Founded by Hong Kong-based Helene Ang, KBEN & HOL preserves the highly skilled artisanship of traditional Cambodian weaving.
What’s your story?
After working many years in corporate marketing in large multinational companies, I wanted to pursue my passion for creating artisanal textiles and handcrafted goods.
Many people might not be aware that Cambodia has a long and rich history in traditional silk weaving. Unfortunately, many artisans with this skill were persecuted during the Khmer Rouge regime and as a result, the art is dying. I had also learned that many silk weavers/artisans in Cambodia were abandoning their craft for more regular employment but not necessarily better working conditions at large garment factories in the bigger cities.
I was inspired to launch KBEN & HOL to help revive the highly skilled art of traditional weaving in Cambodia and bring the technique and artistry of this community from remote villages to the world.
Most people in Hong Kong also live in small spaces so I saw an opportunity to introduce unique and one-of-a-kind furnishings and textiles for people to easily refresh their home decor or interiors.
What excites you most about your industry?
The talented artisans I get to work with and the passion they have for their craft. It’s remarkable to see the craftsmanship and the traditional techniques used to deliver the end product. Each piece has a story and it’s a time-honored skill that can be passed down from generation to generation. What also excites me about artisanal textiles is the potential to take something that has been crafted entirely by hand from a remote village and making it globally accessible via online channels. It’s the merging of 2 worlds.
What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Cambodia and my parents and I are survivors of the Khmer Rouge genocide. We fled Cambodia as refugees and I spent most of my early years growing up in Sydney, Australia. 11 years ago I moved to Hong Kong with my husband for broader employment opportunities and a taste of expat life. I love that I have now returned to my roots in Asia.
Favorite city in Asia for business and why?
Hong Kong. The city is constantly changing and there is now a thriving and collaborative start-up community. It’s a great transit place and I love the pace of doing business here.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
What you focus on expands so don’t sweat the small stuff, stay positive and dream big.
Who inspires you?
My Husband. He’s incredibly talented, a wonderful father and has been a survivor in the corporate world for many years. Recently, he’s taken a leap of faith and has gone out on his own with the launch of his start-up blockchain business. I am so excited that he’s finally living his dream!
What have you just learned recently that blew you away?
In Napoleon Hill’s book, “Think And Grow Rich, he shed’s light on successful people’s observations and experiences and how their greatest success came just one step beyond the point at which defeat had overtaken them. Remind yourself that often success will follow after you think you can’t go any further.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Don’t wait for things to be perfect. Take action, test and learn.
How do you unwind?
I enjoy being outdoors especially with Hong Kong’s notoriously small spaces. Hiking gets me connected with nature. I also enjoy meditating each day to relax.
Favorite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Sri Lanka. I’ve been several times and love the relaxed and laidback pace in contrast to the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong. There’s something for everyone from unwinding at tea plantations, beautiful unspoiled beaches and exploring quaint towns.
Everyone in business should read this book:
7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey.
Shameless plug for your business:
KBEN & HOL is artisanal textiles and lifestyle store. Working closely with skilled artisans throughout the design process, KBEN & HOL’s pieces are defined by original patterns, naturals materials, and small batch production. The collection includes home furnishings and textiles that use high-quality, hand-woven and hand-dyed fabrics, merging traditional craft with contemporary design. Close collaboration with local communities and partners in Cambodia and Asia ensures that each piece is ethically produced. This involves providing sustainable income for their artisans and empowering them to further develop and promote their skills.
This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews
Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started,
built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.