Serene Kwok: Creating Solutions For The Growth & Transformation Of Brands & Businesses
In today’s highly competitive business landscape, brand building has become more crucial than ever. The need of the hour is talented brand consultants who can seamlessly marry creativity along with a nuanced understanding of business. Singapore based marketer, Serene Kwok is one such professional.
An agile business leader with proven success in brand building, Serene also brings to the table a strong business sense and management skills which allow her to not only advise clients on growing their brands but also their businesses & teams. Serene not only specializes in helping brands grow but also aids in accelerating company growth, while helping clients enter international markets.
From building amazing teams in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and China and growing a community and network of field specialists in the region to developing a few successful brands in Indonesia and Singapore, Serene is not resting on her laurels; she has now set her sights on helping SMEs to transform for the new digital economy.
In a conversation with Women Entrepreneur magazine, Serene speaks about her professional growth, obstacles faced, and entrepreneurial journey of building Bluehive Consulting.
Tell us about your educational journey and the prior industry experience that you bring to the table.
I graduated with a Diploma of Accountancy from one of Singapore’s top polytechnic – Ngee Ann Polytechnic and a Bachelor of Business from Monash University in Australia with double majors in Marketing and Management. My early part time work stints were as a Receptionist and HR Executive managing the welfare and training program of overseas delegates. This experience helped me understand my affinity towards interacting with people from diverse cultures and backgrounds. It was also interesting to hear how these overseas delegates grow their businesses under different economies. This made me choose to do a business degree; I also could not envision myself working in a 9 to 5 accounting role.
My first job upon graduation was in a French MNC in the home appliances industry where I was assisting in marketing, branding, and product management. I was then promoted to Product Manager and managed the product development and training portfolio for the Asia subsidiary. After five years in my first job, I was headhunted to manage the Lifestyle Division of a local MNC and then promoted to be the Marketing Services Manager managing not only the division but also the Customer Care Department.
In 2005, I was asked to return to the French MNC to head the new Marketing, Communications, and Product Division where I oversaw the local and regional teams. This was where we launched a new appliances brand and elevated it to be one of the top three luxury kitchen brands in Singapore and the region. After eight years, I left the company as the second in charge (Sales & Marketing Director) when I was 38 and looking to reinvent myself and my skills.
My past experiences as a Marketing and Sales Director, Product Manager, and Customer Service Manager in MNCs and local listed companies allow me to lend my expertise to SMEs in Singapore and Asia. Also as a Professional Singapore Certified Management Consultant recognized by Enterprise Singapore, I can help local companies get funded up to 80 percent for branding and marketing, process redesign as well as overseas marketing projects and so on.
What motivated you to establish Bluehive Consulting? Take us through the company’s growth journey.
In 2013, I was getting restless as I was nearing 40 and went through a “mid-life” crisis questioning myself. I was worried about getting too comfortable and complacent. So, I decided to hand in my resignation and take a short break with no long term plans in place. As fate would have it, one of my Indonesian clients asked me to help him setup an appliances brand and division. Thus Bluehive Consulting was set up (Bluehive was inspired by all things related to a smart and automated home and related products). I went on to build a team and kitchen appliances brand with him in Jakarta while working with other F&B clients till 2019 when the Covid hit.
"I am constantly empowering and upgrading myself and the team on upcoming branding and digital marketing trends and business opportunities to help our clients scale the new post covid economy"
With the pandemic impacting local Singapore companies, Bluehive turned its focus on empowering local SME owners to pivot quickly for the new economy. Retail and F&B companies were most impacted and Bluehive came up with Digital Marketing tools and training to help these companies go online quickly as their brick-and-mortar stores were closed or limited to takeaways or deliveries.
We also work with local companies to scale and grow their businesses and brands by upgrading their core competencies, automating and improving their productivity through process redesign and training; as well as marketing their brands or growing their presence overseas.
What constitutes your role as the founder of Bluehive Consulting? What are the critical challenges you face while working with different brands and how do you overcome the hurdles?
My role involves working closely with our clients to map out their strengths and weaknesses, look out for new opportunities and minimize business threats while defining and focusing on their USPs and mapping out their strategic roadmaps while optimizing their resources and capabilities. I am also constantly empowering and upgrading myself and the team on upcoming branding and digital marketing trends and business opportunities to help our clients scale the new post Covid-19 economy. I am privileged to have a very diverse team coming from different professional backgrounds offering very unique solutions to empower our clients.
Most of the challenges arise when business and brand owners are apprehensive or reluctant to trans-form or pivot to the digital economy. Some are also unable to understand how their brands are perceived differently across Asia, one of the most diverse and con-trasting continents. Bluehive helps bridge these issues with our market research and past experiences to help these brand owners understand and develop different strategies for different markets.
What are some of the most significant milestones that you have achieved throughout your professional journey? What is your vision for Bluehive Consulting’s future?
Being able to build great teams in Singapore and parts of Asia during my professional journey and growing a community and network of home appliances specialists, chefs, sommeliers, F&B owners and operators, architects, interior designers, and factory owners in the region are some of my career highlights. Developing the De Dietrich brand of appliances from $300,000 sales to $30 million in the region in 5 years through guerilla marketing with my team are some of my proudest moments, besides the development of 2 new appliances brand in Indonesia and Singapore over the last 3 years.
My vision for Bluehive would be it growing into the go-to branding and business consulting company for companies in the appliances, specialty retail and F&B industries. I also envision Bluehive supporting companies looking to use Singapore as a launchpad for their businesses and brands in the region with our strong network throughout Asia and Europe.
What would your advice be to women who also aspire to become business leaders and entrepreneurs in the future?
My advice would be to always do more than what is expected of you. Do not fear hardwork or putting in extra effort as it helps not only build your skills and experience but also your resilience. I think young women should also not be afraid to grasp hold of opportunities should they arise or create opportunities for themselves to achieve their professional goals. I love the saying, “if the ship does not come into your harbor, swim out to it!”
Serene Kwok, Founder, Bluehive Consulting
Serene is extremely passionate about marketing and branding. She enjoys working with businesses and brand owners to build their brands, accelerate their company growth, and expand into new international markets.