How I’m Making It is a weekly series in which Tatler speaks to influential individuals about their unique journeys and what keeps them going.
As the founder and executive producer of Refinery Media, a production company that has produced ground-breaking shows that include The Apprentice: One Championship Edition Season 1, Amazing Race Season 5, Asia’s Next Top Model Seasons 5 and 6 and more, Karen Seah has certainly earned the respect of most in the media industry.
However, the gritty showrunner’s climb to the top, particularly as a woman in a male-dominated industry, was far from easy or straightforward.
Seah’s career, surprisingly, began in the nightlife industry. While she was completing her PhD in Social Psychology in Melbourne, Seah decided to launch a concept called, “club nights”. In it, she would book out venues and sell tickets to students who were interested.
When her turnout started to increase, Seah decided to buy over a club and set up Salt Nightclub in the city’s South Yarra district. The Asian-focused club continued to do well till it was shut down in 2003.
Undettered, Seah went on to launch multiple nightlife concepts in Kuala Lumpur (KL) including Nouvo and even Zouk which she led for just over six years.
“After I left Zouk KL, I decided I didn’t want to be in the nightlife business anymore but I also did not know what I wanted to do,” Seah shared.
Not one to stay stagnant, Seah decided in 2006 that she wanted to leave her nightlife days behind her and decided to branch out into the food and beverage industry.
Seah began her foray into the industry by setting up Mimolette Bar and Restaurant, a rustic establishment that soon became a popular brunch spot for locals looking for a unique weekend treat.
Under Seah’s talented watch though, Mimolette continued to grow and at one point, introduced Friday night parties to its repertoire. By night, the family-friendly brunch spot turned into a private, guest list-only party spot and invites were highly coveted as you can probably imagine.
In 2011, Seah decided to fully commit to her food and beverage venture by setting up Refinery Concepts.