Olivia Lee finds she is going back to her inner child through her design business.
What’s your story?
The clues are all in my childhood. When I was young my aspirations were always shifting. The list included artist, inventor, architect, scientist, comic artist, entrepreneur and writer. In hindsight, they were all related to creation. During my school holidays, I could spend hours alone in my room on my own projects. I made Rube Goldberg machines cobbled together with Lego and pieces raided from my dad’s tool cabinet. I built dollhouses from old Capri-Sun boxes and once set up a ring toss stall in front of our home where you could win prizes like my old Happy Meal toys and my sister’s things (taken without her permission). In the way growing up circuitously leads us back to our inner child, here I am, a designer and entrepreneur.
What excites you most about your industry?
The convergence between design and technology definitely excites me. 3D-printing, smart furniture, virtual and augmented experiences, robotics and AI are some exciting frontiers for design. I believe design’s role is to go beyond the novelty and spectacle — to help identify needs, the human context, emotional experience, assign meaning and beauty to technology.
What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in multi-ethnic Singapore with South East Asia as an extended neighbourhood. The exposure to so much diversity creates a great vocabulary of culture. Asia is home, Singapore is at the heart of it.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore. Things are changing so fast and it feels like anything is possible here.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Be your own patron.” The meaning behind it for me is, be an artist instead of waiting for someone to come along and bestow you with opportunity and the means to create art — be that person for yourself.
Who inspires you?
Most people do. I think there is something to learn from everyone and it’s a habit of mine to find out what that lesson is.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
There’s actually an allowance created by the Government for Singaporeans to learn new skills! It’s called SkillsFuture.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I wouldn’t change anything.
How do you unwind?
I spend time with loved ones, get lost exploring YouTube, play Minecraft and resource management games like this very old 90s DOS game called Theme Park. I also like to make things and draw with my 5 year old nephew and 2 year old niece. They keep me on my toes, literally and mentally!
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
My bed. Rest is best.
Everyone in business should read this book:
A Whole New Mind by Daniel H. Pink.
Shameless plug for your business:
OLIVIA LEE is an industrial design, research and strategy studio. We create value and beauty. For unusual and challenging briefs, please contacts us.
This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:
Callum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries. He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence. A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.
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