our extensive procurement networks – a table made of unwanted golf balls retrieved from ponds scattered around golf courses – with the help of a group of designers from SuperSkinny.
A display table made with almost 2,000 recycled golf balls
Today, we continue to provide our clients with unique solutions and access to recycled materials and utilise them in creative ways.
How the SMU experience complements my entrepreneurial journey
As I set out on my entrepreneurial journey, I’ve come to realise how relevant and applicable the lessons I’ve picked up as an Accountancy student at SMU. With Kin Design still growing, most of the operational tasks have been split between my brother and me. While he manages the technical and project management side of the business, I focus on business development and balancing the company’s finances.
From tracking our costing with Management Accounting in order to control costs better and make wiser decisions, to creating financial reports with the help of my knowledge in Financial Accounting, I see myself employing the knowledge gained from core accounting modules. The accounting and general electives taken up at SMU have also helped me form a more professional approach to business development and strategy, in decoding what my clients actually want, and pitching to them effectively using professional slide decks (thanks to skills gained through multiple case competitions). Beyond technical knowledge, SMU’s seminar-style learning environment challenges me to organise and articulate my thoughts succinctly and confidently, which instils trust and confidence in the people I talk to.
With my team at our first accounting case finals at SMU, with me on the extreme right
For the budding entrepreneur
Curiosity and time management are your best friends on the entrepreneurial journey. Kin Design was born from questioning the norm, bravely and appropriately. Juggling a degree and work is not impossible, but having good time management and a strong sense of discipline made the process much more enjoyable. A business law professor once told me to read up on my course notes two weeks before school started, and it sounded like absurd advice to me then. However, that very same advice now enables me to juggle my responsibilities as a student and entrepreneur, and do more than I’ve ever imagined.
Did you know that all SMU students will learn how to respond to sustainability challenges through a sustainability module in their freshman year? Learn more about why students are applying to SMU here.