Trica-Ann Kee (BBA 1996)
Tricia-Ann Kee (BBA 1996) ), Founder and Principal Image Consultant at , built her career from her two passions. “I decided to combine my talent in branding and my love for beauty and fashion to make a difference to the lives of people I connect with,” she explains. Her company image@inspire was born with the goal of inspiring the lives of people and organisations.
Having graduated from NUS Business School in 1996, her first big career opportunity was with Mattel Southeast. From her initial role as Executive Trainee in 1997, she soon became Brand Custodian for Infant and Preschool Division at Mattel in 1998. “It was a job that I truly enjoyed and it paved the way for me to handle bigger brands.”
Brand management has always been what she envisioned herself doing. She loved the dynamics and fast-paced nature of the profession and has worked for a diverse range of companies including Olympus, Estée Lauder, Starbucks and McDonalds China.
Whilst she was working at Starbucks, she was constantly involving herself in community projects. “These projects were truly life changing and immensely touched my life,” Tricia recalls. When she found herself living in Shanghai shortly afterwards, she began to do some soul-searching. Her experience of working with the Starbucks community projects had shown her that she had a passion for working with people and that she had a strong desire to empower them on a more personal level.
Combining her talents for branding with her love for beauty and fashion, she set up image@inspire as a professional image consulting company. She had the vision to create a powerful brand image for individuals and corporates that leads to a breakthrough in personal lives and organisational excellence.
One of the core missions of the company is to focus on inspiring individuals and corporates in the workplace. Tricia-Ann believes that enriching the mind, body and spirit of individuals through image transformation aids them in achieving their personal goals and enables empowerment. “The way we think and carry ourselves directly affects our behaviour in the work environment. Our dressing, grooming, body language, etiquette, verbal communication, values and goals – the way we think and carry ourselves – will inherently affect our personal or professional branding and development,” she explains. Tricia could see that transferring her skills in corporate branding to running workshops and individual and corporate consultations to create personal and corporate image branding could inherently affect business performance and output.
Image@inspire runs group workshops for corporate clients that involve the clients being advised about and encouraged to think about their staff’s appearance, behaviour and communication skills. “Personal Branding is our most powerful tool that defines who we are,” Tricia remarks.
Image@inspire also offers individual and corporate consultations. Tricia hopes to expand this particular service in the near future. She also intends to add customised jewellery and tailored clothing for clients as services to complement the workshops and consultation services that are currently offered.
Challenges for Tricia in securing new clients revolve around corporate clients’ perceptions of the importance of appearance. In Singapore, local Chinese companies tend not to see the need for personal branding and are mostly reluctant to invest in their employees in this area. In China the tradition of guanxi governs how business relationships are established, where business people build relationships with each other through favours and gifting under strict coded customs rather than talent or image. However, as China is a fast-growing economy and attracts an increasing number of Western investors, opinions on personal and corporate branding are changing. More and more companies and individuals are becoming aware of the importance of image in the workplace as a valuable tool used to affect the way other business people deal with the company or individuals.
Tricia has worked hard to establish her company by unleashing her inner entrepreneur and utilising her skills in brand marketing in a new and rapidly expanding sector. Increasingly corporate businesses and individuals are becoming aware of the importance of personal and corporate branding, and Tricia divides her time between Singapore and Shanghai, servicing her clients.
She credits her ability to do business both in Singapore and China to former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew: “He dared to do things differently and that sets us apart from the rest of the world. For example, the most important business languages in the business world today are English and Mandarin, and Chinese Singaporeans, being bilingual in both these languages, are very much sought after in China.”
What keeps Tricia going is the physical and emotional difference she makes to her clients: “I feel so happy whenever I see that my clients feel empowered after their image transformation and I am glad to have inspired that change.” She advises potential business owners to find something that motivates them. “Life is like a book,” Tricia concludes, “filled with various experiences that inspire us. Be an author of your own book, follow your passion and be prepared to overcome the challenges.”