Cover Photo; Courtesy of SocietyA

From creating her own fashion platform to being chief executive of Shingda Group of companies, and the mama to four young kids, here’s how Pek Lay Peng does it all

Pek Lay Peng is no ordinary entrepreneur that you can spot at parties and luncheons.

Behind her veneer of grace and class is a multi-hyphenate who owns a multi-label fashion platform, holds the title of chief executive officer of Shingda Group of companies and is a mother of four kids. Yet she somehow manages it all with grit and determination, plus a stellar team behind her.

See also: 9 to 5: Powella Founder Sital Phichitsingh on Juggling Her Own Business and Family

Considering her extensive fashion and business know-how, some may be surprised to learn that Pek studied history in university but started her career in the finance industry. She later joined her family business in the field of infrastructure civil engineering and it was her experience here that taught her more about entrepreneurship.

“The best takeaway from the financial industry was knowing your place in the ecosystem. As businesses grow and expand, the direction is very important. Being viable in an ecosystem can lead to complacency but having an awareness lets you tread with purpose,” she said.

See also: 9 to 5: How Elemis Co-Founder Noella Gabriel Started Her Wellness Career at 20

In 2014, Pek noticed there was a lack in the fashion industry in that it was extremely difficult to find designer clothes at acceptable price points. Eager to see how she could fill the gap, Pek decided to start SocietyA with her friend, Lily Hamid.

“I also saw an opportunity in having a first-mover advantage in curating talented Asian designer labels. There was an emergence of highly talented and well-trained Asian designers from renowned fashion design schools, but they were still under-represented internationally,” she said.

“I wanted to play a part in supporting them and dispel the misconception that Asian designers are not of international standards.”

It has been seven years since Pek launched the platform and they have since become the only omnichannel platform for Asian labels in the world as well as expanded its offerings to include beauty and home and lifestyle items as well.

In fact, the company is consistently researching different Asian countries and their local brands to see how they can provide a platform for these designers and brands.

It may be easy to be in awe of how this supermum does it all on her own but she is quick to give credit to her team. 

“No one is perfect, harness the power of the team. Be open and let people feel safe to share their thoughts. It is easy to be the boss but not easy to be a leader. The latter needs more buy-in. It is important to move the team in a manner that can be scaled and not lose culture when numbers grow,” she said. 

However, beyond an amazing team is also a 'never give up' mindset, grit and the determination to succeed. Below, Pek shares how she does it all in her own words. 

See also: 4 Amazing Female-Hosted Podcasts and IGTV series to Follow

What is a typical morning like for you?

Pek Lay Peng (PLP) Dynamic. After the Covid-19 outbreak, I found myself planted at my work desk at home right after breakfast more frequently as I can get to work quickly. My breakfasts are also mostly savoury and at times more protein-based. It is the first meal of the day, so I like to have variety.

What does a standard workday look like for you?

PLP Besides SocietyA, I am also the CEO of Shingda Group of companies. I communicate a lot as I feel the role of a leader is to ensure strategy and that directions have to be aligned and realigned and if tangents are moving away,  we need to make sense of it. Business meetings are also a mainstay in my schedule so my days are always packed. It keeps me active.

How would you describe your working style?

PLP I do spend a lot of time communicating with my team and trusting them to do their job well. To me, having a good team with whom you can trust and share your vision is extremely important. Your idea could be out-of-this-world and brilliant but to realise this brilliance, you need execution. The in-between constant communication makes this seamless and efficient.

How do you chase your dreams?

PLP To me, two of the most important qualities of a successful entrepreneur are your vision and resilience.

Believe in your vision and ideas but also know that it takes time and real effort before you see any progress. Celebrate tiny victories, do not be disheartened but learn from mistakes and never lose sight of the big picture.

As entrepreneurs, it is also important to be adaptable because things usually don’t go exactly how you planned them to go. Therefore, always have a backup plan. Harness this from the power of your team.

Lastly, always be the bigger person. For example, some say fashion is a cut-throat industry, but let not the industry change you. You want to be remembered for the person, brand and reputation that you are and that’s the real legacy that you want to leave behind.

Risks: should you take them? Why or why not?

PLP In business, [taking risks] is everything. The question is are you happy with the returns on the risk you are taking on. From my 20s to my 30s and entering my 40s in a couple of years, I can see my risk horizons shifting. Taking risks with clarity is something that grows with experience and with that, business judgements will be better.

What is the best piece of advice that you have ever gotten?

PLP My father has always been an inspiration and role model to me. Through him, I learnt the important lessons of doing the best in all we can and to persevere even if the going gets tough. True success never comes easy, and that you reap what you sow. My father also taught me about humility and teamwork—that success is always a collective effort and we should always stay grounded and stay true to our roots no matter where we are, or how much we have seemingly accomplished.

How do you unplug?

PLP Exercise is a way for me to unplug—I gym, even throughout my three pregnancies and survived four caesareans. It keeps me going, knowing that the body is as good as we build it. Being with friends and having real conversations is another thing I do. Life’s journey is not that of a lone explorer. I also believe in spiritual healing to rise above all and to be in touch with oneself.

What would you still like to accomplish?

PLP I don’t think there is just one thing. But I’ll like to continue to identify and support real causes (business and non-business) and to pursue the intangible values of trust, reliability and sincerity.

What is the last thing you do before you go to bed?

PLP I look forward to tomorrow.

See also: 9 to 5: Endowus CEO Gregory Van on Growing Up in the World of Investing

© 2022 Tatler Asia Limited. All rights reserved.