Lost and Founded Series - CRIB Special: Elaine Kim

The extraordinary Elaine Kim, co-founder of CRIB, believes nothing can or will happen until you take that first step and try.


Author: DBS BusinessClass, Administrator of DBS

Serial entrepreneur, philanthropist, doctor, journalist and mother. Besides co-founding Trinity Gallery Singapore and Trinity Bridal Hong Kong –which boasts exquisite gowns by high-end designer labels – Elaine Kim, co-founder of CRIB, is also a practicing doctor in palliative care who tends to the terminally ill at HCA Hospice and circumnavigates the globe as a correspondent for luxury publications such as Tatler and the Robb Report. In 2014, Elaine co-founded CRIB (Creating Responsible & Innovative Businesses) alongside a formidable line-up comprising Marilyn Lum, Tjin Lee and Mei Chee. A social enterprise which aims to empower women from all walks of life to become successful entrepreneurs through networking, matchmaking and business incubation, CRIB envisions a society where women - and mothers in particular - are able to achieve work-life balance and have a fulfilling career while making family a priority. Believing that nothing can or will happen until you take that first step and try, the night owl who works best in the wee hours of the morning has embarked on CRIB’s pilot project and her third venture, Milk and Honey –an event design company. Connected, compassionate and in touch with extensive resources, Elaine fulfills the role of the ‘Angel’ within the league of CRIB’s four enigmatic founders and feels women need more confidence and the right role models in order to succeed as entrepreneurs.


People say you are "Dr Elaine Kim, Co-founder of CRIB". Who do you say you are?

Actually, I've got a few hats I switch around. Depending on the time of day I could also be:

  1. Dr Elaine Neo, Palliative Care doctor (I look after terminally ill patients in their homes with HCA Hospice Care),
  2. Co-owner of Trinity Gallery Singapore and Trinity Bridal Hong Kong (we bring in designer gowns by labels like Oscar de la Renta, Monique Lhuillier and Carolina Herrera),
  3. Founder of Milk and Honey Event Design, a bespoke event planning company,
  4. Travel Correspondent (I'm a freelance travel journalist for several publications like Tatler and Robb Report),
  5. Mrs Kim, wife of venture capitalist John Kim (Amasia),
  6. Mama, mother of Kyan and Luke Kim.

What was the best moment in your startup life? It was so good you wanted to fly BusinessClass somewhere with someone, and pop open the most expensive bottle of champagne there.

I oversaw the opening of Trinity Gallery, our Singapore flagship at Raffles Hotel, while pregnant with my second son, and during the last month before the opening, did this from compulsory bed rest due to pregnancy complications. So our launch celebration night was incredibly special to me - seeing the hard work manifested in a beautiful store and a successful fashion show and launch party was extremely rewarding.

Have you ever cried? Or what was the lowest, crappiest moment in your start-up life. You wanted to give up everything. You wanted to kill someone. (During your startup career of course) Tell us more!

I have definitely cried at moments when I felt utterly overwhelmed by issues that appeared all at once and was faced with an impossible task list. Support from loved ones, partners and friends is so precious during these moments.

What secret did you hide from your co-founder or partner or parent for the longest time? Why?

I'm not big on keeping secrets, so can't think of anything!

What’s the most eccentric thing about you? If VCs found out, they won’t have signed the term sheet then. But hell with that now.

I work best from 12mn to 3am! Hence working full time in hospital with 7am ward rounds was very tough! Good thing entrepreneurship gives me the flexibility to plan my time to match peak productivity.

What are you up to today? What gets you up in the morning?

Visiting patients in the morning (palliative care with HCA Hospice Care), business meetings in the afternoon, hang out with my boys, (we might go to Universal Studios this evening!), play with them and read a story before their bedtime, then dinner with the husband and working from home till my bedtime.

My kids. They literally climb into my bed to wake me up in the morning.

How do you keep yourself physically and mentally fit for start-up life?

I really should exercise more! Apart from that, it's important to know when to rest and relax. I love my sleep and I love to travel and I try to make sure I can do both regularly so I can get recharged for work.

Offer a life hack (or two) to a young founder.

Just give it a go. Nothing can or will happen until you take that first step and try.

If you are a female entrepreneur, join CRIB to get support, mentorship and access from the CRIB community!

Movie or song that best describes you.

Pharrell Williams – Happy.

Favourite quote.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." -The Bible (Philippians 4:6-7)

Who and what inspires you?

My faith which guides my life and decisions.

Tell me about yourself in 2030.

My sons will be 19 and 17, probably heading to college (maybe Upenn, my husband's alma mater, if John gets his way). Really hard to imagine my little preschoolers being grown up! I would probably still be practicing medicine in some way, but who knows what else I would be doing! I've always wanted to design and develop a boutique hotel or resort so hopefully I would be a hotel owner in 2030.

I will probably be involved in charity work still and hopefully be making a significant impact in philanthropy.

What is the one biggest barrier in empowering female entrepreneurship in Singapore?

Women often lack the confidence to become entrepreneurs, and a big reason for this is a lack of successful role models. This is a big part of why we launched the CRIB women for women campaign - showcasing successful women behind some of Singapore's iconic companies, including Banyan Tree's Claire Chiang, 77th Street's Elim Chew, Bengawan Solo's Anastasia Liew and Skin Inc's Sabrina Tan - all wonderful supporters of CRIB. Successful entrepreneurs like these are some of CRIB's mentors who are inspiring, guiding and empowering the next generation of women entrepreneurs.

Subscribe to DBS BusinessClass

Stay updated with the latest market trends and industry insights, connect with a network of entrepreneurs, and gain access to exclusive event invitations. Join Asia's fastest growing business community – get your complimentary membership here.


dbs businessclass